Gospel for Asia and Compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s Standards: The 2015 Letter

In K.P. Yohannan’s recent “exclusive personal response” to the fraud lawsuit settlement involving Gospel for Asia, Yohannan traces GFA’s problems to a “confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member.” He said that the letter was put on social media to damage GFA. He added that a former staff member sent negative letters to donors.

Some of that is true and some is misleading. The letter Yohannan referred to came from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and was given to me by Gayle Erwin, a former GFA board member who served on the board for 30 years. Erwin had resigned from GFA’s board because of multiple problems he saw at GFA. He wanted to correct GFA’s public statements and believed the donor public would only know the truth if they had information. Erwin’s motive was to inform donors and set the record straight. If informing donors damages GFA, then GFA should consider the implications of that.

Yohannan also said a former staff member sent negative letters. In fact, a group of former staff members approached GFA’s board many months in advance of any public revelations. Long before I published my first blog post about GFA, former staff members approached GFA’s board with 5 concerns which they hoped could be resolved without public disclosure. In this newest statement, Yohannan presented the situation with former staff as though he was surprised by it. He should not have been. The situation had been brewing for months before anything came to light. You can read the concerns and history of the situation at GFADiaspora.com.

K.P. Yohannan said that the allegations were false. However, the board member he assigned to look into the matter — Gayle Erwinfound evidence for all but one of the five concerns.  He later changed his view about the last concern and said he agreed with the former GFA staff on that point as well. Erwin also alleged in 2015 that Yohannan altered Erwin’s report to the GFA board to minimize the severity of Erwin’s findings. Those interested in comparing Yohannan’s statements now to former GFA board member Erwin’s documents and statements from 2015 can see them here. I also intend to post excerpts from Erwin’s report over the next several weeks.

For now, I want to respond to this part of Yohannan’s response:

Every year we evaluated our ministry and underwent an independent audit. In 2015, our governing board received a confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member, pointing out that our accounting practices needed to better conform to the requirements set by that association. Despite the unique challenges our organization faces by supporting ministry in certain parts of the world, we immediately set out to comply with their request and hired a new auditing firm.

This paragraph appears to blame GFA’s former auditor Bland Garvey for the lack of adherence to ECFA’s financial standards. In fact, the ECFA didn’t specifically request that GFA change firms. The ECFA listed 17 items of concern; in two of them the ECFA listed problems with accounting practices. In one of them, GFA said they had already changed firms without a request from the ECFA. In fact, most of the matters related to financial practices within the control of GFA’s leadership.

To focus attention on matters of interest to the public which have been obscured by GFA’s response to the lawsuit, I am going to post segments of the ECFA compliance letter on the blog over the next month. Interested readers can read the entire letter by clicking this link. However, starting today, I will take each section in a post and highlight elements of what ECFA found. The reasons ECFA evicted charter member GFA weren’t limited to problems with the accounting firm. I will take them in order from the letter to K.P. Yohannan dated September 2, 2015:

The following is a summary of the most significant GFA compliance issues we reviewed:

1. Use of field-generated funds to satisfy designated foreign contributions. During our meeting on July 1, ECFA first learned that GFA and its field partners have engaged in a multi-year practice whereby field partners at least partially satisfied the designations on foreign contributions (primarily from U.S. donors, restricted for field use in India) by using locally generated field income (contributions from donors in India, profits from an India based rubber plantation, hospitals, etc.).

GFA staff indicated that the purpose of this practice was to retain foreign contributions in Indian Foreign Contribution (FC) accounts to earn a higher interest rate while expending locally generated funds that would not earn the higher interest rate. At this point, it is important to note that GFA disclaims that it exercises any control over field partners (see #10 below).

GFA staff also indicated that amounts in FC accounts would be used eventually for their original designation, as well, with the ultimate result that the purpose of the foreign contributions would be more than fulfilled.

To be clear, GFA solicited funds from donors, primarily gifts with donor restrictions, and transferred the funds to field partners in India, depositing them in FC accounts. While certain amounts were expended from the FC accounts in fulfillment of donor designations, significant amounts were retained in FC accounts over a period of years (see #2 below).

ECFA staff observed to GFA that it is not a normative practice to hold donor-restricted gifts and fulfill donor restrictions using other funds. Especially with respect to funds sent to international partners, it is extremely difficult for GFA to demonstrate that it has exercised appropriate control of the funds. Further, ECFA observed that this practice may not comply with ECFA Standard 7.2 because of the lack of clarity regarding the satisfaction of donor restrictions on gifts solicited by and given to GFA.

