What Happened to Gospel for Asia's Combined Federal Campaign Page?

As recently as a week ago, Gospel for Asia touted participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (Google cache).
Combined Federal Camp
 
Not any more. Now if you go to that same page, one sees a “Page Not Found” message and a frown. Once, GFA boasted about their participation in the CFC (Google cache), but mention of the program is now missing at that page.
I have been aware for several weeks that the Office of Personnel Management was reviewing GFA’s status as an approved charity. Recently, I learned that GFA may be sanctioned by the OPM due to failure to meet requirements for participation in the CFC. Today, I learned from an OPM Spokesperson that OPM contacted Christian Charities USA about GFA. Christian Charities USA assists charities by submitting and certifying the accuracy of application for acceptance into the CFC and is managed by the same group that manages Independent Charities of America. CCUSA submitted GFA’s original application for the CFC to OPM.
In early December, OPM notified CCUSA that its member charity GFA may be in violation of CFC regulations. According to the spokesperson,

CCUSA contacted GFA, and gave them ample opportunity to provide evidence they were not in violation of CFC rules. However, CCUSA did not get an acceptable response from GFA. CCUSA then decertified GFA.

The decertification by CCUSA may be the reason GFA has pulled the CFC page. The next possible step for GFA would be a sanction from OPM. I have been informed by the OPM spokesperson that GFA has been notified that OPM intends to sanction GFA if GFA is unable to prove that they comply with OPM standards.
By statute, sanctions may involve expulsion from the CFC program. The removal of the CFC page and any mention of participation in the CFC may indicate that GFA has been removed although the OPM spokesperson has not commented on that point.
Prior to the termination of membership in the ECFA, GFA had touted ECFA membership, ICA membership and participation in the CFC as indicators of financial integrity. Now there is nothing to independently verify that GFA is abiding by financial promises.

Update of Charity Review of Gospel for Asia Australia; Are GFAA and GFA Related?

Earlier this year, Ted Sherwood did a charity review of Gospel for Asia Australia. Recently, he updated it. As a part of the update, Sherwood evaluates a rather amazing claim made by an Australian association of Christian ministries called Mission Interlink. In essence, Mission Interlink claims that GFA Australia is independent of GFA in the U.S.
While technically accurate, it is clear from the evidence Sherwood supplies that GFA Australia wouldn’t exist if there was no GFA in the states or in India.
About Mission Interlink’s position, Sherwood wrote:

GFAA is a member of Missions Interlink, the closest we have in Australia to the ECFA:

Member use of the Missions Interlink logo implies high standards of governance and financial accountability, giving the Christian public assurance of their integrity[iii].

On 27 August 2015 I sent a link to my review to the National Director, Pam Thyer, suggesting that GFAA was in breach of one or more of their standards. On 3 December 2015, in response to my suggestion that donors should be alerted to GFAA’s misrepresentation when soliciting donations, Pam said that she had discussed the matters I raised in the review with GFAA and had concluded that ‘they do not contravene the MI Standards’.

Sherwood disagrees and provides evidence that GFA Australia is indeed in violation of some MI standards.

Furthermore, it is incredible that MI sees GFAA as separate from GFA. The only real reason GFAA exists is as a conduit to GFA in India. GFAA is sending money to GFA in India in ways that may or may not align with donor intent. Donors in Australia should be aware that their donations may be used to purchase or develop for profit businesses under the control of Believers’ Church.

Former Gospel for Asia Board Member Gayle Erwin Speaks Out, Discloses ECFA Report on GFA’s Violations of Membership Standards

In response to ongoing claims from Gospel for Asia about the investigation conducted by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, former GFA board member Gayle Erwin has released a series of documents, including the report of the ECFA investigation as well as the GFA response. As is now widely known, the result of that investigation was a vote of the ECFA board to terminate GFA’s membership. I believe it is important to note that Erwin put in over 30 years of service as a board member and was cited in the original edition of K.P. Yohannan’s first book (ghostwritten by Bill Bray) as an influence.

Erwin also released correspondence which documents his efforts to bring change to GFA before he resigned. Given the lack of public accountability by GFA, these documents provide some answers to remaining questions raised by the public, GFA donors and former donors, former and current staff, and current recipients of GFA’s services.

