Gospel for Asia and Compliance with ECFA’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 6

After about a month break, I am resuming this series.

In CEO and founder K.P. Yohannan’s recent “exclusive personal response” to the fraud lawsuit settlement involving Gospel for Asia, Yohannan traces GFA’s problems to a 2015 “confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting the concerns one at a time with commentary. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.

Read the entire ECFA letter on GFA’s compliance issues here.

From that letter, here is the sixth compliance issue:

6. GFA solicits funds for narrower purposes than the eventual expenditure of the funds.

During ECFA’s review on August 12, GFA staff provided a document to demonstrate the flow of funds from GFA to field partners. ECFA learned that donor-restricted donations are appropriately tracked by particular revenue classifications. However, we also discovered, and it was confirmed by GFA staff, that the disbursement of the gifts are tracked in much broader categories. For example, donations were received and tracked for 38 different specific items including kerosene lanterns, bio sand filters, chickens, manual sewing machines, blankets, bicycle rickshaws, and others, but related expenses were only tracked as “community development.” In other words, donations were raised for 38 specific items, with the donations pooled for expenditure purposes instead of expending them specifically for the purposes raised.

ECFA did not find any evidence that donors to the 38 different giving categories had awareness that their gifts were grouped and used in a broader category than the specific categories in which the gifts were raised. ECFA’s staff raised concerns regarding GFA’s compliance with ECFA Standard 4, 7.1, and 7.2 in raising funds for a particular purpose but then failing to document the actual use of those funds by the particular donor-restricted purpose.

Subsequent to this conversation, on August 16, GFA staff indicated that GFA field partners will begin tracking expenditures by specific item accounts to provide adequate transparency as to the use of designated funds.

Our review of the board minutes did not indicate the GFA board had approved, or even been notified, that gifts solicited for very specific purposes were not being expended with the same specificity as the gifts were raised.

GFA led donors to believe their funds had been spent for specific items but there was no way to know if such intent had been followed since there was no documentation of that use. This policy had not been approved by the board. However, after this the board would have been alerted via the letter.

Francis Chan was on the GFA board by this time and had reassured people that he had sent in personal auditors to make sure funds were being spent as intended. Here is a May 15, 2015 email from his organization Crazy Love to me:

He has even gone to the lengths of sending two different auditors/accountants to research their financial practices. Both have come back with glowing reports.

His auditors/accountants missed a whole bunch of violations of ECFA standards. Chan continues to use this story. However, we know that GFA was kicked out of ECFA in October for numerous violations. GFA promised that they would reapply for ECFA membership which they have not done. GFA has not released audited financial statements. They have not disclosed to donors that their charity registration in India has been revoked.

Next: GFA’s financial statements do not appropriately report transactions with foreign partners.

James MacDonald Responds to Disqualification Decision

Last Sunday, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel announced that they had found former pastor and church founder James MacDonald to be biblically disqualified for pastoral ministry.  Today, MacDonald posted what appears to be a response to that announcement on his Facebook page.

MacDonald begins with a vague reference his “former church”:

I trust this timing finds you well in the Lord and growing in your awareness of how good He truly is. Our efforts to work through existing channels in our former church have reached an unsuccessful end, leading to this release of words we have long sought to express.

MacDonald addresses various concerns raised by Harvest’s weekend statement. Specifically, he confesses “sinful patterns of fleshly anger and self pity that wounded co-workers and others.” He adds that his decisions involving the lawsuit against Julie Roys, two former elders and their wives, his media ministry and Harvest Bible Fellowship were “regrettable.”

In the end, however, he continues to contest the statements from Harvest and remains in arbitration.

Decisions by the current Elder/staff, along with inaccurate announcements and recent public condemnation, signaled clearly the timing to communicate our message directly. With sadness we accept that no face-to-face confession or truth-advancing interaction will be forthcoming.

The above matters are now in Christian arbitration where impartial believers will hear and give a written, objective ruling. As we cannot give specifics, we are trusting the Lord for truth to be revealed in His time, and we covet your prayers.

Despite the words of confession and findings of HBC, it appears MacDonald is gearing up for a return to ministry of some kind.

