Will the Former Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church Face a RICO Lawsuit?

If Bob Sluys has his way, the necessary funds will be raised and a group of plaintiffs will bring the RICO lawsuit. For  more on the suit’s logic see this prior post (here also). Sluys created a video outlining the reasons he believes make the suit necessary. Watch:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/iX9ccY-uJ54[/youtube]
About half of what is needed has been raised.
The church is apparently still disposing of assets without a public accounting of the Global Fund and where the disposed assets have gone.
The plaintiffs offered (and presumably still would pursue) mediation without success.
It appears that the basic question is: Did any church leaders use church funds to personally enrich themselves?

Daily Jefferson: Why July 2 Could Have Been Independence Day

Thomas Jefferson wanted the fact that he authored the Declaration of Independence on his tombstone. Even though his work was edited, he is credited with the authorship. The favorable vote for independence was conducted by Congress on July 2, 1776. According to the National Archives website:

Independence Day Should Have Been July 2 –July 2, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. John Adams, in his writings, even noted that July 2 would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations. The written Declaration of Independence was dated July 4 but wasn’t actually signed until August 2. Fifty-six delegates eventually signed the document, although all were not present on that day in August.

After the Declaration was finally approved and dated July 4, the document was not signed until August 2.
John Adams thought that July 2 would be the day that celebrations took place marking American independence. He said in a July 3, 1776 letter to his wife:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

As we all know, July 4th is the day which became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870.
So say a prayer, play some games, explode some things and watch some fireworks starting today through July 4 and you’ll have everything covered.
And if you give gifts, here is a suggestion.

Former Gospel for Asia Staff Respond to K.P. Yohannan's Donor Letter: GFA Leaders Never Followed Through

Yesterday, I posted an email that Gospel for Asia donor services is sending to donors about the recent controversies, many of them disclosed on this blog. Today, the former staff have posted a response to the question: Is Diaspora willing to meet with GFA?
The letter from GFA CEO K.P. Yohannan did not address the questions about GFA’s financial dealings but did indicate that the former staff (now around 100) were to blame for lack of face-to-face meetings. This reply provides the other side of the matter.
To the question, is the Diaspora willing to meet? They say:

The short answer is: Yes.
However, we doubt there continues to be a reason to meet.

Diaspora had hoped from the beginning to meet with GFA leadership to address the concerns voiced in our first letter. As we moved forward through this process, we even chose a date with KP for such a meeting (October 2, 2014 and then October 13, 2014), but GFA’s leadership never followed through in actually sitting down to meet. Instead, we were told that Gayle Erwin was heading an investigation into our concerns and, as such, it was now out of KP’s hands and up to the board as to what to do next.

A part of the results of the investigation, according to the Diaspora, was a statement that GFA saw no reason to meet.

Several months passed until Gayle Erwin sent his final report in March stating that our claims were dismissed and that they would no longer be communicating with us. We took that to mean an end of any opportunity for a meeting to take place.

The Diaspora explain their reasoning for commenting publicly and deny that a demand for videotaping was the deal breaker:

We have been told that GFA is telling supporters that the only reason the meeting has not happened is because “Diaspora would not meet without it being videotaped” and GFA has been counseled against doing so by the ECFA. Therefore, they have accused us of not being willing to meet.
We think this is disingenuous, as it gives the impression that GFA did all they could to arrange a meeting and the only thing that led to failed negotiations was our demand that it be videotaped (see Aug 22, 2014). This is simply false. Again, see our Communications History for the whole truth.
The only meeting negotiations between GFA and ourselves were the emails and calls between JD and KP. If one reads, s/he will find that JD asked one time about it being videotaped and KP never even responded to that. Then KP announced the investigation. After that, the negotiations about meeting times simply stopped and KP never spoke directly to JD after that. We would not call that a failure on our part.

I encourage interested readers to examine the communications history and responses to other questions from the former staff group.
The GFA response so far appears to be to claim they want to be transparent but actually not be transparent. They have ignored calls to provide information which would address the many issues which have been raised.  I hope that will change. The silence from GFA is very loud.
 

Glenn Beck Defends His Appearance at Ed Young's Fellowship Church; Are America's Founders Mormon?

Last night, Glenn Beck came to Ed Young’s defense. In a Facebook posting, Beck said Young is brave because he is “someone who’s willingness to come under attack should be commended.” Beck added:

Ed Young is the pastor of fellowship church here in Texas. It is a family of churches that he shepherds from here in Texas to Florida and all the way to London.

He is currently taking a beating for inviting me to speak at his church all three sessions this weekend.

glennbeckfellowshipI first blogged about the appearance on Monday.  Yesterday, Christian Post’s Nicola Menzie examined some reaction to the appearance and Beck’s membership in the Mormon church.  Young is apparently taking some heat over the arrangement.