Our review of the board minutes did not indicate the GFA board had approved, or even been notified of, the practice of using field generated funds to satisfy restrictions on foreign contributions.

Subsequent to ECFA learning of this practice on July 1, GFA represented to ECFA that GFA’s field partners have ceased the practice of satisfying the designation on foreign contributions with field-generated funds.

GFA acknowledged using money from Indian for-profit ventures and Indian donors to fund activities which donors from the US thought they were funding. US funds were being placed in interest bearing accounts. One problem with this is that field partners might not use those foreign funds for the purposes designated. Some funds were held for many years while donors thought their donations had been spent to help evangelists or children. GFA couldn’t satisfy the ECFA that those funds had been used to satisfy donor intent. This was replicated in the fraud trial which led to the federal judge sanctioning GFA because they were unable to produce evidence about how the funds matched up with donor designations.

Next post: Excessive cash balances held in partner field accounts.

Believers Eastern Church and K.P. Yohannan Use Indian Law to Attack Critic

While using a defamation lawsuit to attack critics didn’t work well for Harvest Bible Chapel, it may have a different result in India for K.P. Yohannan and Believers Eastern Church.

According to this The Hindu article, The Believers Eastern Church is behind a charge of defamation which led to the arrest of a longtime critic of the church and Yohannan.  Anush Solomon Joy, aka Solomon Samaritan was arrested and then posted bail after being accused of defamation and attempted blackmail. Over the years, Anush has contacted me as well as GFA former employees with various concerns about GFA. He has published a rather fantastical booklet alleging satellite and microwave attacks.

My impression has always been that the gentleman isn’t making serious or credible attacks  and that he shouldn’t be considered a threat to Yohannan. That the church is taking on someone who has no following and isn’t taken seriously is surprising and disturbing.  Microwaves aside, perhaps Mr. Anush has stumbled on to something and should be given a second look.

Gospel for Asia is Encouraging People to Donate Settlement Funds Back to GFA

As a part of the settlement in fraud case Murphy v. Gospel for Asia, GFA agreed to set aside $37-million in a Settlement Fund to provide relief for donors as well as cover court costs and attorneys’ fees. GFA also agreed to have plaintiff Murphy join GFA’s board. Murphy and GFA will also work together to designate a replacement for K.P. Yohannan’s wife who will go off of the GFA board. GFA agreed not to appoint any other relative of Yohannan to the board.

The mission organization also agreed to comply with Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines and seek readmission to membership. GFA was kicked out of the ECFA in 2015 and has never requalified for admission.

Read the Settlement Agreement

In the mean time, GFA is seeking to get some of the settlement money back via donors. The email below comes from a current staff member who asks supporters to seek the funds and redonate them to GFA. Although this is meant to sound spontaneous and individualized, I have gotten word that the same appeal has gone out from several staff members. I can’t corroborate all of the claims in the email except those which are a part of the settlement. Here is the appeal:

Dear friends,

I come to you this morning, not in any official capacity or representing anyone else, but expressing my own thoughts as someone who loves and supports Gospel for Asia. I am writing to you about a matter of tremendous importance, for which I request your prayers.

I am sending this communication to all those on my regular prayer email list plus a few others that I thought would benefit to hear this.

As you may know, GFA has been embroiled in a class action lawsuit for the last three years alleging that the ministry has misdirected funds that people donated to the mission field. If you donated to the field any time in the last 10 years, then you are part of the class and you should have recently received a notice from the court informing you about the settlement of this lawsuit and your part in it.

So what does this settlement mean to you and to me? First, some background.

For over three years now, GFA has been in a legal battle to survive this lawsuit, and yet it has not even come to trial. In addition to the immense burden on GFA of carrying on its defense, paying for legal representation, and supporting the onerous demands of the court and plaintiffs for information, the lawsuit has repeatedly been used as fodder for a far-reaching negative public relations campaign which has greatly damaged the reputation and ministry of GFA.

As a consequence, despite having the evidence to demonstrate that “all funds designated to the field were sent to the field and used for ministry purposes” GFA has agreed to settle the lawsuit out of court. As GFA says in its official statement here, “The agreement to settle was, in part, precipitated by a concern that the ministry could continue to bear the weight of defending itself.”

The settlement means that, in return for the lawsuit being dropped and never renewed, GFA must pay 37 million dollars. There is a bit more to it than that of course, but essentially it comes down to money—1/3rd of which (about 12 million dollars) goes to the trial lawyer. You can read One donor’s analysis of the GFA Class Action Settlement for a summary of what the settlement means, or read the 45 pages of legalese in the settlement itself here. GFA also has an official FAQ.

