In this weekly digest of church news (click the link to find the embedded broadcast — it is the first story), the host summarizes Christianity Today’s article on the ECFA’s termination of Gospel for Asia’s membership.
According to a reader who alerted me to the radio broadcast. at least one key Mennonite church in Canada has dropped support for GFA.
There are more stories like this to come. I am tracking down a couple of them for posting this week.
I am aware that the Christmas catalogs were probably printed before the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability voted to terminate Gospel for Asia’s membership. I know it would been costly to reprint the catalogs. I also know that because GFA leaders decided to mail the catalogs with the ECFA seal, they have misrepresented the situation. Take a look:
and the 100% pledge lives on…
Guaranteed. I wonder if that is a money back guarantee.
We now know that administrative expenses are taken out in India. And we know that $19.8 million came back from “the field” to fund nearly half of the costs of construction of the new Wills Point, TX campus.
Based on my investigations last year, I am highly skeptical that GFA uses one person’s donation for a goat or chicken to buy an individual goat or chicken. It doesn’t work that way for World Vision, and I doubt it works that way for GFA (see my series on holiday animal buys – link, link).
What should GFA do now?
Clearly, the ECFA seal of membership gives the wrong impression and hides the fact that ECFA believes GFA has not honored donor intent in giving. A tax court in India has ruled in the same manner. If GFA doesn’t let catalog recipients know, chances are good that most won’t find out. GFA could send a letter to all on the mailing list alerting them to ECFA’s action to terminate membership. GFA leaders could defend the organization but at least donors would be informed. Will they do it?
How GFA leaders handle this problem will tell us something about GFA going forward.
On October 7, there were numerous endorsements from pastors on the Gospel for Asia website (see Google cache). For instance:
Now, the address for that page (http://www.gfa.org/mygfastory/pastors/) leads to another page which does not have endorsements. Instead it redirects to this page http://www.gfa.org/mygfastory/:
Skip Heitzig’s missing endorsement could be significant. Heitzig has been of GFA’s board for many years. If he is backing away from Gospel for Asia, that would be a dramatic about face.
About Yohannan, he is not missing from the webpage but his loud silence continues. It is hard to understand why Yohannan remains quiet in the face of declining confidence in GFA and ECFA’s termination of GFA membership.
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.
Today, Christianity Today published an article with more detail about the ECFA action to terminate GFA’s membership. Also, more endorsements were removed from the GFA website.
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).