Beck said his topic is “Gods role in American history and how we always rise to the occasion as we turn back toward God.” Beck criticized those who question his appearance as taking a page from Saul Alinsky. Where have I heard that before?

Beck says Young is being criticized because Beck is Mormon. I am sure that is part of it. However, another reason to question the wisdom of the appearance is that his talks on history are often full of errors. When I analysed his talk to Liberty University last year, I found that he made numerous historical errors, even about Mormon history.

Beck also claimed in his Facebook note that he isn’t going to speak about theology. He wrote:

Darkness knows if we, the Children of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob present a united front we can and will defeat any force on earth. If we are on Gods side who can stand against us?
I am NOT speaking about theology this weekend and I do not wish to do anything but strengthen people’s faith in one God. The God of their understanding.
The God who established this nation and the God that is telling us if we turn our face to Him, He will heal our land.

I disagree when Beck says he won’t speak about theology. He contradicted himself in these sentences. Surely, claims about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, how one may strengthen one’s relationship with that God, and how He established and “will heal” America are theological claims. More to the point, Mormons have very specific theological claims about the founders, the founding era and the founding documents. Beck is animated by those beliefs and will present them in some form to Young’s congregation. Make no mistake, Beck will teach theology this weekend.
I have referred to David Barton’s teachings as Christian nationalism; Beck’s and the LDS church’s very similar teachings could be called Mormon nationalism.
LDS church dogma is that the founders of America were baptized in the spirit and became Mormons. On the LDS website, a 1986 address by then-president of the church Ezra Taft Benson spelled out the teaching that the founders were “redeemed” by baptism into the church (more detail and audio are here).

Shortly after President Spencer W. Kimball became President of the Church, he assigned me to go into the vault of the St. George Temple and check the early records. As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to the St. George Temple. I saw with my own eyes the record of the work which was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington.

Think of it: the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls and had their vicarious work done for them.

President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words: “Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God’” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, p. 160).

After he became President of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits … [and] were inspired of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 89).

The Benson speech fails to include these words of Woodruff to make it more clear who appeared. However, another speech by Benson added this detail:

I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men. [Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946), pp. 160-61]

These noble spirits came there with divine permission-evidence that this work of salvation goes forward on both sides of the veil.

Woodruff recorded those who were redeemed. They include George Washington’s family, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, along with numerous others.
Regarding the founding of the nation, Mormons believe it was directed by God. In a narrative that sounds much like David Barton’s Christian nation teaching, Benson quoted the LDC Doctrine and Covenants document:

“I established the Constitution of this land,” said the Lord, “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).

For centuries the Lord kept America hidden in the hollow of His hand until the time was right to unveil her for her destiny in the last days. “It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations,” said Lehi, “for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Ne. 1:8).

In the Lord’s due time His Spirit “wrought upon” Columbus, the pilgrims, the Puritans, and others to come to America. They testified of God’s intervention in their behalf (see 1 Ne. 13:12–13). The Book of Mormon records that they humbled “themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them” (1 Ne. 13:16).

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: “For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth” (3 Ne. 21:4). America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church.

LDS theology requires the belief that, as Beck said he planned to teach at Fellowship Church, “God established this nation.”
The Bible teaches that God brings all nations into existence as a matter of common grace and Christian teaching historically has been that the U.S. does not appear specifically in the Bible. LDS theology requires American specialness as the “necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel.” The LDS church is that restoration.
The LDS church also teaches that the church will play a pivotal role in rescuing America.
According to Benson:

Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction” (19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City).

I think it becomes clear why David Barton’s teaching is so important to Beck, even through all of the historical errors. Barton supports Beck’s theology of relationship between his church and the state.
Personally, I think the facts of history do not support either Mormon nationalism or Christian nationalism. However, those at Fellowship Church should know that the lessons they will receive don’t need to be historically sound because the history is drawn first and foremost from LDS theological teaching. The facts of history, like the nation’s founders who appeared to President Woodruff, are baptized until they fit in with the theological narrative.
 