You might well be asking, “If GFA is an organization which primarily exists to connect the American church to the work of believers in Asia, how does it have 37 million to pay this settlement?” The answer: GFA doesn’t have it. GFA’s field partners in Asia have decided to use their locally-raised funds to cover about two-thirds of the settlement cost, and GFA has twelve months to raise the remaining 11 million, none of which will come from donations to the work on the field. If GFA doesn’t come up with the 11 million before the end of that twelve months, it forfeits it’s security collateral—GFA’s International Headquarters campus in Wills Point, TX.

So what does the settlement mean to you and me? The 25 million dollars that remains of the settlement (after the trial lawyer’s cut) is where you and I come in. This money is designated for what is called “Settlement Relief” of the class members. Each of us in the class may claim up to 100% of the amount we donated to work on the field through GFA. Or we can claim nothing, and none of that money will come to us. Any money that is unclaimed after the claim deadline will be divided up by the court between five ministries: Samaritan’s Purse; Friends of Israel; Global Training Network; Heaven’s Family; and Christ for All Peoples. Regardless of whether anyone makes a claim against the settlement fund, GFA will still have to pay the full amount of the settlement.

This brings me to my decision about my response: Because I strongly disagree with this lawsuit and what it represents, because of the great burden it has placed on GFA without any determination of wrongdoing, and because I want to do what I can to help God’s work continue in Asia, ______ and I have submitted our claim in this settlement for 100% of what we are eligible to claim. I plan to take all the money I can from my claim, minus an amount I will need to set aside for taxes, and donate it back to GFA to their general fund to help cover the 11 million dollars it has to raise for the settlement.

If you are also part of the “class,” will you ask God whether He would have you to do the same? And whether or not you are part of the class, will you please join me in praying that God will work a mighty deliverance for His people and for the work of the gospel?

To make your claim, all  you have to do is go to this link and fill out the online form. You don’t even have to know how much you are eligible to claim, the settlement administrator already knows that. You will need your “Class Member ID” which is in the settlement notification that you received by email or by postcard.

Regardless of what you decide to do, I hope this information has been useful to you. If you have questions, feel free to email or call me and I will answer to the best of my ability. And if you have found this email helpful, please forward along to anyone else you know who has donated to GFA and you believe might benefit from the information.

And finally, please pray that God will be glorified in this situation, and His will be done. I know that God is mighty and is in control. Many of the Psalms have taken on fresh life and relevance for me over the last couple years.

Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

(Psalm 69:4)

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.          Selah

(Psalm  62:8)

If this was written by a staff person, I would guess they work in public relations. I suspect more that this was written for staff by someone hired by GFA.

Clever strategy but I doubt that this is what the court intended. I should add that the settlement isn’t final as yet. It won’t be until June 13 when the Final Settlement Hearing is held. I don’t know if this kind of action by GFA could put the settlement in jeopardy.

It is obvious that GFA’s leaders are unconcerned about any of the issues raised by the ECFA in 2015 or Murphy v. GFA. Despite being chastised multiple times by a federal judge and having to settle this case with a monetary settlement and by giving up a board seat to Dr. Murphy, they have taken no responsibility and show no humility or contrition.

Right now, there are food pantries in every town in America which need funds to keep going. If you donated funds to GFA, consider recovering those funds to help people who need essentials.

If you want to give to something more exotic, consider the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. The SCI helps protects children from parasitic worms which helps to decrease rates of malaria and HIV transmission. Benefits include improvements in neurological function and overall health. Survival chances increase dramatically when simple and cheap treatments are implemented.

Whatever you do, ask questions. GFA spins and promotes well but they don’t answer questions. For instance, numerous times I have asked, as have others, how they are getting funds into India since they lost their registration as a charity. The only answers given to others have all been false or misleading.

Gospel for Asia Class Action Suit Claims Process is Now Open

I just saw the following notice which is relevant to donors to Gospel for Asia. The claims process for the $37 million settlement in Murphy v. GFA is now open.

Pursuant to the proposed class action settlement with Gospel for Asia (and the individual defendants), the claims process is now open. Class members should have received individual notice by mail and/or email from the Settlement Administrator, Heffler Claims Group.