After waiting many months in hope of a pathway toward restoration, we have been welcomed into the congregation of New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park, Chicago. A multi-ethnic church under Pastor Wilfredo DeJesus, New Life has embraced us in love, offering us a place to serve and the beginnings of healing community.

In a recent Naples Daily News article, I was quoted as saying that James MacDonald would be back in the ministry saddle.  That interview was conducted in May. It is not that I think disqualified pastors should go back into the pulpit. I don’t; but this is the pattern that has become well traveled.

Gospel for Asia Update: First Lawsuit Settlements Checks Go Out; Foot Washing for the Metropolitan; Still No Audited Financial Statement

Gospel for Asia news:

Refund Checks

During the week of October 28, former donors to Gospel for Asia received the first of two checks as a part of the massive $37 million fraud lawsuit settlement. The second check should go out sometime in the first half of next year.

Shortly after receiving their checks, those same donors promptly received a mailing asking for them to re-gift those funds to GFA. One such donor posted a partial photo of his letter.

I heard from nearly a dozen donors who were upset with this tactic. On the other hand, because GFA continues to do it, I suspect that it is working for them.

Foot Washing Up

According to a witness to this scene, it is customary for people of a lower caste to wash the feet of visitors of a higher caste. Apparently, the Metropolitan, aka Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan I, aka K.P. Yohannan is of a higher caste.

I asked the witness to this if Yohannan returned the gesture but according to this informant, he did not.

Audited Financial Statement and Charity Registration

Gospel for Asia continues to solicit funds from former, current, and new donors. However, they have not released an audited financial statement since 2013. They have not disclosed to donors that their field partners (Believers Easter Church and Ayana Charitable Trust — formerly Gospel for Asia India) had their charity registrations revoked in 2017. This means those two field partners cannot receive charitable donations from outside of India.  Gospel for Asia has never disclosed how American donations are getting to needy people in India. Given GFA’s history, donors should demand an answer to this question.

I am aware that there are other charitable shell organizations in India which GFA-USA can send money to. However, they have no web presence or track record, there is no way to examine their practices. There is no way for a donor to know if they are reliable or are spending funds according to good practices or donor intent. GFA refuses to release audited financial statements. They are not required to file IRS 990 forms since they are classified (inaccurately in my opinion) as a fraternal/religious organization.

Since GFA was removed from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for violating financial management standards, the limited oversight involved in that membership is now absent. There is no transparency for donors. Donors should ask themselves why an organization that claims to have nothing to hide hides everything.

Gordon Allport on the Program of the Demagogue

In 1949, Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman wrote a book titled Prophets of Deceit. In his 1954 book The Nature of Prejudice, personality psychologist Gordon Allport summarized Lowenthal’s and Guterman’s findings into a section he called “The Program of the Demagogue.”

If you have ever been able to get through a Donald Trump rally, you will recognize the points Allport summarized. It is as if Trump is reading from a script. Here is the excerpt from 1958 version of The Nature of Prejudice (p. 389-390).*

The Program of the Demagogue

In their volume Prophets of Deceit, Lowenthal and Guterman have analyzed a large number of similar speeches and tracts. There is a sameness of protest and hatred in all of them. What the demagogue is saying seems to boil down to the following points. 2

You’ve been cheated. Your social position is insecure because of the machinations of Jews, New Dealers, communists, and other agents of change. Sincere and plain folk like us are always dupes. We must do something.

There is widespread conspiracy against us. It is being engineered by devils — by Wall Street, Jewish bankers, internationalists, the State Department. We must do something.

The conspirators are sexually corrupt too. They “roll in wealth, bathe in liquor, surround themselves with the seduced daughters of America.” “Oriental erotics debauch youth for the purpose of wrecking gentile morale.” Aliens enjoy all the forbidden fruit.

Our present government is corrupt. The two-party system is a sham Democracy is a “trick word.” “Liberalism is anarchy.” Civil liberties are “silly liberties.” We cannot be universalistic in our ethics. We must look out for ourselves

We can’t trust the foreigners. Internationalism is a threat. But we can’t trust our own government either. Alien termites bore within. Washington is a “Bolshevik rat’s nest.”

Our enemies are low animals: reptiles, insects, germs, sub-human. Extermination is called for; we must do something.