 

Daily Jefferson: Getting Ready for Independence Day Celebrations – July 1

Monticello has a nice page with quotes about Thomas Jefferson and Independence Day activities.  Here are July 1 entries:

1806 July 1. (Jefferson to Thomas Digges). “He [Jefferson] will be happy to see Mr. Digges and his friends on the fourth of July, and to join in congratulations on the return of the day which divorced us from the follies and crimes of Europe, from a dollar in the pound at least of six hundred millions sterling, and from all the ruin of Mr. Pitt’s administration.”[12]

1808 July 1. (Ellen Wayles Randolph to Jefferson). “There is to be a great Barbecue on the 4th of July in Charlottesville to which Sister Ann is going.”[13]

Fellowship Church Spokesman Says LDS Doctrine Teacher Glenn Beck's Knowledge of History is Unmatched

UPDATE: Beck defended his appearance; says he won’t teach theology. I dispute that here and note that the LDS believe the founders were redeemed into the church via baptism.
Nicola Menzie’s Christian Post article examined the evangelical megachurch fascination with Glenn Beck, but Fellowship Church’s statement about Beck’s knowledge of history stood out to me.  Unmatched? Unmatched in error perhaps, but I think the clueless spokesman meant it as a compliment. The full quote was Glenn Beck’s:

knowledge of our history and his understanding of our nation is unmatched.

Beck got history wrong (see also this) when he spoke at Liberty University in 2014. He even messed up Mormon history in that talk at the same time he promoted LDS theology in his speech.
As I noted recently, Beck is speaking this coming weekend at Fellowship Church, a Southern Baptist church pastored by Ed Young.
Beck is the Gospel Doctrine teacher at his Mormon church and is about to teach his audience from the Bible next week. Watch:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/1pa2kEzpN_A[/youtube]
Menzie’s article did not get comment from Beck on his status with the Mormon church but apparently he has a position teaching doctrine there. You can review the teacher’s manual for the New Testament on the LDS church website. This site gives lessons from the Book of Mormon. The gospel doctrine teacher is to teach the doctrines of the Mormon church, which are outlined here.
Of course, all are free to practice their religion but it appears that celebrity worship is the religion of the modern Christian megachurch.
 
 

Gospel for Asia Avoids Tough Questions, Continues the Spin

Beginning in mid-June, some donors and former donors to Gospel for Asia began receiving a letter from GFA CEO K.P. Yohannan. That letter is below. Yohannan doesn’t actually address any of the matters of smurfing money to India, surpluses in India, funds unaccounted for and the role of Yohannan in the Believers’ Church.
I am going to provide the letter along with my comments.

From: donorservices@gfa.org
Date:
Subject: Gospel for Asia
To:
Dear Friend in Christ,
Greetings in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Thank you for your commitment to the Great Commission and to Gospel for Asia’s role in seeking its fulfillment. While there is much to share with you about how God is working through Gospel for Asia and how we are seeking to reach the millions of souls still waiting to hear the Good News of the Gospel, that is, unfortunately, not the purpose of this letter. What I have to share with you today relates to criticism that you have recently heard about Gospel for Asia by several former staff members.
In June of 2014, we received a letter from 37 former employees outlining some concerns they had about the organization. After receiving their letter, our first reaction was to consider each of the charges made against us, asking God to show us where we may have been in error. With a desire to seek reconciliation with each person, we reached out one by one to all who signed the letter. Unfortunately, we were only given the opportunity to reconcile with one of the signatories. But we praise God for bringing about reconciliation with that one!
After unsuccessfully trying to seek biblical reconciliation with the entire group, our board designated one member to conduct a formal inquiry into the outlined complaints. To ensure a fair and unbiased process, I along with my wife, son and members of the board, recused ourselves from participating in the investigation. At the same time, our leadership team examined our human resources policies and procedures, making improvements wherever possible, and affirmed the freedoms afforded to those called to the work of Gospel for Asia. The board investigation concluded the following:
“We are broken-hearted and repentant that we damaged by our actions and attitudes any believer for whom we had responsibility by relationship.”
“[We] feel that your [the authors of the letter of complaint] other accusations are without foundation in terms of the fulfilling of our call to enlarge the Kingdom of God.“
I want to acknowledge there have been times when I have not communicated with enough grace nor with enough clarity when speaking to members of our staff. It has always been my goal to keep short accounts and ask the Lord each day to show me where I have offended someone, so that I might seek the forgiveness of God and the one I have offended. I am not perfect and thank God that he is gentle with me as I seek to serve him. I will not apologize for the zeal I have for God’s work, but I do sincerely apologize for the times I have been insensitive to those working along side me.
It grieves my heart that this matter has gained outside attention and is now causing distraction from our mission of reaching the people of Asia with the Gospel, and I wanted you to hear directly from me how saddened I am. I am grieved not only for those who have felt it necessary to take such actions against the ministry, but also for the people of Asia who do not currently know our Lord and Savior.
Because I believe that disputes among brothers and sisters in Christ should be handled in a manner that accords with the Scripture, I have not issued a blanket response and have chosen to not respond any further to incoming media requests for comments. We have no desire to carry out a dispute between brothers and sisters in Christ in front of a lost and dying world.
As our financial partner, I want you to know that we take the responsibility of stewarding your resources well with the utmost seriousness. While we cannot publicly disclose all of our financial information to protect the safety of workers on the field, we submit to an independent audit and the review of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
As I conclude this letter, I want you to know that Gospel for Asia’s motivation has always been to reach as many people as possible in Asia with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and grow in our ability to reflect the character of Christ in our own organization. We want to fulfill our role in carrying out the Great Commission. And we want to reflect God’s love, wisdom and uprightness as we serve in his name.
Regarding those former employees with unresolved concerns, it is my desire to reconcile when possible and disagree in love when necessary, so that we might stand together in our commitment to spreading the Gospel throughout Asia. I hope you will pray for a speedy and godly resolution to this situation. But most of all, I hope you will continue to intercede for the millions in Asia waiting to hear of God’s love for them. May they come to know the One who died for them—and for me.
Please know you are extremely important to the mission of our organization, and I want to invite you to contact me with any further questions or concerns. Be assured that you will be heard.
For those who need the love of Jesus,
K.P. Yohannan
questions@gfa.org