Filing a claim is simple – either:
1. Complete and return the Official Claim Form included with the Notice; or
2. File your claim online at www.gfaclassaction.us

Both ask you to agree or disagree with the list of donations (provided to the Settlement Administrator from GFA) on the website. To review the list, click on the “Donations List” tab on the website and insert your Class Member ID (found on your claim form). If you cannot find your Class Member ID, you may contact the Settlement Administrator using the appropriate prompts on the website.

Importantly, the claim deadline is July 11, 2019.

Should you have any questions, you may contact the Settlement Administrator at (844) 367-8894.

Funds may be recovered via this action and donated to another organization. If you need a reminder of the problems at GFA, please see this post (and this one) and re-read the report of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Remember that the ECFA removed GFA from membership in October 2015 due to multiple violations of financial standards. GFA promised to seek reinstatement. However, it is now 2019 and GFA still has not done so.

Gospel for Asia’s Headquarters Funded by Canadian Donor Funds – Guest Post by Bruce Morrison

Bruce Morrison is a pastor in Nova Scotia, CA and a former Gospel for Asia supporter. In recent years, he has actively sought to bring to light GFA’s practices regarding fund raising and spending.

In this guest post, Morrison documents and describes the path of funds from Canadian donors to India and then the Wills Point, TX where they were spent to complete the GFA headquarters. The routing of money from Canadian donors who thought they were spending money to help poor India people to the Wills Point campus should be of interest to Canadian authorities. It makes me think that the source of funds to pay the court settlement will likely come from Canadian donors. Thanks to Rev. Morrison for this analysis.

…………………………………………..

Bland Garvey CPA, from Richardson, TX, was the accounting and auditing firm that prepared the financial statements for GFA-US in 2013.  In their audit notes they stated that $19.8 million was received from an anonymous donor to help fund the construction of the new GFA head office complex in Wills Point, TX. Later, it was disclosed that this money did not come from an anonymous donor, but instead came from Believers Church in India.  Apparently, the auditors did not research the validity of what they had been told by GFA as one would expect, especially given the large amount of money involved.

The idea that money sent to India designated to spread the gospel and help the poor was later returned to the US for an expensive building project was disturbing to donors who learned of this.

Three years passed.  In a US federal court hearing with plaintiffs Garland and Phyllis Murphy versus GFA defendants, a new and surprising revelation came to light. The $19.8 million for the US building project did not come from India – it came from Canada!

The court hearing took place on May 16, 2017.  On Pg. 32 of the hearing transcript, Judge Timothy Brooks referred to the $20 million that came from GFA-India and the plaintiff’s claim that this money was donor restricted, diverted away from donor’s intents, without donor’s knowledge, and was therefore used fraudulently.

In response, to assure the Court that US funds were not misappropriated, Robert Mowrey, lawyer for the defendants, on page 32, lines 4-19, stated:

The documents – – your Honor, this gets a little complicated, but the documents we have provided to the plaintiffs show that the $20 million did not come from any US donors.  This was $20 million that GFA-India had.  It was their money.  It was sitting in an account in Canada.

There were Canadian donors who had given this money to GFA-India to be used in various purposes.  GFA-India directed that money to be given for the campus and then GFA-India fulfilled requests, the specific requests from internal money in GFA-India to replenish the Canadian account.

The bottom line here is that – – and I don’t know if the Court followed that but the bottom   line here is that none of the $20 million came from any  US donors.

To this the judge replied:

Well, it says in the second sentence that GFA staff confirmed that the funds relating to this donation were originally received by GFA as gifts restricted for the field.

Thus, Mr. Mowrey attempted to avoid allegations of fraud by saying that US-donor money was not used to help fund the new GFA head office. The judge did not agree and contended that even if the $20 million came from Canadian donor-restricted funds they were still – donor restricted!  In other words, fraudulent use by GFA-US of Canadian funds was equally as fraudulent as if the money came from US donors.  For the judge, the country of origin was not an issue.

As incredible as it seems, the lawyer for GFA implied that GFA-US did not defraud US donors, only Canadian donors – as if to say Canadian donors didn’t matter – it’s OK to cheat Canadians!

It is amazing beyond words that unsuspecting Canadians gave close to $20 million USD to help build an elaborate GFA complex in the USA, all the while believing their donations were spent in India.

The idea that GFA-India money sent from Canada was later replenished by GFA-India in India is absurd.  Why not send the money to the US directly from India in the first place?  Even if GFA did replenish the Canadian fund, it would still mean that Canadian donor money was not used as donors intended.

More Evidence of Possible Canadian Violations

Later, at a February 16, 2018 hearing, evidence was given that GFA World in Canada possibly breached laws set forth in the Criminal Code of Canada on many counts and might also be guilty of non-compliance with several CRA regulations.  (GFA World was formerly known as GFA-Canada.)

