Missouri Baptists Help Sponsor Conference Featuring David Barton and George Barna

TurningAmericaLogoJune 26 and 27, David Barton and George Barna will take their tour to Springfield MO for the Turning America Conference. To the chagrin of most Southern Baptist academic historians, the conference is sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Convention which is the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The meetings will be held at the Second Baptist Church in Springfield, MO.
Contact information for anyone in that neck of woods who might want it is 417-239-4216 and info@turningamericaconference.com.

Mark Driscoll Wants You to Tune In This Sunday

Mark Driscoll’s last two appearances in church were stealth sermons. At Thrive, he spoke in a main session but wasn’t on the program. Gold Creek Community Church leaders would not disclose Driscoll’s identity as guest speaker in advance. However, he appears to want an audience tomorrow. From Driscoll’s website:

Pastor Mark Live-Streaming from James River Church

This Sunday, June 7th 2015, Pastor Mark will be preaching live at James River Church near Springfield, MO. He will be preaching the 9:00 and 10:45 services Central Time. These services will be streamed live on the James River online church site. Check the site for your local time live service.

This appearance at James River is anything but secret. Does this mean he’s now ready for prime time again? I suspect this is staging for the Hillsong conference and it may also mean there is something he wants people to know.

Hat tip to Wenatchee the Hatchet for pointing out that some enterprising person is offering a breakfast and movie theatre viewing of the free broadcast from James River. I guess for some, church just isn’t church without Pastor Mark.

Hillsong's Brian Houston On His Desire to Interview Mark Driscoll: Did He Really Say Those Things?

Not sure how long the statement has been there (update: apparently it was posted today) but it is dated June, 2015 and is revealing. Hillsong’s pastor Brian Houston reveals he doesn’t know Mark Driscoll very well but wants to ask him some questions in this high profile interview. Building on his earlier statement made to this blog, Houston said today:

Personal statement from Pastor Brian Houston – Re: Mark Driscoll
June 2015
Let me be clear about one thing. Mark Driscoll and I stand poles apart on women, their place in society, and their role in the Church.
Hillsong Church has a long history of involving women in every area of church life both on and off the platform, and my own wife Bobbie is my co-Senior Pastor.
I think our leadership styles and relationship with staff and key people have also been vastly different.
So why am I using our platform to interview Mark? We come from different backgrounds, theological positions, and church expressions. I genuinely want to know! Did he really say those things? Does he believe those things? Does he have any regrets? Has he been misrepresented? What has he learned and what can we all learn? And where to from here?
I have met Mark just twice. Before his very public resignation from Mars Hill Church, a mutual friend introduced us over a cup of coffee in Seattle. We talked about life, ministry, and his previous exposure to Australia. The second time, I was standing in line at Starbucks in California bleary eyed and jet lagged when another customer in the line said hi. It was Mark Driscoll and his daughter.
A lot has been said. There’s lessons to be learned. I’m looking forward to asking the questions and hearing from Mark directly. Will we agree afterwards or agree to disagree? Time will tell. I doubt we will agree on everything, but everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.
Mark will not be speaking at the conference. It’s an open interview with Mark and his wife Grace. Let’s see what he has to say.
Blessings,
Brian

I think it is head scratcher that Brian Houston implies Mark Driscoll hasn’t had a chance to be heard. I wonder if Rev. Houston will then give the former Mars Hill folks some time and space to be heard.
The rationale is curious given the size and prominence of the conference in Australia. Most hosts do the exploration of these matters before a conference rather than live during it. Houston appears to be distancing himself from Driscoll even as he gives him an incredible platform to shape his comeback in the way he desires.
The statement may have been in response to this report on the Australian Broadcasting Network. Houston’s response to Driscoll’s views on gender appear to relate to this report.

