UPDATE: I have created a survey for Calvary Chapel pastors, staff and members regarding Gospel for Asia and church support. Please click through via this link to take the survey.
Phoenix Preacher is reporting that Joe Focht, pastor at Calvary Chapel – Philadelphia announced to his congregation on Sunday that it would not be “unreasonable” to suspend support for Gospel for Asia. According to PP, Focht added that donors might reconsider if ECFA membership is restored.
Last week, Calvary Chapel – Oxnard (CA) advised members to stop support. In late September, Calvary Chapel pastor Bill Gallatin rebuked K.P. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church rituals.
Historically, Calvary Chapels have helped sustain GFA. A Google search finds numerous (well over 100) CC’s which support GFA or GFA staff.
Some CC pastors/staff have made blog comments about GFA. I invite others to do so as well. If you are reading and pastor at a CC, consider leaving a comment about GFA with your name and church. If you support GFA, chime in and say why. If you have changed your view, then leave a comment to that effect. Given what has been revealed about GFA’s dealings, I think it would be hard for a church to do nothing. A review of the issues is in order no matter where you eventually land.
In the context of explaining why Believers’ Church in India gave $19.8 million to Gospel for Asia for construction of headquarters at Wills Point, TX, GFA CEO K.P. Yohannan said this:
And by the way, just so you know, I am not legally on any boards, any trusts, anything in any of these countries. I have no powers to make decisions or sign money, or release money, or make decisions, I am completely legally…why? Because anybody who work in the United States or overseas countries have a board membership or have legal membership should not be part of their legal entities in India. It’s a conflict of interest and therefore we send the funds and it is immediately under the government watch care and the government of India is responsible and investigative agencies and tax divisions to make sure that is carried out within the time frame or whatever they do, that is a public thing.
Yohannan said these things at a staff meeting held at GFA’s office complex on May 14, 2015. The audio is embedded at the end of the post.
When I posted the audio in August, I also posted images of court cases involving Believers’ Church which refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers’ Church. Even though Yohannan said it was a conflict of interest to be on the board in India and the CEO in America, court documents dated in 2015 refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of the entity (Believers Church) that “decided” in 2013 to send $19.8 million to another entity (Gospel for Asia) run by Yohannan in order to build a new campus.
Recently, I have been given two documents which establish beyond doubt that Yohannan’s statement to staff was misleading. The first document is a 2005 letter from BC Bishop Samuel Mathew to all Believers’ Church Bishops regarding the proper way to file land deeds. The church Constitution requires all land to be in K.P. Yohannan’s name since he is the highest legal authority in the church.
Read the entire letter here.
At this time, by Consitution, all land was to be registered to “the Most Rev. Dr. K.P. Yohannan.” Why? As Metropolitan Bishop is the legal authority on everything that belongs to the Church. Presumably, at one time, $19.8 million belonged to the church but after the “anonymous gift to GFA,” that money belonged to the other entity controlled by Yohannan, GFA.
Regarding the claim that Yohannan doesn’t sit on any boards of trusts in India, I offer this 2010 deed of trust for the Bridge of Hope (entire document), a program run by Believers’ Church. Yohannan is not only on the trust but he signed on behalf of Believers’ Church as “Executant.”
BOH – Trust Deed
Also, note that four of the six board members are Yohannan and his family (Siny Punnoose – niece; Sarah Johnson – daughter; Daniel Johnson – son-in-law).
These documents along with the court papers filed by Believers’ Church paint a completely different picture than drawn out by Yohannan in the May 14 staff meeting.
I invite GFA and/or Believers’ Church to submit evidence to the contrary. If BC’s Constitution has been changed or trust deeds have been amended, I will gladly publish those if they are supplied.
Of late, Yohannan has been unavailable for comment. Perhaps, David Carroll or John Beers can provide explanation or proper documentation.
K.P. Yohannan at the May 14 staff meeting:
Just out today, Bob Smietana penned an article at Christianity Today on the controversies surrounding Gospel for Asia including the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability board vote to terminate GFA’s membership. It is a lengthy piece with many quotes from former staff. I hope you will read it and then come back here to discuss.
Where in the World is K.P. Yohannan?
I was struck right away by this sentence:
Founder K.P. Yohannan was not available for comment.
Why not? My sources tell me that staff are saying he is India. I am pretty sure they have phones in India. Probably he has a cell phone. Yohannan is the founder and CEO. He is listed as the International Director. Seems like the buck should stop with him. It is mind boggling that he is “unavailable.”
Smietana writes about the ring-kissing ritual in the article but no one from GFA addresses the obvious deception from Yohannan. This is another mind blowing aspect of this situation. GFA still has no answer to what is right in front of everyone’s face.