On page 62, reference is made to GFA’s Indian bank account. Deposits to this account were made from GFA-Canada’s main bank account at a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in Hamilton, Ontario, and from there large sums were transferred into an “Indian account” which, in fact, was not located in India, but was actually just a separate account in the same RBC bank.  GFA falsely led donors to believe that their donations had gone to India and were used for the reasons the gifts were given.  The truth was exactly opposite to their claim – the money was still in Canada.

Also on page 62 of the transcript, reference is made to a letter sent by David Carroll from GFA-US to Sarah Billings of the RBC in Hamilton, requesting that she transfer $20 million from GFA’s Indian account to GFA’s head office in the US.  On page 63, Mark. Stanley, lawyer for the plaintiffs, referred to a document showing that this money was received at the GFA head office in Texas.

Apparently, money sitting in the GFA-India RBC account grew to tens of millions of dollars and sat there for an undetermined number of years.  These massive amounts of cash undoubtedly earned interest that aided growth.  No one other than KP Yohannan and a few of his confidants knew of this. Apparently, even Canadian board members were not informed

A search of FC-6 sites In India FYE 3/31/2015 and FYE 3/31/2016 shows that for the first time, GFA entities in India reported that they received money from Canada

CANADA TO INDIA FYE 3/31/2015
From To INR USD CAD 
GFA-Canada Ayana (GFA) 658457500       10,798,703    12,247,310
GFA-Canada Believers Church       933660000       15,312,024    17,366,076
GFA-Canada Last Hour       109840000         1,801,376      2,043,024
GFA-Canada Love India       110393900         1,810,460      2,053,327
Total     1812351400       29,722,563    33,709,737

This is the first year that GFA entities in India reported receiving money from Canada. For the year that ended 12/31/2015, GFA-Canada stated on their T-3010 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 2015 Registered Charity Information Return, that they sent $11,105,054 to India.  However, the amount reported as received by GFA entities in India from Canada for the period is vastly different – approximately three times the amount.  Such discrepancies are common practice for GFA.

      CANADA TO INDIA FYE 3/31/2016
From To INR USD CAD
GFA World Ayana (GFA)     219660000         3,294,900      4,393,200
GFA World Believers Church   1953422565       29,301,338 39,068,451
GFA World Last Hour     614395950         9,215,939    12,287,919
GFA World Love India     695898469       10,438,477    13,917,969
Little Hills Believers Church       44077968 661,170 881,559
Total from Canada   4027454952 52,911,824 70,549,099

The following year GFA-Canada, on their 2016 T-3010 Registered Charity Information Return, did not report to the CRA the huge $70,549,099 that was sent to India. They made no mention of their secret Little Hills Corporation. To say the least, their misstatements to the Canadian and Indian authorities are startling.

Follow the Money

In a recent article in the Christian Post, Francis Chan defended Gospel For Asia against allegations of fraud due to misappropriation of finances.

I have great respect for this man of God. He is a gifted Bible expositor and motivator to love and good works.  Bible study groups in my church use his study materials and benefit greatly from them.

I described to an elder in my church the position Francis Chan has taken regarding GFA.  He thought for a moment and then spoke of the gifts of the Spirit as described in the New Testament, comparing ministry gifts to gifts of administration.  He indicated that there is no doubt that Francis Chan is a gifted minister but added that this does not mean he has the same strength when it comes to functions of administration.  Discerning the true nature of GFA’s troubling practices, particularly those by KP Yohannan, cannot be made by one whose eyes are blinded to key facts, regardless of the esteem in which that person is held for other reasons.

I spent three weeks as a guest of GFA in India.  I spoke in Kerala at their seminary and later to their head office staff. I toured with some of their leaders and spoke at their Bible training centre and at some of their churches in Tamil Nadu. I travelled to Sri Lanka to speak at their Bible training centre in that country. My daughter, Sharlene, attended the GFA seminary in Kerala for two years and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the year 2000. The teaching staff were well qualified and spiritually minded   Sharlene, along with two others, were the first students from the West to attend the seminary. Prior to this she served as a volunteer at GFA’s head office in Dallas, TX, for six months and after graduation she worked at GFA’s Canadian office. My church supported GFA for twenty years.

Nothing in our experience indicated that anything was wrong.  I was a strong supporter of GFA and an avid advocate of their ministry encouraging others to support them. As far as I knew there was every reason to applaud voices such as Francis Chan’s in endorsing GFA.