Gospel for Asia Reveals Financial Information on Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Page

In a major departure from past practice, Gospel for Asia changed their ECFA page to include their U.S. financial information. Citing security concerns, GFA has declined to reveal this information on the web, but instead required interested parties to request it by mail. Up until now, the ECFA has allowed charter member GFA to be exempt from usual practice.
ECFA page old
Now the page looks like this:
ECFA page new
 
In a prior post, I noted that GFA sent $58 million to India but the FC-6 forms there show only a little over $6 million received from the U.S. Perhaps, GFA is moving toward more transparency. If so, the organization still has a long way to go to explain this discrepancy, as well as the money exporting to India, and discrepancies in the Bridge of Hope program reporting. Clearly, the organization is raising massive amounts of cash but has yet to explain why so much is sitting in Indian banks.
Given this change, perhaps the ECFA has been in talks with GFA and is privately working to bring GFA into compliance with ECFA guidelines. If this is true, don’t expect ECFA to alert the donating public. If the ECFA and GFA don’t see things the same way, my guess is that GFA will quietly give up their membership with no explanation.

Top Ten Rejected Titles for Mark Driscoll's Sunday Sermon at James River Church

TopTenIntell is getting out of Ozark, MO. In the Show Me State, Mark Driscoll is going to show up at James River Church with news of some kind on this Sunday, June 7. My sources are at work again and have learned the top ten rejected sermon titles for this weekend’s appearance.
 
Without fanfare, here there are:
10. A Nobody Wanting to Tell Anybody About Everybody I Need to Forgive
9. How to Fund Your Church Plant Through Global Missions
8. William Wallace Was Right
7 I Know Who the Anti-Christ is and He Lives in Pennsylvania
6. Be the Brand!
5. How to Turn Any Sin Into a Mistake
4. America Really Is a Pussified Nation!
3. How to Implode a Megachurch in One Year
2. Elders Schmelders and Other Insights on Biblical Leadership.
…and the number one rejected sermon title is:
1. The Gospel of Mark: Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
 
Alas, we don’t know what the actual title is yet, but the day is young.
With all appropriate apologies for this lame spoof.

How Hard is it for Gospel for Asia to Get Money to the Field?

CashIn a staff meeting on May 14, COO of Gospel for Asia David Carroll said it was getting hard to send money into India.

We’re always looking for ways to get money into India because the reality is that it’s getting more difficult to do that, and we are looking for other ways that we’re able to do that.

Given other information provided by GFA, this is a confusing statement.
On GFA’s frequently asked questions page, GFA addresses financial integrity and tells donors that everything is ethical. On that page, GFA promises financial accountability:
GFAfinancial
 
The sentence underlined in red says: “Some of those systems include transferring funds only through approved banking channels.” Carrying cash in backpacks is not an approved banking channel. As I have reported, money smurfing is a violation of both federal law and this website promise to donors. So hard or easy, moving money is only supposed to be done through banks.
I have to also question if it is difficult to get money into India via legitimate means. According to the audited financial statement for 2012 and 2013, GFA started creating limited liability companies in 2009 to aid transfers of money to India. They now report 12 of them.
A quick review of the Indian FC-6 forms (e.g., GFA’s 2013-2014 FC-6) shows that GFA transfers money frequently. In fact, GFA decided to transfer $9 million to India just to get better interest rates. Apparently, any difficulty was worth it. See the relevant section of the financial statement in the image below:
GFA LLC AFS
 
GFA took $9 million which they needed for their new home office and transferred to that money to India for about a year to get better interest rates. Then they transferred it back. GFA was willing to place $9 million at risk; so how hard could it be to move money back and forth?
GFA has admitted money smurfing but to my knowledge, there has been no explanation to staff about why the students and money was put at risk. I am aware that staff are very concerned about it as they should be.
I encourage anyone who was asked by GFA to move cash on a trip to India (or elsewhere) to contact me at my email address (click the link). If you have questions about the matter, please feel free to contact me.

David Barton's Unreal Appearance on Family Research Council's Washington Watch

David Barton was on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch Live yesterday to talk about his version of America’s founding. The host sitting in for Tony Perkins was Craig James.
As I was listening to Barton rattle off some of his usual distortions, it occurred to me again how far apart Barton and the Family Research Council are from Christian academia and the real world of scholarship. For instance, James introduced Barton as “one of the most respected historians in America.”
In what universe does Craig James’ America exist? James works for the same Family Research Council that once entered the real world and removed one of David Barton’s Capitol Tour videos from view because they acknowledged numerous historical errors. Now FRC hires Barton to give the tour again and James lauded the tour.
Respected historians don’t have their books removed from publication by their Christian publisher; nor do they have the same book voted least credible by other historians.
Barton again botches the Donald Lutz study of quotes from the Founding era. Barton made it seem as though Lutz studied the founders’ quotes when that was not the case (see this post for what the study actually did). Barton never tells his listeners that the Federalists didn’t cite the Bible in their defense of the Constitution.

