The second largest paper in India — Hindustan Times — has a front page story out today with a summary of the Gospel for Asia scandal.
In it, we learn that GFA-India was contacted but without comment. GFA-Canada’s director Pat Emerick’s comments are getting more surreal. He told reporter Anirudh Bhattacharyya that the accusations again GFA are false and “even absurd, and we’ve communicated that clearly.”
Note to Mr. Emerick: engaging in clear communication is the last thing I could say about GFA.
This well written article should raise the profile of the situation internationally.
Billy Bray is a veteran missionary who goes way back with Gospel for Asia’s founder K.P. Yohannan. Bray told me that he was one of the early advocates of the indigenous movement in missions. About his relationship with Yohannan, Bray said:
I actually lived with K.P. for several months in India, and then with K.P. and Gisela in their house for six weeks while writing the first book. I was K.P.’s team leader on the first OM team to Rajasthan and helped recruit him into Operation Mobilization when he was only 15 years of age. So that book — and all three books, were written out of a deep personal friendship with K.P. and his family. In fact, I started work on the first book with him before Gospel for Asia was even named while he was living in Oklahoma, and before there were any GFA staff.
Bray told me he wrote “every word” of K.P. Yohannan’s book Revolution in World Missions and also wrote much of the following two books credited to Yohannan.Even though he said he wrote every word of the book, he didn’t describe it as ghostwriting. Bray told me:
Although I did the first drafts of all three of K.P. Yohannan’s books for Creation House, it was always a collaboration, not ghost-writing. I was paid for the work and given acknowledgement in all three of the books.
Writing “every word” sounded like ghostwriting to me so I was curious about how Bray felt the authorship should have been described. Below is Bray’s description of each book he worked on.
So, if I did the work today, I would insist on the following, more accurate bylines to describe the authorship of these books:
For THE COMING REVOLUTION IN WORLD MISSIONS: God’s Third Wave (c) 1986, it should have been properly attributed “By K.P. Yohannan as told to Billy Bray”. In the Acknowledgements section of the first edition K.P. correctly listed me first among those who helped him editorially using these words, “Of those especially close to me during the long writing, editing and review of this manuscript, I would like to thank William T. Bray, (David and Karen Mains, Gayle Erwin, Dave Hicks and Margaret Bennett for their honest criticism and unwavering support of this entire project).” The parenthesis are mine.
I arranged for David and Karen Mains to write the foreword and for the publication of the book with Cliff Dudley and Bob Walker in Carol Stream where I was working at Christian Life Magazine and Creation House. K.P. also thanks others who were involved in the typing and reading of the manuscript including Larry Jerden and Heidi Chupp (among others).
I was something of a photojournalist in those days and a number of my photos appeared in the first editions of the book, always without credit as well.
For THE ROAD TO REALITY: Coming Home to Jesus from the Unreal World (c) 1988, it should have been properly attributed “By K.P. Yohannan with Billy Bray.” In the acknowledgements, K.P. credits my role as follows “However, I especially want to thank those who were closest to me during the months of writing and editing this manuscript, William T. Bray and Robert Walker.”
Again, I worked with K.P. and Creation house to acquire the endorsement of Erwin Lutzer who was already a fan of K.P. and Bob Finley and Bob Walker — all of which were leading supporters of the indigenous movement in missions by then. This book reflects most accurately the spiritual motivation that both K.P. and I shared at the time, a product of our years under the spiritual influence of Bakht Singh, George Verwer and Bob Finley.
For the third book, then titled WHY THE WORLD WAITS: Exposing the Realty of Modern Missions (c) 1991, it should have properly been attributed to the authors as follows, “By Billy Bray and K.P. Yohannan.” After vicious criticism from the missions establishment at the time, which I thankfully escaped since my name was not on the book, it was revised and published under a softer title.
On the acknowledgements page dated March, 1991, he [Yohannan] first thanked Robert Walker and Murray at Creation for their editorial input and courage and then he credits me only as “Bill — for your help in gathering information and for your most valuable suggestions.” He goes on to thank the staff, and during part of the writing of this book, I was also employed on staff at the GFA headquarters in Carrollton at the Walnut Plaza offices. That is perhaps why he felt less of a need to acknowledge my outlining and writing the first two drafts of this title.
This account, to my best knowledge and recollection, is the truth behind these first three books. I thank the Lord for the privilege of being an intimate part of them — and even though they have been edited and revised over the years by many hands for marketing and fundraising purposes, I stand by the original text in the first editions. I would be happy to discuss them further and hope that the original versions will be preserved as much as possible for academic reasons in the years to come.