However, the day came when I began to learn that things might not be what I had thought they were.  I began to enquire.

Where Is The Field?

My first letter to GFA was dated March 27, 2015 and was followed by a series of letters.  When I questioned why $108 million GFA-Canada reported to the CRA they had sent to India over an eight-year period was not reported to the Indian government that it was received, KP Yohannan responded by email and said:

In Canada, GFA India has a bank account owned and controlled by them. When all field donations come into our Canadian office, they are entered according to donor and designation preference by our staff at GFA Canada, and then deposited into the same bank account in Canada controlled by GFA-India.  So once the funds are deposited into that account, they are considered received on the mission field and available to the field immediately.

That money deposited in a Canadian bank was considered to be “on the field” was both surprising and alarming.  The full impact of this did not become apparent until the Murphy v. GFA court hearings took place and until GFA entities in India reported their 2015 and 2016 foreign incomes.

“Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) is wonderfully true.  It is also true that, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1Corinthians 4:6).

Essential to true love is a love of truth, and valid discernment cannot be devoid of truth.  The truth of GFA’s deceptive financial practices as evidenced by its use of Canadian donor money is but one example of a much greater picture that remains hidden from the view of many due to repeated denials of the truth.

I pray that someday soon this will end.

……………………………..

When the recent court settlement says that all moneys sent “to the field” were used on the field, it doesn’t mean much when “the field” is this loosely defined. Donors still need to be wary.

Questions for Superstar Francis Chan About Gospel for Asia

Francis Chan is a superstar pastor who has a franchise called Crazy Love™.  There is a Crazy Love book, study guide, website, ministries (plural) and store where you can “shop now” for all of Chan’s books. Like all superstars, he also has a church planting network. We used to call them denominations. His is called We Are Church. He is pretty cool.

Anyway, he is also a board member of Gospel for Asia. That has always confused me because GFA hasn’t had such a cool recent history. But Francis Chan thinks everything is fine. In fact, he is out saying that GFA hasn’t done anything wrong, telling Christian Post that he researched the matter with a trusted friend and found nothing wrong with GFA’s finances.

I have written Francis Chan in the past and he first had his Crazy Love assistant Chaz answer me. When Chaz didn’t actually answer the question I asked, I wrote back but Crazy Love stopped responding.

In response to Francis Chan’s statement about GFA, I still have some questions. Maybe someone at We Are Church or Crazy Love will tell someone who will tell someone who can ask Francis Chan about it.

Dear Francis Chan:

One, if there were no financial problems at GFA, then why did Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability take the rare step of evicting the organization from membership? In case you didn’t read the report, you can read all about it here. Chaz can print out a copy for you.

Two, why did a federal judge appoint a special master to oversee GFA during Murphy v. GFA? I think you know the answer. GFA couldn’t verify their expenses and the judge had given the leaders months to do so. Being sanctioned by a federal judge isn’t a sign of an honest broker.

Three, why does His Eminence The Most Reverence Metropolitan Dr. K.P. Yohannan need to have a personal fortune when he is the supreme Metropolitan of Believers’ Church in Asia? You looked at his tax returns in the U.S. but did you consider the vast wealth of Believers’ Church in Asia? How does being the patron of a state of the art medical center and medical college in India figure into one’s empire? Why does the church need a soccer team? What needs or wants are not met when the church supplies everything due to your position as supreme temporal and spiritual authority?

Four, why did GFA cover up the transfer of $20-million from Canada to India to the U.S. for the completion of the Texas headquarters? I assume you’ve been to the compound. I hear it is pretty nice. You probably wouldn’t need a big income if you have everything you need provided for you by donors who think their money is going to evangelism and poor children in Asia.

Five, why hasn’t GFA told donors that Believers’ Church and GFA lost registration as a charity in India? When Compassion International lost their registration, it made the New York Times. When it happened to GFA, GFA told several different false stories. It still isn’t clear how funds are getting into India, if they are getting in at all.

I have more questions but that should do for now. As a board member, you will be busy meeting your two new colleagues, Garland Murphy and whoever he helps chose to take Gisela’s place. Also, you all are going to have to raise the $37-million for the settlement. Since a lien will be on the Texas headquarters, you will be really busy raising money to pay the $11-million you can’t get from “the field.” Probably, raising $11-million to pay a court settlement is really going to keep the board busy. Donors might be a little skeptical of an organization raising money to pay former donors who settled a RICO suit.

Crazy.