There is no middle ground. The world is divided. Those who are not for us are against us. It is a war between haves and have-nots; between true Americans and “foreigners.” “The Talmudic philosophy of Europe- Asia-Africa and Nudeal is directly opposite that of Christian.”

There must be no polluting of blood. We must keep racially pure and elite. Vile contamination comes from dealing at all with the moral lepers of liberalism.

But with disaster around the corner what can you do? Poor, simple, sincere people need a leader. Behold I am he. It isn’t the American nation that is wrong, it is the corrupt men in office. Change the personnel. I am available. I’ll change the whole smelly mess. You’ll have a happier and safe life.

The situation is too urgent to permit the luxury of thought. Just give me your money, and I’ll tell you later what to do. Everybody is against me . I am your martyr. The press, the Jews, the stinking bureaucrats are trying to shut me up. Enemies plot against my life, but God will protect me. I’ll lead you. And I’ll ignite the public mind everywhere. And I’ll liquidate millions of bureaucrats and Jews.

Maybe we’ll march on Washington . . . 

This is the playbook of the Trump GOP. He and Fox News have convinced his base that they have been cheated and threatened by immigrants and the Democrats. Immigrants are devalued and debased. They are the problem. He will stop the invasion. The country was a disaster before he came along and we needed him to make America great again. He alone can save us. He alone can drain the swamp. We must stick together against the attacks of a liberal press, the enemy of the people. They are godless but God is on my side.

Allport said in the 1950s that the aim of this kind of demagogue is “a totalitarian revolution following the pattern of fascism.” With hopefulness, he added:

American democracy has a remarkable resiliency, for it has with stood such demagogy for decades, in fact, since before the founding of the nation. But today, the aggravating of strains, the cultural lag (i.e., the failure of social skills to keep pace with technological) have made the appeal greater than ever before. It is not a movement that is born overnight. Its seeds are always present, and its growth may be gradual and imperceptible up to a point, and then sudden and alarming. It waxes and wanes with the rise and fall of particular demagogues. But sometimes its roots gain a firm hold in congressional committees, in local and state political groups, in certain newspapers, and among certain radio commentators.

On the whole, the democratic tradition seems still in the ascendancy. Each fascistic movement generates a strong counter-current. Yet the mounting of social strain and the acceleration of social change in our day create a precarious condition. The question is whether realistic diagnoses and policies can be evolved to ameliorate domestic and international ills and to improve men’s outlook before panic and fear drive them in larger numbers to embrace demagogic nostrums.

Allport’s question haunts me. I think he has the situation diagnosed but I don’t believe our psychology or our policies have kept up with the pace of social and technological change today. Panic and fear drove a sufficient number of presidential voters to elect a spectacularly ill-equipped reality television actor and businessman of questionable success. Panic and fear appear to be driving a defense of Trump’s abuse of power based on something other than reality. Evangelical placation of everything Trump does is almost certainly driven by panic and fear. Surely they are not walking by faith.

I hope our democratic institutions will survive the panic and fear whipped up by Trump. The social strain is here, accelerated social change is here and I believe we are in a precarious condition.  Here’s hoping that our democratic tradition remains the ascendant attitude with enough of us to thwart The Program of the Demagogue.

Court Evangelicals: In All Things, Trump Must Have the Preeminence.

Last weekend, Donald Trump’s evangelical advisors met with him to talk over impeachment strategy. Here is a picture of group on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins’ twitter feed.

I see Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris, James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, and AACC owner Tim Clinton among others.

Perkins says the reason the Democrats want to impeach Trump is due to his support for pro-life, pro-family policies. Odd, absolutely nothing has been mentioned about those policies in the numerous depositions taken so far. Everything has been about the president’s effort to manipulate Ukraine’s president to start an investigation of Hunter Biden in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. The president has stonewalled Congress and engaged in activities to cover up his activities. I believe the attempt to get a foreign government help to win an American election is an impeachable offense.

American evangelical leaders will have to answer for their blind trust in a political leader. I didn’t think evangelical leaders could get much lower but they have. Even if they don’t think what Trump did is impeachable, they should not excuse it. It is as if the Constitution or framers’ intent don’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is protecting Donald Trump.