In this post, I intend to provide links with a short description of each document. A fuller response to the ECFA investigation and GFA’s response to it will follow.

ECFA’s Report To Gospel for Asia – This report covers the results of the ECFA’s investigation into a variety of allegations. The contents provide much needed context which help make some sense of the simplistic descriptions given by GFA. Furthermore, the contents vindicate much of my reporting here.

GFA’s Response to ECFA’s Report – GFA replied to the ECFA report with additional information and promises to make changes. From my vantage point, the promised changes were small compared to the magnitude of the problems. Apparently, the ECFA agreed because the board voted to remove membership on October 2.

March 17, 2015 Letter from Gayle Erwin to K.P. Yohannan – In this letter, former GFA board member Gayle Erwin discusses his investigation of the charges brought by the GFA Diaspora. Erwin felt some of the Diaspora claims were true which upset Yohannan.

Letters of Concern from Gayle Erwin to K.P. Yohannan – It is clear in these letters that Erwin is hoping to provoke transparency and change at GFA.

Gayle Erwin’s report to GFA as assigned – This is the GFA board investigation report Erwin originally filed with the board. According to Erwin, it was significantly rewritten by K.P. Yohannan before being given to the former staff group, GFA Diaspora. In contrast to the report which GFA’s former staff members received, Erwin actually found evidence for nearly all of the claims made on this website by the former staff (GFA Diaspora). Erwin now believes that financial mismanagement claims are also true.

The report of former staff concerns actually presented to the board – According to Erwin, K.P. Yohannan rewrote this report to appear in this format. Comparing the two, one can see significant whitewashing of staff concerns.

Gayle Erwin’s Resignation Letter – How and why Erwin left the board.

Gayle Erwin’s Letter of Apology to GFA Diaspora Spokesperson J.D. Smith – Erwin’s apology to the former staff members of GFA.

There is a wealth of information here which will take several days if not weeks to unpack.

See additional information about Gayle Erwin’s communications with former staff at the GFA Diaspora site.

Update on the Shut Down of Gospel for Asia New Zealand

The story coming out of Gospel for Asia in Wills Point, TX is that the GFA affiliate in New Zealand isn’t closing, just moving.
Multiple sources have confirmed that long time GFA staff members Chris and Cindy Brewer have been deployed to NZ to salvage the office.  However, it might not be that easy or clear cut.
GFA NZ Trust lists three board members on the NZ charities registry.
GFA NZ Board info
 
K.P. Yohannan is listed as a trustee and has a vote in what happens with GFA NZ. Brian Hughes is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Auckland. His views are known via the letter he sent to his church — GFA NZ is closing and nothing Yohannan does will change that. If a vote of trustees happens, it appears to come down to accountant Murray Bell. I have been unable to contact him.  According to the rules of the trust, two of the three trustees can take action to oust the other trustee.  Theoretically, Bell and Hughes could vote Yohannan off the GFA NZ island.
However, if Hughes has stepped down and fails to exercise his authority as a board member, then it becomes unclear how Bell and Yohannan proceed if they disagree about the direction of the trust.
If this trust closes, then GFA in the U.S. will need to find another New Zealander to initiate a new trust.
Given the materials filed on the NZ government website, there is reason to question the story from GFA that the NZ affiliate is simply moving.  If Hughes and Bell have voted to close the charity, I can’t see how Yohannan can stop them.