Love, The Blogger

P.S. In case you haven’t read the Murphy v. GFA settlement, it is here.

Was Gospel for Asia Vindicated by the RICO Settlement?

Reading the Gospel for Asia press release about the settlement of Murphy v. GFA (RICO lawsuit), one might think GFA came away vindicated. In the settlement document, GFA proclaimed their innocence and both parties agreed that all funds given by donors “to the field” went “to the field.”

Read the Murphy v. GFA Settlement

However, GFA still isn’t being transparent with the public on multiple counts. The “field” is a big place and just because funds get to Asia doesn’t mean they were spent as designated by donors. In the course of discovery, we learned that GFA interprets “the field” as being the banks where funds are deposited after they leave GFA in Texas. Yes, funds were sent to “the field” but that doesn’t mean donor intent was honored once those funds left Wills Point, TX. The plaintiffs did not stipulate to that, nor did the settlement document attest to that.

In the past, I have provided evidence that GFA has collected funds to send to Asia but used them for purposes other than intended by donors.  A tax court in India also asserted the same thing. Then, there is the matter of $20-million which came back from Asia to help finance the Texas headquarters. Donors did not give $20-million to finance a compound in Wills Point, but at least some of those funds first went to the field before they came back to Texas for purposes other than what donors intended.

Furthermore, GFA still isn’t being transparent with donors about the charity registration situation in India. GFA and Believers Church in India lost their registration status in India and cannot directly take foreign contributions. No doubt GFA is sending funds to shell organizations in India but this flaunts the law there. I and others have repeatedly asked GFA how Bridge of Hope and flood relief funds are getting to Indian recipients, but they have given false answers. If GFA is actually going to try to get membership again in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, the organizational leaders will have to be accountable to the public.

Although most of the GFA board remains intact, Garland Murphy and one more outsider will join the board soon. In addition, a subcommittee of the board –which does not include Yohannan or his son — will report to the federal judge for three years. All of this should make the board more transparent. When GFA will not answer questions or provide answers, I know two board members who will have no incentive to keep any secrets.

More than transparency, I hope the board becomes independent. The board will be required to learn about fiduciary responsibility and act accordingly. Given the precarious place K.P. Yohannan has taken GFA in recent years (loss of ECFA and NRB memberships, loss of recognition with federal government’s giving campaign, RICO lawsuit, etc.), I have to believe any reasonable board would have to look at his status as CEO. The track record isn’t good. Perhaps it is time for the board to act in the interest of GFA.

In short, GFA lives on but has not yet been vindicated.

K.P. Yohannan Gives Himself a New Name

K.P. Yohannan has taken on a fancy new name in his role as head of Believers’ Eastern Church. The K.P. formerly known as Metropolitan will now be known as Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan. The reason for the change is described on the church Facebook page:

I wonder if they kept the same secret handshake and hand kissing ceremony.

Mor in Syriac is a title of Lordship or sainthood. Various eastern churches use Mor and/or Moran in titles of religious leaders and Believers’ Church has followed the pattern.

Whatever he is called, he will still have to face a class action RICO suit in federal court and perhaps more over the next year or so as various cases and investigations progress in the U.S. and perhaps in Canada.

 

 

Gospel for Asia Continues to Raise Money for Flood Relief Without Saying How the Funds Will Get to the Needy

A month ago, I asked Gospel for Asia how they planned to distribute donor funds to flood victims in Kerala, India. In 2017, Gospel for Asia’s comparable organization in India (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) and their ecclesiastical arm (Believer’s Church) lost registration with the Indian government to accept foreign contributions. Thus, these groups can’t accept any of the funds now being raised by K.P. Yohannan from foreign donors. GFA very deliberately is raising these funds on the organization website and on social media. If GFA is giving these funds to another nonprofit in India, why can’t GFA simply inform the donor public about this?

When I asked GFA’s public relations firm, I was told:

GFA has headquarters in Kerala, India. Volunteers are actively rescuing, feeding those affected by flooding and providing other supplies.

However, InChrist Communications did not respond when I asked how those headquarters could accept funds when the registration to accept foreign funds had been revoked.

The later a friend of the blog was told that funds were being sent to Believers’ Church in India. Furthermore, the GFA representative said it could not be guaranteed that the donated funds would actually get to flood victims since GFA has no control over Believers’ Church. Actually, this explanation doesn’t make sense because Believers’ Church cannot legally accept foreign contributions.

