Tony Evans Clarifies Statement About Stronger African-American Families During Slavery

About two hours ago, I received this statement apparently in response to the Christian Post article about Evans’ statements about slave families. The CP article triggered a post from me on the subject. Evans’ statement:
TonyEvansStatementSlaveFamiliesI never had or expressed a doubt that Evans condemned slavery or racism.
I offered my view in my post on the subject, linked to his full remarks in that post, and I am glad that Evans extended his remarks on the subject. Even though we don’t see this issue the same way, I want to thank Dr. Evans and A. Larry Ross Communications for sending this statement.

David Barton Misleads Ukrainian Pastors and Politicians about John Locke

In June 2014, David Barton went with PA Pastors’ Network president Sam Rohrer to lecture Ukrainian pastors and a few politicians on the Christian nation thesis. Nine minutes of Barton’s speech (through an interpreter) is on You Tube.
In the video (at about 4:20 through 6:20), Barton talks about John Locke’s use of Bible verses on the establishment of civil government. Watch:

Transcript:

This man is named John Locke. He was a great lawgiver in history and he was also a theologian.  He wrote this particular book on civil government in 1690. This has been used by nations across the world in building their governments. We actually own many of the original works by these lawgivers from four or five centuries ago.
Now if I were to ask us as ministers to name the Bible verses we can think of that address civil government, I would imagine that we could come up with 25 or 30 verses.
In this book here less than 3 cm thick, he lists over 500 biblical references to how civil government is to operate…. No, (interrupting the interpreter) 1500, 1500. I don’t know of a Christian today who could name 1500 Bible verses on how civil government’s to operate.
We may be Christians but we don’t think biblically about government.

I asked Greg Forster, an expert on John Locke (see an earlier critique of Barton’s treatment of Locke), to evaluate Barton’s claims about Locke and the 1500 verses. Forster’s answer is below in full:

Barton does not tell us the title of the book he holds up, but from his description it is impossible that it could be any book other than the Two Treatises of Government. However, his characterization of it is outrageous. Claiming that the Two Treatises “lists over 1,500 biblical references on how civil government is to operate” is not much more dishonest than claiming that the Bill of Rights protects 1,500 rights.
In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.
Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!
After all this, it seems trivial to point out that Locke did not, in fact, “write” the Two Treatises in 1690; he published it in that year, but wrote it much earlier.

Perhaps Barton is counting the over 900 verses in Proverbs. However, not all of those verses relate to civil government. Clearly, Barton embellishes and inflates until what he starts with is unrecognizable.

Gospel for Asia Declines to Answer New Questions About Use of Funds

Up until yesterday, David Carroll of Gospel for Asia has responded quickly to questions regarding Gospel for Asia’s disputes with former staff and certain financial policies. However, recently, I asked Carroll questions about substantial reserves maintained by GFA in India and apparent reporting discrepancies in Canada and India. In response, Carroll informed me yesterday that responding to questions had “become a distraction from our mission work” and for that reason, his email would be his “final response.”
Earlier this week I asked Carroll about claims by former staffer Johnson George that GFA founder and Metropolitan Bishop K.P. Yohannan maintained multiple substantial homes (George called at least one them a “mansion”) in India. Then I asked about the existence of a reserve fund in India of about $150 million which is maintained as a balance by GFA. Carroll did not answer either of those questions. He did answer some questions about GFA’s corporate structure and nonprofit status. I reported those answers elsewhere.
Finally, I asked why a 2013 movement of GFA funds sent from Canada to India did not line up in Canadian and Indian public records as required by law. He initially responded by saying, “The Canadian funds were combined with U.S. funds by our auditor in India for various accounting reasons. There is no requirement that they be reported separately.”
I replied by asking for contact information for the Indian auditor so I could clear up what appears to me to be a conflict with Canadian and possibly Indian law. Carroll replied by saying:

No, Gospel for Asia has not violated the law.
When you first contacted us, I mentioned that we would not be able to respond to every question you put before us. Now, with the increased volume and frequency of your questions, it has become clear that this back and forth has become a distraction from our mission work. For this reason, this will be my final response. We understand that you will continue to explore issues around Gospel for Asia and continue to be fed accusations from former employees, and we accept that.
We continue to remain accountable to all applicable laws and regulations, to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and to independent auditors.

If GFA was accountable to the ECFA guidelines then they would not view transparency as a distraction. However, as we have seen, the ECFA isn’t transparent, nor will the organization disclose any problems it finds with a member organization.
A sizable number of former GFA staff have raised significant and troubling charges regarding leadership and financial practices at GFA. There are many more which I have not been able to look into as yet. Mr. Carroll’s response is not an encouraging sign.
Click here for all articles on Gospel for Asia.