Even fellow Christian Reconstructionist Joel McDurmon begs Christian nation advocates to stop citing the Lutz study because they are getting it wrong. McDurmon wrote in 2013:

To all my friends and fellow-laborers in Restoring America, Christian America, Monumental America, Christianity and the Constitution, followers of Verna Hall, Rosalie Slater, Vision Forum, Wall Builders, and anyone else, anywhere even remotely associated with such a project: Please, quit citing Lutz and Hyneman as proof the Framers of the Constitution quoted the Bible more than any other source. They did not, and misreading studies like this, and thereby perpetuating myths like this, is one reason liberal scholars so often laugh at you. It’s not always merely because they hate God. Sometimes, it’s because we give them reason.

Even though I disagree with McDurmon on many things, we disagree in the real world where scholars are respected when they get the facts right and are scorned when they perpetuate obvious falsehoods.
Barton then says in 1636 governments were instituted by Christians to give rights of conscience. He fails to mention that Roger Williams was tried by the General Court of Massachusetts and found guilty of heresy and sedition in 1635 and then fled Massachusetts Christian government to establish his own Christian colony.
Barton winds up by again saying Thomas Jefferson agreed with the House speaker to have church in the chambers. However, there is no record that Jefferson had any role in it. The chaplains asked the House if anyone objected to the idea and since no one did, the chaplains officiated.
As I have said before, I think Christian academics have a role in offsetting this misinformation and promoting accuracy.
 

Gospel for Asia Reports One Thing in American Audit, Another in Indian Reports

In addition to the usual income and expenses data, Gospel for Asia’s audited financial statement discloses related party transactions. As you can see from the image below, the direction of the transaction is from the U.S. to GFA affiliates in Asian countries with 96% going to India. In addition to GFA India, GFA in the U.S. claims contributions to GFA affiliates in Myanmar, Sr Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. See below:
GFA Related Party Transactions 2013GFA reports contributions to five related non-profits. However, in the Indian FC-6 report, three other charities — Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries, and Last Hour Ministries — report receiving contributions from GFA in America. In the audited financial statement above, GFA reports to Americans that the organization gave $58,542,900 to GFA India in calendar year 2013. However, in the FC-6 form filed to the Indian government, GFA – India reported that much less than $58 million was received. Just from the U.S., GFA – India reported that they received INR 404,638,271 which converts to $9,170,270 million USD during the period between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014 (see line 5 below).*
GFA FC6 Countries
GFA said in the audited financial statement over $58 million was sent to GFA India, but GFA in India reported only a little over $9 million being received (actually more like $6 million, see the last note below).**** So where is the rest of the money?
As I reported in a prior post, GFA in America also sent money to at least three other charities in India: Believers’ Church (INR 909,041,794 = $20,601,500), Love India Ministries (INR 162173900 = $3,675,330) and Last Hour Ministries (INR 161084820 = $3,650,650) (click the links for their FC-6 forms).  Looking at what came from the United States to all four of these entities, the total is $37,097,750 which still does not get us to the $58 million GFA claims came from the U.S.** It is possible that GFA – U.S. contributes to other ministries in India that have not been disclosed or discovered yet. However, just taking these reports at face value (what GFA says in the audited statement and what GFA tells the Indian government, there appears to be a significant discrepancy.
It is worth asking what Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries do. I can’t find a viable web presence for either entity and as far as I can determine, GFA does not mention them in their materials. They may be shell companies operating in name only, much like the 12 limited liability corporations in Texas mentioned in the audited financial statement which exist just to transfer money to the field.***
Thus, at least two problems emerge for GFA’s credibility. One, GFA claimed in the audited financial statement that it only contributed to “five related non-profit organizations.” However, GFA in the U.S. uses 12 LLCs to send money to at least three additional registered charities in India (Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries) which are not disclosed in the audited financial statement. Two, the amounts GFA says they send to GFA in India comes nowhere close to matching what GFA – India reports to the Indian government.
Thus far, GFA has remained silent in the face of questions regarding cash smurfing to India, video of Believers’ Church bishops bowing and kissing the ring of GFA president K.P. Yohannan in contradiction to Yohannan’s denials of the ritual, discrepancies in Bridge of Hope giving requests and spending, and cash hoarding in Indian bank accounts. These discrepancies being reported today now call into question the accuracy of the American audited financial statement. Silence may be a good PR strategy but it seems ill-suited for a Christian ministry.
 