Rick Joyner: Everything in the Constitution Comes from the Bible

For years, David Barton has promoted the false notion that everything in the Constitution comes from the Bible. Two summers ago, I read James Madison’s entire notes on the Constitutional Convention looking for the elusive biblical roots of the Constitution only to come up empty.

Now self-appointed prophet Rick Joyner has taken up this message. Watch:

He says everything in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is linked to a Scripture verse. Joyner adds to this falsehood by saying the Federalist papers further explains the links.

I have examined this claim on several occasions when made by David Barton (see the links in the first paragraph above). As noted, I read through the notes on the entire Constitutional Convention looking for the biblical influences on the Constitution. Surely, if the framers meant for the Bible to be the foundation of the Constitution, they would have cited it in their debates. Even if they didn’t use chapter and verse, there would have to be some reference to phrases from the Bible for these claims to be true. In fact, there were few references to the Bible or Christianity. There were far more references to Greek and Roman democracies, prior governments, British law and common sense. For the hearty souls who wish to take that same journey, I humbly recommend the series and the endeavor to read Madison’s notes on the 1787 convention.

Regarding Joyner’s remarks about the Federalist papers, he must be thinking about the Antifederalists.  In a study of citations by Donald Lutz frequently misused by David Barton and Christian nationalists, Lutz found that Federalists cited many influences but didn’t cite the Bible. See Lutz’s assessment of the writings of the Federalists and Antifederalists below: By the way, the Smithsonian has 156 million items, 145 million of which are scientific artifacts.

 

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.

Beth Moore Says “Let’s Move On”

About John MacArthur, Beth Moore recently said:

If you are on Christian twitter, you probably know this story. John MacArthur was asked to respond to a word association exercise on stage at his church’s Truth Matter’s conference and the host began with “Beth Moore.” MacArthur’s response was “Go home” (at 53 seconds into the clip below). There is audio from YouTube:

He continued to say there was no biblical basis for women to preach. This led to a huge uproar with MacArthur understandably roasted for his callous, dismissive approach to a Christian sister. Grace to You executive director Phil Johnson followed by calling Moore “narcissistic” and criticized her ministry.

Many have commented on this. I once thought women should not preach, and now I believe they may be called to do so. I have changed my perspective on many things over the years. Christians have assorted views on who should and shouldn’t do many things. In other news, water is wet.

What seems plain is that Christians are supposed to get along and love one another. I hope that isn’t controversial. I am pretty sure it isn’t happening as much as it should. That is why I wanted to highlight two tweets from two strong spiritual women.

I led with Moore’s tweet. Look at it. Putting the lie to Phil Johnson’s judgment of narcissism, a narcissist doesn’t call off the dogs. A narcissist rounds them up, calls out reinforcements, and sends them in for the kill. Witness Donald Trump. He wants his Republican troops to ignore what he has done and give up all for his cause. Deny yourself and follow Trump. Attacking those who attack the narcissist is the true test of loyalty. Beth Moore said back off, slander doesn’t honor God.

Then another one that caught my eye comes from Julie Roys:

I am not certain but I bet Julie and I disagree on some things, but I sure agree with her here. Being dismissive and cruel isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.

I hope all the “dudes” (listen to the audio) get that. If we are all right about the afterlife, we all — dudes and dudettes — will be spending a lot of time together on holy and equal ground.

 

Watergate House Judiciary Interviews were Held Behind Closed Doors

Yesterday, nearly 30 House Republicans invaded the secure hearing room where a witness was being interviewed in the Trump impeachment investigation. Known as a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility), the room is off limits to cell phones and and communications devices which can be compromised by listening technology. However, several of the House members brought their cell phones into the SCIF, potentially compromising security.

Ostensibly, their complaint was that the hearings were secret and should not keep them from entering. They also compared the Trump investigation to the Nixon investigation during the Watergate scandal, saying the Nixon process was public.

There is a surface appeal to their calls for openness. Many people who follow this matter would like to know more than can be gleaned from opening statements and leaks. However, the claim that Republicans have been shut out is preposterous. There are scores of Republicans who have clearance to be in the closed meetings. In fact, there were Republicans in the meeting yesterday who had permission to be there.