Some comments. On the 37 former staff letter, please recall that it is now over 80 former staff that have raised the concerns. Yohannan said:

Unfortunately, we were only given the opportunity to reconcile with one of the signatories. But we praise God for bringing about reconciliation with that one!

GFA has had the opportunity to meet but hasn’t. Please see the former staff website for a history of this dispute between GFA and the former staff.
From the letter:

Because I believe that disputes among brothers and sisters in Christ should be handled in a manner that accords with the Scripture, I have not issued a blanket response and have chosen to not respond any further to incoming media requests for comments. We have no desire to carry out a dispute between brothers and sisters in Christ in front of a lost and dying world.
As our financial partner, I want you to know that we take the responsibility of stewarding your resources well with the utmost seriousness. While we cannot publicly disclose all of our financial information to protect the safety of workers on the field, we submit to an independent audit and the review of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

I and others have gone to GFA prior to publication on various matters and they have not replied. Furthermore, the financial matters are not Matthew 18 issues but rather part of accountability as a non-profit organization and public charity. The rest of this is a non-answer and another great illustration of how the ECFA isn’t working for donors.
Basically the message is GFA is too busy winning millions to Jesus and we can’t be bothered with petty questions. This is the same K.P. Yohannan that posted the following on the GFA website:

And if you hear something about Gospel for Asia that doesn’t sound right, would you please contact us—via email or phone—and let us know? Whenever there are accusations, we seek to immediately respond. We don’t walk away or cover it up. Most often, these are simply rumors or misunderstandings. And if we are wrong, we are happy for the opportunity to repent and make things right. We desire to walk in the light with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters.

The fact is GFA is not answering questions or responding, immediately or otherwise. With this new letter, K.P. Yohannan continues the spin.

Christianity Today on Whistleblowing Blogs

This month marks 10 years of blogging. Nice to start the month with some favorable press over at Christianity Today.
Michelle Van Loon and Marlena Graves link to this blog in their story on whistleblower and watchdog blogs. In addition to this blog, they link to Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, Recovering Grace, and the blog of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).*
Van Loon speaks from personal experience of dealing with a cover up in a church. She sees the benefits of confronting obvious problems when others want to pretend nothing is wrong. Leader worship is a prominent aspect of why people in the pews don’t reflect more on the truth of the messages being delivered. Van Loon says:

When I see someone suggest those harboring hurt or suspicion toward the church are in sin, or that fellow believers would do best to ignore whistleblowers, my internal alarm sounds. Unquestioning allegiance to any earthly leader, even in the church, has proven in many cases hurtful rather than helpful.

Graves follow by highlighting the cost of speaking up.

When working for a Christian organization that many saw going in a troubling direction, we said something. We submitted our criticism, attended meetings, and talked to leaders at each level. Initially, we trusted the proper protocols and official channels set up to give and receive feedback. But not only did those in charge fail to address our concerns, they began enacting policies to punish those who spoke up.

Currently, insiders at Gospel for Asia are telling me that leaders are ordering the students and staff not to read my blog. Mark Driscoll called the blog information “shenanigans” and some Mars Hill leaders discouraged blog reading. David Barton regularly misrepresents me and my motivations to his audience. One mark of an insecure, and often controlling, organization is the use of sanctions to block members from learning opposing views.
In the cases of Mars Hill and GFA, those injunctions from leaders triggered many to read the blog anyway. Some stay away out of fear, but others find information that is being obscured from stakeholders/members by their leaders. For this reason alone, many bloggers perform a valuable function for the organization’s members.
* There are other blogs I would add to this list, particular this one: Wenatchee the Hatchet.