Gospel for Asia Issues Threats and Demands Removal of Staff Meeting Audio

Yesterday afternoon, I received word from the management of Patheos that lawyers for Gospel for Asia demanded the removal of posts with audio of the May 14, 2015 staff meeting in Wills Point, TX. They also wanted the picture of David Carroll in priestly garb sprinkling water around the Wills Point building site taken down.
The following posts were targeted by GFA:
Gospel for Asia’s President K.P. Yohannan and Indian Courts Seem to Disagree about His Status with Indian Charities
Believers Church in India Gave Nearly 20 Million to Help Gospel for Asia’s New Office Complex
Gospel for Asia Leaders Tell Staff Cash Carrying is Legal but They Won’t Do It Anymore
What is This Gospel for Asia Priest Doing? (Image replaced with a link to the image – the image was freely available to GFA staff)
All but one of these posts contain audio from the May 14, 2015 staff meeting where GFA leaders (David Carroll, John Beers, Danny Punnoose and K.P. Yohannan) answered questions from staff about various staff concerns and problems. This meeting was supposed to put to rest many of these questions, but in the long run more questions and problems have come up. GFA leaders are willing to pay lawyers to threaten lawsuits but they are not willing to publicly address the concerns and allegations of former staff and former donors.
Patheos management and I decided remove their sail from the wind in that I have now linked to the audio hosted elsewhere. I see no reason for GFA to harass Patheos with frivolous demands when the use of these materials is fair use of material for the purpose of providing commentary on the practices of GFA. I was provided the audio by a former staff member at GFA. The staff meeting was attended by the entire staff of GFA and was supposed to provide answers to public controversies. Now, GFA does not want you to hear their answers. Despite GFA’s heavy handed effort at intimidation, readers can still get the facts by going to these posts and following the links to the audio.
This is an incredible and I think foolish move on the part of GFA leaders. They are now making a direct attempt to cover up their own statements. This information has been in the public ear for weeks. We can hear them making their claims in their own words. When the information is available like this, I cannot be accused of taking material out of context or providing false information. So now, they want to remove these facts from the public consciousness.
Since 100% of donations to GFA are supposed to go to the field, I wonder where the funds come from to pay lawyers to threaten legal action. Perhaps GFA leaders believe attorneys’ fees are where donor funds are most needed.
Gospel for Asia is a non-profit organization. As such, GFA has a responsibility to operate in the public interest. Covering up information which allows donors insight into the actual workings and claims of the organization is the not the action of an organization operating in the public interest. From a religious point of view, they are walking in darkness and want to keep the rest of us in darkness as well.
I do not intend to allow GFA’s threats and intimidation to silence the facts. There is more to come.

Gospel for Asia Still Claims Membership in Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

In a mailing just received today, Gospel for Asia’s fund solicitation still carries the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability seal. The letter is dated October 15, which is nearly two weeks after the ECFA board voted to terminate GFA’s membership.
Here is the pledge card with the seal and “Enhancing Trust” slogan (click to see letter and other materials):
pledgecareoct15ECFA
 
Along with the ECFA charter member seal, the pledge card carries the meaningless ICA “Best in America” Seal.
According to the ECFA standards, this GFA mailing violates Standard 7.1 which relates to “Truthfulness in Communications.” According David Carroll, GFA’s COO, GFA will seek membership in the future. Continuing to violate a standard doesn’t seem like the best way to make a case for reinstatement.
By continuing to claim membership in the ECFA, GFA is in violation of ICA standards and the standards for qualification as a charity for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign.
The ICA requires truthful and non-deceptive fundraising materials (see the next to last bullet point in the image below):
ICA Standards
 
The Office of Personnel Management’s standards also require truthful materials.
CFC Rule Truth
 

Does Independent Charities of America Bring Value to Donors?

I can’t see much. I intend to take a closer look at ICA over the next week or two. In the mean time, check out this article from Charity Watch:
F Rated Charities Awarded Best in America Seal
A little bit:

Ubiquitous on charity web sites is a ribbon-style seal that in large type reads “BEST IN AMERICA,” features five stars across the top edge, and indicates that the charity awarded the seal is “certified by Independent Charities of America” (ICA). Many donors may view such a seal as a reflection of how efficiently a particular charity will use their donations, and assume that it represents an independent endorsement of a charity from an outside organization. While ICA may refer to its member charities as “Best in America,” some donors may be disappointed to learn that ICA is funded by the very charities that use its seal, and that ICA generally does not screen charities for financial efficiency.