*It seems very unlikely that the different reporting years explains the $ million difference. Both methods of accounting cover 12 month periods which report consistent monthly giving totals year over year.
**Contributions to GFA-India, Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries from all foreign sources (including interest on foreign contributions) totaled $54, 550,683 for fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, still less than the $58 million to India reported on the audited financial statement.
***As an aside, it is worth asking again why sending cash to India in student backpacks was ever done. GFA told students it is a way to get cash into India. As one can see from the financial statement, GFA set up 12 LLCs to transfer money, and even transferred $9 million at one point just to get better interest payments. There appears to be no problem getting money back and forth from India. 
****I remembered after doing the post that India’s FC-6 forms require a charity to record when the contributions are received. Thus, I was able to discern the amount sent during the calendar year 2013 but looking at the reports for the fiscal years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. The situation is actually worse than I first reported. GFA – India reported that they received only $6 million in calendar year 2013. The American audit says GFA U.S. sent $58 million to GFA India in the calendar year but GFA India only reported $6 million in the same time span.

Indian News Magazine Weighs In on Gospel for Asia and the Loss of Cheruvally Estate

cheruvally estateToday, Tehelka, an award winning Indian investigative magazine, posted an article about the loss of the Cheruvally Rubber plantation to the government. Even though I posted on this topic recently, I thought this article added some facts and was interested in the tone of the report.
Some snippets:

-based evangelist and self-consecrated archbishop Dr K P Yohannan has hit the headlines yet again, as the state government has recently issued orders to take over three estates his church body owns illegally. According to the government of India website, Gospel for Asia (GFA) – a Texas based charitable organisation – is funding ‘Believers Church’ for the purpose of charity to improve the condition of orphan children. Interestingly, both GFA and Believers Church are headed by Yohannan. The funds sent by GFA were used to purchase these estates instead of putting it to use for charity purposes.

I have been curious about perception in India regarding GFA’s purchase of land for commercial purposes. The writer of this article takes the position that the foreign contributions were used to buy commercial properties rather than for the intended purpose. This is a serious charge and one which GFA should address.

However, it has been learnt that Yohannan and his trust had spent Rs 300 crores on the plantation property. With the government now taking over the land, BC will in all probability face losses on their investments in these estates. Moreover, BC would possibly be ineligible for any compensation as Harrison Malayalam sold the property to BC when the former had no right to sell the property. After the purchase, however, the property was mutated in the name of the Believers’ Church and tax was being paid by the BC itself under the Plantation Tax Act.

Instead of $14.3 million, as I reported earlier, this article claims the price was much higher — $68.5 million. However, no source was given for the information which makes it impossible to verify.
An implication of this report is that a massive amount of donor funds may be lost due to the purchase of this property. Although GFA in India may have believed it had the better legal case, it is a legitimate question whether or not donor money should have been risked in this manner.
GFA has remained silent about a number of concerns recently raised by donors, former staff and students. Prominent among them is the report by former students that they were told to carry cash in backpacks and suitcases to India, seemingly at odds with American and possibly Indian law.

Mark Driscoll to Speak at James River Assembly of God in Ozark, MO Next Sunday

JamesRivLogoJust confirmed it with the church; Mark Driscoll is set to speak at James River Church (Assembly of God) in Ozark, MO this coming Sunday, June 7. His topic was not disclosed.  The church is pastored by John and Debbie Lindell.
You can read more about James River in this description by Ed Stetzer. Their Wednesday night service offers opportunities to get baptized in the Spirit.
There are some additional wrinkles to this event which I am working to confirm. In particular, one report is that one of the pastors of the church told some of the congregation that Driscoll had been acquitted of the charges against him via a church investigation. If that is true, there is some misinformation being shared.
Driscoll has spoken before at James River, during the Real Marriage tour.
The Seattle Times focused on Driscoll’s comeback in the May 30 edition.

You will not want to miss this Sunday’s guest speaker, @markdriscoll

A photo posted by James River Church (@jamesriver) on