And of course, I wish I had 50 cents royalty for every copy sold! It would come in handy now as I am trying to produce a book a year for the cause of Christ as long as the Lord gives me strength and health. One thing I have learned from writing the K.P. Yohannan series is the amazing power of a book to change minds and the course of history!”
“Dear Lord, we acknowledge our commitment to You is so shallow. We say we love You, but our actions betray us. Open our eyes so we see time and eternity as You see it. Forgive us for forgetting we are only strangers and pilgrims on this earth. How foolish we are, oh Lord, to store up treasure on this earth and fight to save our life and preserve it, when You tell us we will lose our life if we try to do that. We ask You, dear Lord, to forgive us and help us to walk in Your footsteps–forsaking all, denying ourselves, carrying our crosses daily and loving You supremely so Your causes might be furthered in this dark and dying world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (Our closing prayer from the first book.)
In addition to Bray, I have spoken to another writer who claims to have written several other Yohannan books. If these claims are true, it may be that the 250 books Yohannan claims to have written are collaborations using his sermons or interviews as source material. Ghostwriting is writing
original material without attribution so it is hard for me not to use that word.
I asked Bray why Yohannan was chosen as the author when Bray was the writer. He said the publisher and the advocates of the indigenous mission movement wanted an indigenous pastor as the figure head of the movement. Having Yohannan as the author created that perception and recognized his potential.
Since I don’t have much knowledge of the history of missions, I can’t speak to the wisdom of the indigenous movement. However, I can say that what is going on in India now under Gospel for Asia and Believers’ Church seems inconsistent with what I am reading in Revolution. I hope to explain my reasons for saying that in a future post.
Bray has a book coming out any day now titled How I Discovered the Power of a Yielded Life in which he provides even more detail about his authorship of Yohannan’s books and the indigenous mission movement.
Here is the Acknowledgments page of the first edition of Revolution in World Missions.
I have confirmed with two other people listed on this page and one other who was involved in GFA from the beginning that the information related here by Bill Bray is accurate.
I reported last week that K.P. Yohannan met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the meeting, Yohannan gave 1 crore rupees (just shy of $150,000) to the Ganga Cleanliness Project.
Compared to the millions still banked in India, $15ok isn’t a large sum.
Still, I wonder if donors intended those funds to help save the Ganga River. I also wonder what that money could have done for people.
While I was wondering, I thought of a story I read awhile back on the GFA website. The story of Lakshimi and her sister goes like this:
Nine-year-old Lakshmi works in a factory as a cigarette roller. She tells her sister’s story:
My sister is ten years old. Every morning at seven she goes to the bonded labor man, and every night at nine she comes home. He treats her badly; he hits her if he thinks she is working slowly or if she talks to the other children, he yells at her, he comes looking for her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I feel this is very difficult for her.
I don’t care about school or playing. I don’t care about any of that. All I want is to bring my sister home from the bonded labor man. For 600 rupees I can bring her home—that is our only chance to get her back.
We don’t have 600 rupees…we will never have 600 rupees [the equivalent of U.S.$14].
This story and another one I will tell below break my heart.
If the story of Lakshmi is true, nearly 11,000 kids could be rescued with a Ganga River sized donation. There is something sad and sickening about K.P. Yohannan currying favor with the Prime Minister while GFA offices all over the world beg for more money to help poor children.
The other story comes from an Indian observer of the Bridge of Hope program. A young elementary school aged boy named Sayaan Ali needed treatment for a kidney stone. He was a Bridge of Hope kid. His parents were not able to afford this treatment (about $1000 USD) so they requested help from their Bridge of Hope center and the local Believers’ Church diocese. Tragically, the Diocese failed to act on the request and the boy wasted away until he recently died a painful death. There was no bridge of hope for this young boy. His parents are devastated and the Prime Minister has another $150k for the Ganga River.
Believers’ Church and K.P. Yohannan own several state of the art hospitals which could have provided the care. These hospitals have been touted as means to minister to poor children like Sayaan. If only Sayaan and Lakshmi were important politicians, perhaps the church would have noticed.
Money really isn’t the issue for K.P. Yohannan and Believers’ Church. According to publicly available Indian government documents, GFA and ministry partners have just over $74-million sitting in bank accounts.
Shame on GFA and Believers Church for their photo ops with power. I call on K.P. Yohannan to answer for his use of donor funds and stop hiding behind his nameless board of directors.
Steve Buist reporter for the Hamilton Spectator has written a major expose’ of Gospel for Asia. Published today, a shorter version will also appear in the Toronto paper tomorrow. The headquarters for GFA-Canada is in Hamilton so the story is a local and national one there.