Former Faith Christian Church Members: ECFA Owes Us a Public Apology

After Faith Christian Church dropped membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, the point person for former FCC members involved in providing testimony to the EFCA, Rachel Mullis, expressed her disappointment with ECFA’s decision not to publicly release the results of the investigation.
Now joining in is another supporter of former FCC members, Sandy Wade, who said in a comment on this blog:

FCC took the cowards way out and so did ECFA. They obviously feel no moral obligation to protect the Christian community, and they have no interest in telling the truth. Their only public comment was to defend the FCC organization. You would think that after making such public remarks in their defense they would want to complete their investigation and release their findings. Cowards, they owe us all a public apology!

Wade makes a great point. The ECFA publicly defended the church before doing any kind of investigation. Given that the ECFA went out on a limb in the press to defend FCC, it seems reasonable to think they comment publicly now that they know more.
Former member Connie Cohn of Tucson, AZ is not impressed with ECFA’s integrity over the matter:

I believe that if an organization wants to maintain their credibility then, they must adhere to their policies and speak out when those policies/standards have not been met. They say that their mission is to protect the Christian community. To allow a church to resign in the middle of an investigation and not say anything about what was being investigated seems to make us question how respectable they are. They didn’t have to give all the details, but they could have at least said something about them leaving other than that they have decided to resign. They have a responsibility to the hundreds of people who left FCC and are still a part of the Christian community. I, for one, am not very impressed with the integrity of the ECFA.
Another former member said:
To me it shows laziness.  ECFA doesn’t want to finish compiling and publishing a report for an organization not under its oversight anymore.  But to let an organization just leave in order to halt any investigation is a major loophole that shouldn’t be there. The FBI doesn’t halt an investigation when someone leaves the country and just say “oh well nothing we can do, they left”.  ECFA needs to complete what they started ad make the results public so that people will take them seriously.  Since this loophole exists the ECFA really isn’t protecting members and donors at all.

Marcus DiMarco
Former Member of FCC

Tony Evans Says African-American Families Were "A Lot Stronger" During Slavery

UPDATE: You can listen to Evans remarks in full at these Dallas Seminary pages (this link has part two and a transcript). He has many good things to say. It is unfortunate that he prolonged the notion of the stronger African-American family during slavery.
………………………………………….
I can’t believe Evans said this. I think I know what he was going for but this doesn’t do justice to the history on the subject and plays into racial politics without any real benefit to his point.

He then made the reference to slavery to highlight the dire condition of the black family.
“The White man is not making you do that. He’s not forcing you into that position. That’s a convenient out. In slavery when we did not have laws on our side, the community on our side, the government on our side, the broader community on our side, our families were a lot stronger. We were a lot more unified and we made a lot more progress. We’re going through regression right now and a lot of that is because of decision-making we are responsible for,” said Evans.

Since African slaves couldn’t marry and were subject to forced separation at any time, this statement really makes no sense. If Evans’ point is that African families were resilient through adversity, I would give him that much. However, his points about strength, unity and progress seem surreal and aren’t accurate in any meaningful sense.
I hope he comes to recognize how such a statement, made in the current scene, takes us backward.
 
 

Sutton Turner Talks Mars Hill Global; Financial Information Omitted at Lawyers' Request

Sutton Turner provides his side of the Mars Hill Global story in a lengthy blog post today.
The omission of financial information is puzzling. For instance, Turner says:

In 2014 alone, Mars Hill gave $X to support efforts in Ethiopia and India. This is over X times what was given toward all non-US church planting from 2009-2011.* See the quote below from the Mars Hill Church FAQ web page in 2014**:

He addresses the confusion surrounding messaging on Global and honored the request of attorneys to leave out specific dollar amount given to international missions. Even though there is potential for legal action, it is hard to understand why these numbers are not provided. Turner says:

*Unfortunately, Mars Hill’s attorneys have requested that I not blog. I have removed some of the financial information as well as other non-financial information in response to their request.

Even though Mars Hill is a church, the attorneys are ruling the situation. The amount of money a church gives to missions is a secret? This is ridiculous, especially in absence of some compelling explanation.
Regarding the intent of the Mars Hill Global program, I have a hard time with these paragraphs:

Over the last twelve months, many have criticized the intentions and practices surrounding Mars Hill Global. This criticism focused around the claim that the leadership of Mars Hill confused donors who were giving to the Global Fund leading them to believe that 100% of all donations to Mars Hill Global went to Ethiopia and India.
I am sorry that some who contributed to Mars Hill Global (as well as those who did not contribute) were mistakenly led to believe incorrect information.That was neither my nor the church’s intention, but as the accusations came in, we quickly made a change on the online giving site to remove the term “Global Fund” (which had been used since 2009) to make it clearer. Secondly, we had the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), as well as an external, independent auditor, conduct thorough investigations. Both of these groups found that we could have been clearer during our communications (and in hindsight, we certainly agreed), but they reported that we did nothing wrong. Although neither the ECFA nor the auditor gave us any course of corrective action, my leadership team and I wanted to do everything we could to remedy the situation and correct our mistakes.