Also, the comparison to Watergate isn’t favorable for the Republicans. The House Judiciary Committee held closed-door hearings prior to submitting articles of impeachment just as the current House is doing. Critics in that day had similar criticisms as described in this May 10, 1974 article from the Des Moines Tribune (click the link to read the entire piece).

The article sounds quite current with similar criticisms of the process of interviewing witnesses. In hindsight, this process served to protect witnesses and eventually gave way to a public presentation of evidence.

Something that was true of Watergate that is not true now concerns the involvement of the Senate. The Senate convened public hearings in early 1973 and compelled witnesses to testify. Many people remember these hearings and have perhaps conflated the Senate’s hearing and the House’s work in their memory of that era.

Regarding the current rules governing impeachment in the House, there is nothing that appears to forbid standing committees from investigating what might and might not be an impeachable offense. Here is a relevant quote from the Congressional Research Service brief on impeachment in the House:

Material related to the conduct of a federal official might reach the House and be referred to committee prior to the adoption of a resolution directing a committee to conduct an investigation. Historically, this has included petitions and materials from citizens. In addition, standing committees, under their general investigatory authority, can seek information and research charges against officers prior to the approval of a resolution to authorize an impeachment investigation.

There are three standing committees currently investigating the conduct of the president and related officials. They already have investigatory authority and will turn over their findings to the Judiciary committee and eventually to the public. There will be public hearings and a vote on articles of impeachment which the Judiciary committee will almost certainly produce. Then the matter will go to the Senate where the Chief Justice will preside over a public trial. The president will have a chance to offer his defense.

For those who can’t believe something unless they see it on Fox News, first I offer my sympathy, and second, I offer this from Fox and Friends:

Donald Trump Laments Constitution’s “Phony Emoluments Clause”

During a cabinet meeting today, Donald Trump had some choice words for our founding document. Speaking on various topics, including the possibility of holding the G7 meeting of world leaders at his Doral Golf Resort in Miami, Trump was quoted as follows:

Watch:

One of the principle reasons I believe Trump is a danger as president is his disregard for our institutions and principles. He has ignored the emoluments clause during his entire term and he has ignored Congressional subpoenas and all efforts to provide oversight. His threat to the checks and balances of Constitutional government far outweighs any policies he might support of benefit to conservatives.

For the record, here is what the Constitution says about emoluments and the president:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. ARTICLE I, SECTION 9

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them. ARTICLE 2, SECTION 1

If the president accepts money from foreign governments without Congressional approval, he would violate that clause. There are also numerous other conflict of interest statutes governing federal employees which are in play.

About Donald Trump’s Let the Kids Fight Analogy

During a rally last night in Dallas, TX, Donald Trump said his approach to Syria was “unconventional what I did.” About the warring factions, he said “they’re going to have to fight a little while” and “sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart!” Watch:

As if the Kurds don’t know anything about war (they lost over 10k of their number fighting ISIS with us), Trump continued in his speech to talk about the nasty fighting since the U.S. pulled out. In his mind, the two sides are now ready to pause and make a deal because he made his unconventional move. He said Turkey would not have made the deal without “tough love.”

Many have correctly chastised the president for this simplistic view of the situation. The Turks and the Kurds and the Syrian Christians are not kids fighting on the playground. If anything Turkey is a bully beating up on small children. Even though, there is no analogy that works when one side (Turkey) commits atrocities and wants to rid the area of an entire group of people.

As a boy, I was in my share of playground fights, but nobody was beheaded, nobody was killed, nobody lost a home. Trump continues to demonstrate that he has little if any human compassion for anyone but himself. All that matters, it appears, is that he comes out of the situation looking good.

Think about what he is saying. In essence, he is saying that the beheadings, rapes, displacements, and other atrocities were all a part of his unconventional plan. Sometimes you have to let them fight awhile, then you pull them apart. In this narrative, he is the puppet master, letting them fight. He has the illusion that he was in control all along.

In fact, Turkey’s strong man Erdogan got everything he wanted out of the deal. He may not even honor the agreement. Within hours of the “pause,” shelling continued in the region according to reports earlier this morning. In fact, U.S. interests have not been served since the U.S. pulled out the region.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic president and his adoring followers congratulate themselves under the illusion that they are in control while the rest of us hang on for dear life.