Not Skeptical Enough Francis Chan
And then there is Francis Chan, Rev. Skeptical. His endorsement has been removed from the GFA website but he is quoted in CT’s article as saying he is remaining on GFA’s board. He endorsed GFA by saying that he is a skeptical person and that he checked GFA out thoroughly before he endorsed them. Several months after Chan was first made aware of discrepancies between what GFA said in America and what they reported in India, Chan now says he needs more time to study the situation. On May 21, I alerted Chan to the money smuggling and his assistant Chaz told me that Chan had the information but probably wouldn’t get back to me. I continued sending my posts to Chaz who said he was passing the information along. I also passed along letters from a GFA supporter who started giving money to GFA on the strength of Chan’s endorsement. No answer.
We also learn in the CT article that Homeland Security may be investigating GFA. I want a little more information on GFA’s denials about the money smuggling. At first, David Carroll said it was all legal and they asked their auditor how to do it. Then later they admitted it was illegal and they sought counsel. In the CT article, we learn that GFA’s attorneys filed late customs reports (is that even possible?).
Did GFA really ask auditor Bland Garvey if money smuggling was legal? Did Bland Garvey really sign off on it? Bland Garvey won’t talk about it and GFA didn’t clear this up. There are many unanswered questions.
No Money Found to Be Missing?
What an odd phrasing – no money was found to be missing. Is it missing or was it found? I think I know what David Carroll means but this is not an answer to the fact that Gospel for Asia’s 2013 audit claims $58.6 million was sent to Gospel for Asia – India but only $6 million was reported by Gospel for Asia there as being deposited. Even if all money to Believers’ Church and two other NGOs is considered, there is still nearly $30 million in 2013 unaccounted for. GFA still has not answered this simple question.
ECFA: Mixed Feelings
After calling on the ECFA to take action, I am pleasantly surprised that the board did. However, I think an even greater service to the donor public would be to describe what GFA actually did which led to their vote. As it is, GFA supporters can imply that the violations were minor and have been corrected. We may never know.
Here are some things we now know
K.P. Yohannan is missing in action, Francis Chan is not as skeptical as he says he is, big boys in the church still take care of their own, and the little people are still on their own to make sense of this scandal.
Earlier today Calvary Chapel of Oxnard (CA) posted the following notice on their public Facebook page:
Attention People of CCO: We will no longer be supporting Gospel for Asia (GFA) and we encourage you to prayerfully consider ending your support or their missionary sponsorship program & Bridges of Hope. EFCA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) has recently removed GFA due to serious issues of financial mismanagement and activity that removes them form what can be called “Evangelicalism.”
We’ve investigated the charges and spoken to someone high in GFA. The results of that indicated GFA is in serious trouble and is NOT an organization we can continue to support. Please know this isn’t reactionary or a lightly arrived at decision. The issue has been under review for several months.
Repeatedly, Gospel for Asia has proclaimed that 100% of donation goes to the mission field. Now, after having their ECFA membership terminated, the wording regarding donations has changed. From the “Financial Integrity” page:
What does “preferenced” mean? Does it mean something different than “designated?”
Donors should read the second sentence carefully:
Contributions are income tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, and are made with the understanding that Gospel for Asia has complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds.
As I read it, this sentence allows GFA to spend donations anyway they want to, even in ways that you might not prefer.
GFA might also be addressing the IRS requirement that donated funds come under the discretion and control of the non-profit. Is that the case now? Does GFA actually control what they give in India? In times past, the leaders have been unclear about how they do that.
I will say that the last sentence is revealing. I demonstrated early on that GFA has millions sitting in Indian banks. Last year, an Indian court ruled that GFA/Believers’ Church spent some of their funds in ways donors did not intend. Now, with this disclaimer, GFA can raise money using popular causes as a marketing tool, then take the excess and do whatever K.P. and crew want. If we can believe ECFA, it appears that donor intent has not been carefully followed prior to this new phrasing.
In any case, perhaps this new wording satisfies some legalese requirement, but it isn’t clear to me what GFA is promising.
UPDATE 2 (10/8/15) – This morning I noticed that now two-thirds of endorsements on the GFA website are now missing. Prior to the GFA’s loss of ECFA membership, there were 18 endorsers on the GFA endorsements page. Now there are six: Patrick Johnstone, George Verwer, Luis Bush, Dan Wooding, Suellen Roberts and Frank Wright.
Now missing are Francis Chan, Ray Comfort, Emeal Zwayne, William Blount, Katey Hearth, Karol Ladd, Sharon Geiger, Jeff Lutes, Ashley Elliot, Barbara Dowling, Terry Powell, and Megan Basham.
Only Ray Comfort and Emeal Zwayne have issued any kind of statement.