Saying One Thing and Doing Another

When Compassion International lost their registration with the Indian government, they left the country. GFA has never addressed their loss of registration, nor why they continue to raise funds to send to India when the organizations they claim to support can’t take them. This is an issue for more than flood support. GFA has continued to raise support for sponsored children, missionaries, and all sorts of activities. GFA is telling the public they are doing something that the Indian government says can’t be done. If GFA is getting donor funds to the intended targets, GFA should disclose how they are doing that.

It is a mystery to me why investigative reporters have not taken up this issue. If there is an easy way around this issue, then why didn’t Compassion International use it? While there may an explanation, given GFA’s size and current legal difficulties, it seems like they should have to be more accountable.

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Image Fair use, GFA Facebook page

Dear Gospel for Asia: How Will Funds Raised for Kerala Flood Victims Get to Them?

Over the past week, the news out of the state of Kerala in India has been devastating. Due to severe flooding, over 400 are dead and 800,000 have been displaced. Sadly, those numbers are expected to climb. Of course, the natural impulse is to help.

Kerala is the home of K.P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust in India), and Believers’ Church. While it is understandable that K.P. has been informing his followers about what is happening there, he is also doing something that raises a question: K.P. is raising foreign donations to send to flood victims. The question is how will those funds get to flood victims?

In 2017, the government of India canceled the registration of Gospel for Asia (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church India, and two other affiliated organizations to receive foreign donations. Yohannan is raising money but it isn’t clear how those funds will get to flood victims when the Indian organizations he fronts can’t receive them?

Different Answers from Different Sources

Yesterday via email in response to a GFA press release asking for donations for flood victims, I asked public relations contact Gregg Wooding of InChrist Communications if he could explain how donations will get to flood victims. He replied:

GFA has headquarters in Kerala, India. Volunteers are actively rescuing, feeding those affected by flooding and providing other supplies.

I wrote back to ask how GFA in Kerala could receive those funds since the Indian government had canceled the organization’s FCRA registration. He did not answer.

Earlier in the day a source called GFA in Wills Point, TX on behalf of my blog and asked how American donations could be accepted in India since the FCRA registrations had been canceled. The caller was told that GFA still is able to operate in India, but the license to receive money is with Believers Eastern Church. The GFA representative said that the funds given to GFA are sent to Believers Church. He added that GFA and Believers’ Church are technically and legally different entities. GFA cannot guarantee money given for India disaster relief will be used for that purpose through Believers’ Church because GFA has no legal or ultimate authority over Believers’ Church. Money given to GFA is preferenced by donors for a certain purpose and Believers’ Church in practice uses the money for what it is preferenced for.

Leaving aside the uncertainty that the Believers’ Church might not use the funds as intended, GFA’s answer doesn’t match what the Indian government says. As I will demonstrate below, the registrations for GFA (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church, and two other GFA affiliated organizations were canceled in 2017.  The question remains – how will American funds get to flood victims since GFA and Believers’ Church are unable to receive foreign contributions? Maybe there is an answer to this question, but GFA hasn’t provided one that fits with information available to the public.

FCRA – Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

In India, a charity must be registered with the government to receive foreign donations. There are rigorous reporting requirements as specified by the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the records are available to the world via the Home Ministry’s website. In fact, those records prompted the early questions about Gospel for Asia’s finances that eventually led to GFA being removed from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The FCRA rules are clear that only registered organizations can receive foreign donations (click here for a larger image).

Among other conditions, the rules (Q.2b) state that an organization “must obtain the FCRA registration/prior permission from the Central Government.” In contrast, Q.3i specifies that “individuals or associations who have been prohibited from receiving foreign contributions” cannot receive them.

To determine organizations which have been canceled, one can go to the India’s Home Ministry website and scroll down to the FCRA link.  On that site, there is a link near the bottom left which reads: List of Associations whose registration has been cancelled. If you click through, you will need to select the state of Kerala. Once you do that, you will see Ayana Charitable Trust at the top of the list. Scrolling down you will soon encounter Believers’ Church India and Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries.  Here are screen caps of Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly GFA-India), Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries, and Last Hour Ministries on the canceled list).

Since the very organizations which GFA and GFA’s PR representative said will take the money can’t do so, it is a fair and significant question to ask how donations intended for flood victims will get to them.  So far, GFA has not provided a satisfactory answer or provided evidence that the Indian government is wrong. Donors should demand more.

For more on the impact of the revocation of registration to receive foreign funds in India, see this article on Compassion International. When the Indian government canceled their registration to receive foreign donations, they left India. 

 

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Image: with permission Indian Navy (GODL-India) [GODL-India (https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf)], via Wikimedia Commons