Any money that goes to ICA is money that won’t go to poor children or mission work. Whenever someone gives to a charity through the appeal of ICA, a percentage goes to ICA and their association manager Maguire & Maguire.
It appears to me that ICA enables a message designed to create a false impression. See the image below:
 
ICA numbers
Like Gospel for Asia, ICA refuses to answer questions. I asked ICA if the 2,500 number represented the number of charities that chose to pay ICA for the use of the Seal but got no answer. Since ICA uses the same criteria as the Office of Personnel Management, I believe the 2,500 are those who pay the fee to use the Seal. In other words, it means nothing extra in terms of quality or efficiency. Another way to look at it is that 47,500 charities would rather put their money toward services as opposed to paying for a meaningless image on their webpage. Perhaps the Seal could be renamed Seal of Excess.
We know one charity (GFA) kicked out of the ECFA (a rare happening) which pays to create a false impression.

Gospel for Asia and the Independent Charities of America: Many Questions, Few Answers

Now that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has terminated Gospel for Asia’s membership due to violations of multiple standards, GFA is using the Seal of the Independent Charities of America as a badge of financial integrity.
GFA ICA Seal
When I called the ICA, I was connected to Mike May with Maguire & Maguire, an association management firm. May told me that organizations approved by the Office of Personnel Management for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign are allowed by ICA to display the ICA Seal. GFA is approved as a charity for the 2015 campaign in progress now.
At the time, I asked why GFA was allowed to display the seal since GFA is a proselytizing organization. In contrast to the federal standards, the ICA adds a provision barring “proselytizing organizations.” See the image below:
ICA Standards
Beyond explaining ICA’s use of CFC approval, May had no comment about any of the other questions put to him.  At this time, I don’t know why ICA has the restriction on proselytizing organizations or why GFA, as a proselytizing organization, is allowed to display the Seal of Excellence.
In any case, my research, the recent actions of the ECFA and the recent statement of former board member Gayle Erwin call into question the compliance of GFA with most of the eligibility standards of ICA (and more basically with the federal standards for participation in the Combined Federal Campaign). Click the image below to go to a pdf chart with supporting links.
Gospel for Asia ICA Eli Stds
 
ICA is now aware of the discrepancies between their criteria and GFA’s performance and it remains to be seen if ICA will investigate or take any action.

Board Members Quit Floundering Teen Mania; Will Gateway Church Continue Support?

World magazine reported on October 17 that half of Teen Mania’s independent board members resigned. I am linking to World’s coverage of TM as an alert to readers that the former high flying ministry is in free fall. TM continues to break commitments and is going deeper into debt to various groups, some of whom are suing.
Top Ten Charities in trouble; note that TM is #5.
I am not sure why anyone would want to be involved with TM after seeing this in 2011:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/OAKGVF3EooA?list=PLDPcYCH6dNUHK5htHOMV5OTqES8u5kUVM[/youtube]
Part two and part three are available on You Tube.
This is required reading as well.
I don’t care how much good TM claims to do (e.g., Acquire the Fire is for the most a big pep rally for God), the mistreatment of teens that is glorified by TM in the msnbc documentary is enough to shut the whole thing down.
Despite light coming to the situation, some groups continue to stand by TM. One such group is Gateway Church and The Kings University.
TKU actually gives academic credit for TM’s Honor Academy. This should be an embarrassment for TKU.
Robert Morris endorses TM, as does K.P. Yohannan.
 
 

Believers’ Church Constitution Contradicts K.P. Yohannan’s Claim that He Has No Legal Authority in Indian Church

In a May 14, 2015 staff meeting, K.P. Yohannan and David Carroll disclosed to the Gospel for Asia staff that in 2013 Believers’ Church in India gave $19.8 million toward the construction costs of the new Wills Point. TX headquarters. When the gift came in back in 2013, GFA leaders told staff that the money was given by an “anonymous donor.”

For those new to this story, Believers’ Church is the church started by Gospel for Asia founder K.P. Yohannan. Yohannan is CEO and International Director at Gospel for Asia and he is the supreme Metropolitan Bishop in India for the Believers’ Church. Although undisclosed in their 2013 audit, GFA sent just over $20 million to Believers’ Church in 2013. Believers’ Church in India received far more than Gospel for Asia India which was not disclosed in the audited financial statements.