UPDATE: I just received this from Daniel at Living Waters: “Yes, at this time Living Waters has temporarily pulled its endorsement of GFA, while awaiting further information.”
I also see that another name has been pulled from the list: William Blount
Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing.
It remains up here.
More big names are missing from the Gospel for Asia endorsements page. Just recently, Ray Comfort and Emeal Zwayne, both affiliated with Living Waters, were featured endorsers of Gospel for Asia. Now their names and endorsements are gone.
If you check out the endorsement page now, those names aren’t listed. I wrote Living Waters for confirmation and will add any communication I receive.
I am not sure why someone would pull an endorsement but stay silent about it. Apparently, Francis Chan is taking this approach. Some of his endorsements are missing from the GFA website but he has declined to reply to multiple requests for comment on his position.
UPDATE: David Cooke, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Riverhead, NY has been pulled from the list of pastor endorsers (see Google cache).
Francis Chan once was here but now is not.
Yesterday, he was there:
Today, he isn’t:
He is also missing from this page as of this morning.
Chan’s recommendation is elsewhere on the GFA website, hence the question (Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing. It remains up here.). I have reached out to Chan on many occasions, including yesterday and today with no answer. It is possible that the overworked website staff at GFA haven’t been able to keep up and the other locations on GFA’s website will soon disappear.
Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing. His endorsement remains up here and here.
Actually, this was a result of sneaking the endorsement off the page.
Earlier this evening, Gospel for Asia leadership posted a response to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability after the ECFA voted on October 2nd to terminate GFA’s membership.
Our Response — ECFA
October 5, 2015
For more than 30 years, Gospel for Asia Inc. has been a member of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Gospel for Asia values and respects both the high standards of ECFA and the good advice they have given us.
This past year GFA had four extensive meetings with ECFA representatives about fiduciary matters. Although there were no findings of money missing, ECFA felt that some of our procedures and practices did not line up with their Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. GFA was grateful for ECFA’s input and put into practice every suggestion that was mentioned in these meetings. We were not always in agreement with ECFA’s conclusions, but were glad to continue in our relationship and make the adjustments that they advised.
Nevertheless, on October 2, 2015 the ECFA Board of Directors terminated our long-time membership. Although this is disappointing, Gospel for Asia accepts the decision with regret and sadness.
Our greatest concern is for our friends and donors who deserve an explanation as to why this cancellation happened. This will be given in due time through our regular communication channels. In the meantime, we thank our supporters for not jumping to conclusions until those explanations have been made and for continuing to cover us with their prayers.
The expansion of any organization is always filled with growth pains, and we look at these issues questioned by ECFA as a time to learn and grow, increasing our understanding in areas where we have been unintentionally negligent. While we will be working to improve our reporting of financial matters to donors, we will always be cautious about disclosing anything that may jeopardize the safety of ministry partners working in areas hostile to the Gospel. We continually look to the Lord for His wisdom and guidance in often complicated international financial and political environments. We believe that much of the conversation we have had with ECFA has indeed been part of the Lord showing us the way and how to walk in it. We are truly grateful for this part of our journey in learning how to better serve our Lord Jesus, our donors and sponsors, and our field partners as we go forward.
Gospel for Asia Leadership
Yes, GFA, your friends and donors deserve an explanation. Instead, GFA has again delayed and deflected donors with promises but no substance.
Essentially, GFA is claiming they did everything ECFA asked but ECFA dropped them anyway. Given that ECFA has no recent history of dropping organizations where leaders seek compliance after a period of non-compliance (e.g., Mars Hill Church), this is not a credible response and does nothing to inspire confidence in their stewardship.
In May of this year, I posted a video of a Believers’ Church ordination service which appeared to show ministers kissing the ring of Gospel for Asia Founder and CEO K.P. Yohannan. Yohannan has denied allowing anyone to kiss his ring during rituals of the Believers’ Church. The following video makes it clear that those being ordained are doing something in the vicinity of Yohannan’s hand. If they aren’t kissing his ring, I think any observer could be excused for believing they are.
In an over two hour staff mega-meeting held on May 14, 2015, Yohannan again denied that ring kissing has any place in the church. This meeting took place before the video became available but the audio where K.P. offers a full-throated denial of the practice has not been made available before.
Here is the audio followed by the transcript.
David Carroll: There is one question that I think is on many of your minds and has been I think batted around a bit among us and that is, it’s asked a lot of ways but I’ll just ask it from this question plainly: Has ring kissing ever been a part of the Believers’ Church clergy ordination ceremony? Or I’ll just add: or any, is ring kissing is it required anywhere or is it still part of any of those things? Has it ever happened and if it has, if it used to be something that we did in some ceremony, are we still doing that? Kissing the ring?