Turner did not deal with this memo which seems to suggest that there was a plan to misinform donors. For instance, the amount of money was not to be disclosed to the public (still not happening):

Flagship Projects
Of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage internally for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc. (ten to fifteen strategic operations in locations where Mars Hill wants to be long term). This percentage should be flexible (not a “tithe”), and not communicated to the public. Support for Mars Hill Global would be support for Mars Hill Church in general, but the difference and the draw would be that a portion of Global gifts would also benefit projects that spread the gospel and serve the needs of people around the world.

And then there was this paragraph:

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
• For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.

The plan at some point in re-launching Global was to support missions but to do so in a way that brought in more money than the mission support required. Again, read the entire re-launch memo; somebody had intent to play up missions and reap a harvest for U.S. expansion.
I was glad that Turner disclosed that the ECFA was involved. That they required nothing of Mars Hill is a loud clear testimony that they are not in business for donors. I may write a separate post about this disclosure.
Overall, I appreciate Turner’s disclosures. He acknowledges mistakes and says he was responsible:

I now realize that over time, I did not continue to communicate as well as I should have that Mars Hill Global was doing church planting in the US, Ethiopia, and India. My personal passion for Ethiopia began to overtake the communication about church planting in the US.

My personal passion for Ethiopia began to overtake the communication about church planting in the US.

I also made a very bad assumption that because the last decade of Mars Hill had been acutely focused on church planting in the US with Acts29, that I needed to focus more on what we were doing outside of the US. I assumed that everyone knew our church planting efforts in the US were continuing (which they did—with seven more churches between 2012 and 2014.)

I am deeply sorry for any confusion caused by my and my former team’s communications. Although this was certainly not our intention, the outcome still remains and we did everything in our power to rectify this error with Global donors in the summer of 2014. I understand that this situation has hurt some people’s (both Christian and non-Christian) trust in church stewardship for the larger church in general, and I am deeply saddened by this. Again, I am very sorry; I should have better communicated the goals, the use of funds, and the future vision of Mars Hill Global in the United States and wherever God would lead us in the world.

In this post, Turner makes another stunning admission:

Mistakes. When you make a mistake, admit it clearly and quickly. As I have mentioned previously, the MH BOAA discussed many different paths for communication, including trying to get ahead of the story and remaining silent. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of assuming that if we were silent about this issue it would pass over.

Mars Hill (along with the ECFA) hoped the matter would go away. The ECFA continues to take this approach when asked questions about their dealings. In some cases, it probably does work. It has worked so far for David Jeremiah but doesn’t always work as in the case of Mars Hill.
All in all Turner has shed some light on the Mars Hill Global story. Although there are more questions (e.g., who told Justin Dean to make up that elaborate story about the Global Fund not being a fund?), Turner’s admission point us to a little more clarity. If only the lawyers would understand what kind of organization they work for.
 
 

Is Phoenix Next for Mark Driscoll?

Downtown_Phx_Skyline_MDN
“Downtown Phoenix Skyline by Matthew Nystrom –

After his return to the stage at the Thrive 2015 Leadership Conference at Bayside Church in CA, it seems reasonable to suspect that Mark Driscoll is poised to return to ministry.  If so, where and doing what?
In recent weeks, several individuals have contacted me with tips that Driscoll is preparing to plant a church in Phoenix, AZ. In recent days, the buzz has intensified from several independent sources which leads me to believe the information is credible.
The moves appear to be at the exploratory stage at this point which means that a plant may not materialize.
The reaction of people who reach out with information has been interesting. Almost all are hoping the plant doesn’t happen. However, other people would welcome a return of Driscoll to active ministry. One can tell that from the reaction of some pastors at the Thrive 2015 conference.
Driscoll has become a polarizing figure in the broader church which unfortunately may follow him to wherever he lands. I think he could probably overcome this to some degree by taking his comeback trail through Seattle. I am pretty sure there are some folks there who would like to talk over his recent speech in CA.
 