Within the last year, questions arose among staff about the accuracy of the “anonymous donor” story and Carroll and Yohannan addressed those questions during the May 14 staff meeting. In that meeting, Yohannan asserted that he had nothing to do with the Believers’ Church’s decision to send nearly $20 million back to Texas. A major part of his defense was his claim that he does not sit on boards or trusts in India and has no legal authority in Believers’ Church. Yohannan claims he didn’t have authority to direct the donation and didn’t have anything to do with it.
Here is what Yohannan said about his membership on boards and trusts in India and his legal authority.

Transcript:

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.

In previous posts, I have shown government and church documents which contradict his claim. Today, I provide portions of the Believers’ Church Constitution which describe the massive authority and power of the Metropolitan Bishop, His Grace the Most Reverend K.P. Yohannan. It is clear that Yohannan misled his staff. If Believers’ Church follows the church Constitution, there is no way Yohannan did not approve the gift to help complete headquarters construction.

Click the link for the first two chapters of the Constitution, and this link for chapter three. Images describing the power of the Metropolitan are below. See the boxes for especially relevant sections:
MetropolitanPowersBC ConsYohannan is President of all church trusts, he has discretionary power over governance of the church, he is the final authority of spiritual and administrative matters and he is the managing trustee of the church. It is inconceivable that Believers’ Church could spend $19.8 million dollars without his approval. Sections from chapter three make this even clearer. Buying and selling movable and immovable property and any management matter can be overruled by Yohannan. Committees can suggest actions but they must be cleared with Yohannan first.
GenSecretaryBelChurch
Yesterday, Gayle Erwin said this about the transfer of $19.8 million from India to GFA-US:

If you read the ECFA report, you discover what we (board members–USA) had begun to know–we were kept in the dark and limited to pedantic decisions. As I saw this, I began intense confrontations with KP which I thought were gaining traction. The surprise revelation of foreign deposits and monies returned from the field (and previously described as from an “anonymous donor) pushed some of us over the edge and made our board membership untenable.

 David Carroll and K.P. Yohannan told staff that the transfer of funds was completely legal and there was no conflict of interest since Yohannan had no control over the decision. He also said the $19.8 million was not a related party transaction.

DC [David Carroll] – It’s completely legal, thank you. There’s a board member, board documents as I understand it, I don’t live in Asia, but there’s board documents on the other side. The whole thing was done in complete legality.

By the way, one question, one part of that question was, is this a related party transaction? And the answer is no. It is not a related party transaction because the board members here, they’re not the same board members as there. In other words, the leadership here did not influence that decision there. Brother KP mentioned it but it was not his decision. He had to get permission, actually they told…

KP [K.P. Yohannan]– I think David, it is important for people to know the person I am. It’s like Paul said in one place he’s a doulos, he’s a servant, another place he’s an apostle, another place he’s a brother, and my role is being a spiritual father of right now about 2.7 million people scattered throughout all these nations and I do not have any legal say or decision about legal matters. My role is a spiritual leadership. You may not have asked that but there are hundreds of trusts and entities in all these countries. I don’t sit on any of those things. There are their own people. And my role is the spiritual leadership. And I hope to some extent that is here also.

It is hard for me to understand how David Carroll could make this statement:

It is not a related party transaction because the board members here, they’re not the same board members as there.

I publicly ask David Carroll: Have you ever read the Believers’ Church Constitution? You are ordained in that church. Is this like Mars Hill Church and the officers and clergy don’t have access to the Constitution? You told staff on May 14 that Yohannan wasn’t on a board under the Believers’ Church umbrella. Carroll told staff:

And so, what the people in Asia did, and it is a board that is under Believers’ Church umbrella, but Brother KP’s not on that board, it wasn’t his decision. 

K.P. Yohannan is CEO and leads the Gospel for Asia board here and he is by Constitution the managing trustee and President of Believers’ Church and all other Believers’ Church trusts.

I can’t see how these claims by Yohannan and Carroll and the Believers’ Church Constitution can be true at the same time.* David Carroll said there are “board documents on the other side.” Well, the board documents that I have seen don’t support what they told staff in May. Might be time for GFA leaders to produce those documents. It is already too late for three board members who quit over this matter.

*I suppose it is possible that Believers’ Church approved a new Constitution prior to the 2013 gift. However, my source denies that and tells me that this Constitution was binding at that time and is binding currently. I am certainly open to hearing from GFA and BC with new information.