K.P. Yohannan: What’s wrong with you? (Laughter) I kill you! (more laughter) Danny, I asked you, what is the meaning of kissing the ring? I thought about finding out what it actually means and obviously there’s submission to you or whatever. Now, if somebody said, ‘I saw somebody kissing the ring of our bishop or my ring, I would not tell that person, you are a liar. But if somebody asks me in your conscience and knowledge, you had taught or asked or has anybody kissed your ring, I would say as God almighty is my witness, it never happened, I never allowed it.
As a matter of fact, the most common, when this rumor started spreading, some Calvary Chapel pastors supposed to go to India and met some disgruntled person who left our ministry and started telling, you know, they’re teaching about kissing the ring. I remember that story came to me and immediately I contacted the field and said, ‘please, you know, we don’t want to be seen as belonging to some other church teaching, please don’t do it, if there is any like that.’ They said, ‘no, we never teach or practice that.’ But then I started wondering why somebody think this. So my thinking is you know the most common thing in China, India, all these countries when you see elders, especially spiritual leaders, what they do basically is they touch the feet, you can see that. And then I basically walk away from that. It has nothing to do with Christianity. It’s just culture. But then what the answer is, no, we don’t practice that, we don’t teach that, we teach against it so that we don’t get labeled by some other denomination but even today when you go to the mission field (unclear), what happens is when you meet the Metropolitan or the bishops and what they do is basically and they start doing this, they take the hand and do like that, and it’s not typically everywhere be like that, in most places, the actually touch the feet and express their honor, their respect.
When people are ordained, this the standard thing and by the way, let me say this to you. I fortunately, unfortunately, I like or not, I’m two human beings. I’m brother K.P., hi, K.P., yo, dude, all that here, people call me by all kinds of strange names. But you know when I bought the flight and land overseas, many have seen me a million times, I don’t look like this, I have a cassock, and I’m the Metropolitan of the church and the spiritual father of 2.7 million baptized believers right now. And when you ordain people you whether I like it or not I just submit to the church; that is, there’s a chair, the Bishop’s Chair, that I sit on. If it’s not me then it’s Bishop _______ or Bishop ____________ and then people are ordained they come and they kneel to get the blessing, and they’re anointed by oil and make the sign of the Cross, and I tell them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now you are ordained minister of the church and that is done, that always be done. There’s not going to be any change in that; all cultures do that, I don’t know how it is done here, but they don’t fall prostrate before anyone or anything like that.
There is an odd near admission at the beginning (“I wouldn’t tell that person, you are a liar”), but then he clearly denies it and provides a narrative that makes the idea seem very far from the church. Given his description of the ordination at the end, I wonder why he didn’t explain what the newly minted minister was doing with Yohannan’s hand. In any case, no explanation has been given for the video.
It is hard for me to imagine how staff at GFA can watch the video in light of this denial. Clearly, some explanation is needed for this.
Recently, I posted audio of Gospel for Asia founder and CEO K.P. Yohannan promising staff that GFA would not take out a loan in order to build the new Wills Point, TX headquarters and living compound. Eventually, Believers’ Church in India (K.P. Yohannan was managing trustee at the time and he is also the Metropolitan Bishop and spiritual leader of the church) gave GFA in the U.S. $19.8 million toward the project. The church had to borrow money to make this donation. Furthermore, I asserted that an $11.5 million loan was taken in 2014 with the money used for the project.
Today, I post evidence for the 2014 loan. Below are images from the 46 page Deed of Trust.
GFA borrowed $11.5 million.
GFA May Have Kept Some Information Back
The agreement was based on the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and pledges that all material statements are correct. This pledge may be in conflict with the audited financial statement for 2013 which failed to disclose that GFA made related party transactions to Believers’ Church, Love India Ministry and Last Hour Ministry.
Furthermore, the bank (City Bank) was not informed that $19.8 million toward the building project came from a loan taken in India by a related party (Believers’ Church). Speaking as a non-accountant, this seems to be a significant and material omission. City Bank did not know that an entity related to GFA had taken a loan in order to provide GFA with funds. If City Bank took the audit at face value, they would have considered that $19.8 million to be a gift with no relationship to GFA anywhere in the world. City Bank might have reconsidered if they knew that an affiliate of GFA (and recipient of millions in U.S. donations) had to take a loan in order to keep the construction project going.
The Bland Garvey 12/31/13 audit was completed in June 2014 and the Deed of Trust signed in July 2014. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine City Bank, an FDIC-regulated institution, making a $11.5 million loan in July 2014 without relying on the Bland Garvey audit report on the 12/31/13 GFA financial statements. That audit report included the misinformation on the source and nature of the $19.8 million previously raised and spent on the project.