In the story, GFA-Canada Director Pat Emerick denies one of the first claims told to me by GFA-US COO David Carroll. Emerick denied that Canadian donations had been lumped together with American donations:
“There has been no mingling of funds and field partners can absolutely account for the originating source of all deposits,” Emerick stated.
“All funds sent to the field have been accounted for separately in annual reports to the respective international boards as well as according to national accounting standards in the receiving countries,” Emerick stated.
He is not exactly answering the question. The fact is that Canadian funds were not reported to the Indian Home Ministry as coming from Canada. In May 2015, Carroll told me that Canadian funds were lumped in with American funds. He said there was no requirement for them to be reported separately.
The Canadian funds were combined with U.S. funds by our auditor in India for various accounting reasons. There is no requirement that they be reported separately.
Buist’s assessment is that the funds were combined without proper reporting.
Meanwhile, Gospel for Asia officials in the U.S. told an American evangelical financial accountability group last summer the charity didn’t exert any control over its Indian affiliates and how they spend the money.
Taken together, it means Canadian donations were lumped in with the American donations sent to India but the American charity didn’t exercise any control over the Indian affiliates receiving the money.
This would appear to be in violation of the CRA’s rules that state the Canadian charity must maintain control and direction of its donations and be able to account for how they have been spent, even when done through an intermediary.
Buist covers the waterfront and cites Bruce Morrison and me on a variety of financial matters. The entire class action suit is embedded online.
Readers of this blog will recognize much of the facts but Buist does a very fine job of weaving it all together in one place.
Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Metropolitan Bishop of Believers Church, Kerala along with a delegation called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, today. Dr. Yohannan donated Rs. 1 crore towards Ganga cleanliness campaign. Prof. P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha was also present on the occasion.
The aims and objectives of NMCG is to accomplish the mandate of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) of 1.To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and
2.To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.
Seems like the ECFA found a voice. Christianity Today is reporting the Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts has lost membership in the ECFA.
I went to one IBYC meeting in Michigan not long after I graduated from college. I ran the other way and never looked back.
One former donor to Gospel for Asia has been so concerned about being a good steward that the donor tried to get payment stopped on a credit card used to send payments to GFA. It appears that the card company has been challenging GFA over those charges.
The donor does not want to be identified but has provided evidence of the charges.
The donor disputed the last three charges to the card and this week was credited for one month’s charges. The card company is still disputing the other charges.
According to my source, a representative at the company said GFA did not provide documentation to verify that funds were used for the designated purpose. Instead, GFA gave the card company a letter sent to the card holder in 2014. The letter reminded the card holder that a recurrent payment had been set up to support GFA causes.
The representative told my source that a second disputed case had been filed by another donor against GFA this week.
In the past, Gospel for Asia has spent donor money on “reputation management” — using fake accounts to flood social media with positive information about GFA. It appears they are at it again. On twitter, the image below is the result of a search for GFA.
The glam photos, odd name combos and exact same message give away the spam. I am not sure of the value of these tweets since the accounts are quite small. In any case, someone is reporting lots of social media traffic which is ultimately fake.
The following accounts also appear to be fake.
The format is all the same (there are dozens of these) and they all hope to see me around. I doubt it. They link to blogs which are either fake addresses or to blogs which have no entries.
We know GFA has contracted with Reputation Management Consultants in the past to shore up GFA’s image. Instead of a grassroots uprising of donors defending GFA, it appears that more donor money is going to Christian astroturf.
One of the key events that led to the demise of Mars Hill Church in 2014 was the revelation that the church leaders had used around $250,000 of church money to strategically buy a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for Mark and Grace Driscoll’s 2011 book Real Marriage. Manipulating bestseller lists became a debated topic for several months after it was learned that other leading Christian authors had also used Result Source to manipulate the bestseller list (e.g., Les & Leslie Parrott, and David Jeremiah). Articles in World, Christianity Today, and this blog examined the ethics of the matter.
Stepping into the debate at the time was a former Chief Financial Officer (2007-2009) of David Jeremiah’s Turning Point ministry, George Hale. In a January 14, 2015 post, Hale asserted that David Jeremiah used similar book buying practices as those made famous by Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Hale said he left Turning Point because he didn’t agree with the ethics of using ministry funds to manipulate the bestseller lists and enrich Jeremiah.
Turning Point is a large ministry that took in over $47 million in 2013 compared to nearly $40-million the year before. The last two years David Jeremiah’s non-profit has spent more than it made by around $3.2-million. However, the organization’s balance is strong with net assets of just over $9.5-million, as of June 2014.