Gospel for Asia Does Not File a 990 Because It is a Religious Order

Donations to Gospel for Asia are tax deductible but the organization doesn’t file 990 forms because they are a religious order. In response to my question, Gospel for Asia’s COO David Carroll answered as follows:

Also, to understand the level of commitment asked of staff and the ways in which we operate, it is helpful to recognize that we are a “religious order” and not merely a ministry. Religious orders must meet certain criteria according to the Internal Revenue Service. All potential staff members are fully briefed on these requirements, including a commitment to “live under a strict set of rules requiring moral and spiritual self-sacrifice and dedication to the goals of the organization.” (IRS Rev. Proc. 91-20, 1991-1 C.B. 524, Sec. 3). The IRS also stipulates that employees “make a long-term commitment to the organization (normally more than two years).”
In the spectra of religious orders, Gospel for Asia would likely afford the highest level of independence and freedom from leadership interference in personal decisions. As a religious order, Gospel for Asia is exempt by the IRS from having to file an annual Form 990. However, it’s worth noting that being a religious order imposes a very modest compensation scale on our ministry.

Based on the following description, I thought the group was a 501(c)3 organization required to report on IRS 990 forms.

GFA is a well-established international mission organization deeply committed to seeing lives and communities transformed through God’s Word and compassion. We are a bridge and servant of the Church to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord by transforming lives and communities through Christ’s love among the most unreached in our generation. We are a movement dedicated to glorifying the name of Jesus Christ and to proclaiming His grace and love to those who desperately need to hear it.

On the Frequently Asked Questions page, the religious order question is addressed:

I hear GFA is a religious order. What does that mean?
GFA is officially recognized in the United States by the IRS as a protestant/evangelical religious order, much like Wycliffe, Open Doors, U.S. Center for World Mission, Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), Operation Mobilization, Living Waters and other Christian ministries. That means GFA has the following characteristics defined by government law:

  • Members of the organization normally live together as part of a community and are held to a higher level of moral and spiritual discipline than that required of lay church members.
  • Members of the organization work or serve full-time on behalf of the religious, educational, or charitable goals of the organization.
  • Members of the organization participate regularly in activities such as public or private prayer, religious study, teaching, care of the aging, missionary work, or church reform or renewal.
The result is that the information normally contained on a 990 isn’t easily available.
One reason I wondered about the 990 form is because I am trying to get some understanding of this massive organization. The group claims it must keep the financial information private because of concerns over persecution. However, I have learned that much of the information about GFA’s work in India is reported yearly to the Indian government. The information is also available to the public (see this post for instance).
Stay tuned…

ECFA Will Not Release Faith Christian Church Investigation Results

This post is a follow up to the resignation of Faith Christian Church from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. I reported early in April that FCC resigned from the ECFA. FCC was being investigated by the ECFA for possible violations of ECFA guidelines. Numerous former members had described the extreme pressure to give 10% or more of their income to the church along with other problems at the church.
Even though the FCC resigned while under investigation, the ECFA does not plan to say anything further about the findings of the investigation. According to an April 9 email from John C. Van Drunen to former FCC member Rachel Mullis, the ECFA will only “cite their resignation” on their website. Writing to Mullis, Van Drunen said:
Thanks for your follow-up.  Since they have resigned there is not anything further we are able to say other than to cite their resignation.  Regarding follow-up with the former members, I have sent an update this afternoon to each person who responded to thank them similarly for their assistance and to give them the same update.
Thank you,
John

John C. Van Drunen
Executive Vice President

Mullis told me that she felt “disappointed” by the ECFA decision not to alert the public in some manner about the problems at FCC. She added that she felt like FCC got a “‘get out of jail free’ card.”
This is another example of how the ECFA’s decisions do not serve donors or the public. All that a prospective donor would know about FCC from the ECFA is that FCC resigned. The ECFA should have a category of resignation that indicates that an organization resigned while under investigation.

Funion Article: Gays Decry Redefinition of Marriage

The following article appeared in today’s Funion, a spoofy spoof of the Onion. With all appropriate apologies to all involved.
Gays Decry Union of Rocker and Florida Megachurch Pastor
ORLANDO, FL (Funion News Network) – Gay activists are crying foul this morning after Orlando area pastor Paula White married former Journey rocker Jonathan Cain. White’s marriage to Cain is the third marriage for the pastor of New Destiny Christian Center.
Gay activist Randy Thompson of Florida’s LBGTQQI activist group LBGTQQI Unite said the White-Cain union cheapens an institution gays are poised to enter.
“We are just now entering into the age-old institution and straights keep mucking it up,” Thompson said.
White and Cain could not be reached for comment, being away on their honeymoon. However, White’s spokesperson, Trevor Spokes-Wong said that White’s marriage celebrated man-woman marriage like “new wine poured into new wine-skins.”
Spokes-Wong added, “White has celebrated man-woman marriage three times now; there are few megachurch pastors who have celebrated this straight institution more than White.”
University of Florida professor of sociology, George Widlock, said marriage has been redefined by straights over the last half-century. “The battle between gays and straights is intensifying to see which groups can redefine marriage the most. Our data indicate that the straights are winning.”