At the time, Hale did not explain just how beneficial the arrangement was for Jeremiah. Now, Hale has disclosed that Jeremiah was able to purchase a $2-million ocean front condominium (San Diego Co., grant deed) in January 2010 not long after receiving a $3-million advance from Faith Words, a book publisher based in Nashville.
Hale said, “I never saw a contract between David Jeremiah and a publisher, but I did see an advance check made out to David for $3-million for a multi-book deal.” The books covered by the advance were The Coming Economic Armageddon (2010), I Never Thought I’d See The Day (2011), and God Loves You (2012). All three of these books made the New York Times bestseller list.
Despite the financial success of the books, Hale questioned the ethics of using donor money to create a fiction and personally benefit David Jeremiah. In 2015, Hale said in his public letter:
I began my employment at Turning Point during July 2007. During August of 2007 Turning Point began promoting David Jeremiah’s Book “Captured by Grace” for pre-publication purchase for a donation of $25 or more. I believe that approximately 100,000 books were pre-purchased (I could be wrong on this number but I think it is close) for an average donation of $25 during the months of August and September 2007. When the book was released in October, Turning Point used the money donated for the book to purchase copies of the book from retail booksellers such as Amazon and Borders. Turning Point then sent the book to those who had donated and requested the book. These purchases where timed to get the book listed as a “best-seller.” It worked.
After this occurred, I voiced my concern as to the ethics of such action to David Jeremiah. I was also concerned because Turning Point could have purchased the same books directly from the publisher for approximately $10 each instead of the $25 each paid to the book retailers. David assured me that his agent and attorney, Sealy Yates had opined that the transactions were honest and ethical.
This same action was repeated during August, September and October 2008 with the same results. I again requested that Turning Point not repeat such transactions as I could not discern any benefit to Turning Point for purchasing the books at retail versus purchasing the books wholesale from the publisher. I thought the transaction to be unethical. David told me that he would take my advice under consideration.
During August 2009 David Jeremiah said that he wanted to promote his new book for pre-publication purchase but for a donation of any amount. He had not yet made a decision as to the method that Turning Point would use to purchase the books to be sent to those who would request them.
During September 2009 David Jeremiah told me that he had decided to use the money received by Turning Point from those requesting his book to purchase the books at retail from booksellers and not purchase the books from the publisher at a lower amount. He acknowledged that he was aware that this was disappointing to me.
Turning Point had received an average donation of $35 per book instead of $25 dollars during this 2009 campaign. Therefore, if my memory is correct, Turning Point had received approximately $3.5 million dollars for the approximately 100,000 books pre-sold. I thought that the added donation over and above the $25 purchase price of the book was meant to benefit Turning Point and was not to be used to purchase additional books at retail. This did not happen. This thought, together with my prior opinion that the entire method was unethical and did not benefit Turning Point, led me to immediately resign my position with Turning Point which I did September 15, 2009.
Hale later told me that he was paid until early 2010 to allow a narrative to be floated that Hale retired instead of quitting abruptly over ethics concerns.
As a result of the book buying scheme, Turning Point’s membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was jeopardized. Hale told me, as did one other source in a position to know, that in early 2010, Turning Point was allowed to drop membership in the ECFA instead of being publicly removed over the bestseller list manipulation scheme. These tactics are not allowed for ECFA members and, according to Hale, Turning Point chose to drop out instead of modify their book business.
One consequence of losing ECFA membership was the loss of membership in the National Religious Broadcasters since members are required to either be members of ECFA or some comparable group. However, after yearsof non-membership, I have learned that Turning Point is a member again. It is unclear if this means Turning Point has renounced the book buying scheme or if the NRB made an exception. Neither organization has responded to my questions regarding Turning Point’s membership.
If the return of Turning Point to the NRB means that David Jeremiah has finally taken George Hale’s advice, that would be quite a story. I hope the usual big evangelical cone of silence doesn’t cover up the matter.
In any case, with the ongoing silence and secrecy over bestseller list buying, the debate over the ethics of it will continue.
After I read the lawsuit against Gospel for Asia, I asked the lawyers bringing the suit why Board directors were not included as defendants.
In response, Martin Woodward of Stanley Law Group told me:
Defendants may be added or removed throughout the litigation of a case based on the available information.
Understandably, those bringing the suit do not want to signal their moves. My guess is that the process of discovery will reveal information which could lead to additional defendants. On that point, I am wondering if board members who knew K.P. Y0hannan altered Gayle Erwin’s report on the GFA diaspora might find themselves added to the suit.
Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to see that the organization operates ethically and in keeping with laws. Even so, Erwin pulled back the curtain and let the public know that much of what was happening was not known by the board of directors. Given what Erwin revealed, it is certainly possible that the author of the recent board statement did not actually come from the board.