More Evidence K.P. Yohannan Was Wrong When He Told Staff He Isn't On Trusts in India

In the context of explaining why Believers’ Church in India gave $19.8 million to Gospel for Asia for construction of headquarters at Wills Point, TX, GFA CEO K.P. Yohannan said this:

And by the way, just so you know, I am not legally on any boards, any trusts, anything in any of these countries. I have no powers to make decisions or sign money, or release money, or make decisions, I am completely legally…why? Because anybody who work in the United States or overseas countries have a board membership or have legal membership should not be part of their legal entities in India. It’s a conflict of interest and therefore we send the funds and it is immediately under the government watch care and the government of India is responsible and investigative agencies and tax divisions to make sure  that is carried out within the time frame or whatever they do, that is a public thing.

Yohannan said these things at a staff meeting held at GFA’s office complex on May 14, 2015. The audio is embedded at the end of the post.
When I posted the audio in August, I also posted images of court cases involving Believers’ Church which refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers’ Church. Even though Yohannan said it was a conflict of interest to be on the board in India and the CEO in America, court documents dated in 2015 refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of the entity (Believers Church) that “decided” in 2013 to send $19.8 million to another entity (Gospel for Asia) run by Yohannan in order to build a new campus.
Recently, I have been given two documents which establish beyond doubt that Yohannan’s statement to staff was misleading. The first document is a 2005 letter from BC Bishop Samuel Mathew to all Believers’ Church Bishops regarding the proper way to file land deeds. The church Constitution requires all land to be in K.P. Yohannan’s name since he is the highest legal authority in the church.
Land Deed Policy BC redacted
Read the entire letter here.
At this time, by Consitution, all land was to be registered to “the Most Rev. Dr. K.P. Yohannan.” Why? As Metropolitan Bishop is the legal authority on everything that belongs to the Church. Presumably, at one time, $19.8 million belonged to the church but after the “anonymous gift to GFA,” that money belonged to the other entity controlled by Yohannan, GFA.
Regarding the claim that Yohannan doesn’t sit on any boards of trusts in India, I offer this 2010 deed of trust for the Bridge of Hope (entire document), a program run by Believers’ Church. Yohannan is not only on the trust but he signed on behalf of Believers’ Church as “Executant.”
BOH – Trust Deed BOH Trust Deed P1
 
Also, note that four of the six board members are Yohannan and his family (Siny Punnoose – niece; Sarah Johnson – daughter; Daniel Johnson – son-in-law).
These documents along with the court papers filed by Believers’ Church paint a completely different picture than drawn out by Yohannan in the May 14 staff meeting.
I invite GFA and/or Believers’ Church to submit evidence to the contrary. If BC’s Constitution has been changed or trust deeds have been amended, I will gladly publish those if they are supplied.
Of late, Yohannan has been unavailable for comment. Perhaps, David Carroll or John Beers can provide explanation or proper documentation.
K.P. Yohannan at the May 14 staff meeting:

 

A Story of Intimidation and Control at Gospel for Asia

An aspect of the Gospel for Asia story that I have not explored much is the claim of controlling actions on the part of GFA leaders. Today, I want to bring out one such claim. Before I tell this story, I want to alert readers that I reached out to GFA through their PR firm InChrist Communications. I told InChrist Communications that I wanted GFA leaders to have a chance to address these serious claims. I received no answer.
On the GFA Diaspora website, a former male employee named Nick tells about his experience about a decade ago of expressing romantic feelings toward a female staffer at GFA. One would think such sentiments would be encouraged in a Christian ministry, but according to Nick and the girl who was the object of his feelings — Nicole — GFA leaders went out of their way to end the relationship.
Nick attended Bible college and had interned in a Calvary Chapel before coming to GFA. Nicole had led mission trips and was a worship leader with GFA. Nick was 25 and Nicole was 22. Their interest in one another was age-appropriate and they seemed to be heading in the same direction.
On the Diaspora website, Nick wrote:

In a friendly conversation with David C., I told him I was interested in a girl who was on staff (we were just friends at the time). I was called into K.P.’s office and told that I was not allowed to continue to like this girl, and that I was not even allowed to pray about getting married for at least 2 years. I was surprised that I was being told not to pray, but my heart and intention was to do all that I could to comply with the wishes of the leadership. Shortly thereafter, all of the newer young single people on staff were called into a meeting where we were told that we had entered the ministry single, and so that is how we should remain.

After the scolding, Nick did not tell Nicole about his feelings. However, his disclosure seemed to change his standing at GFA. According to Nick, the GFA leaders subjected him to what can only be described as harassment:

The 3 leaders (K.P. Yohannan, John B., and David C.) would call me into K.P.’s office, and KP would proceed to tell me all sorts of terrible things about myself. He told me that I probably wouldn’t be a Christian in 10 years. He called me a mad man and said that he was glad that there was no one else like me at GFA, because he couldn’t imagine what I might go out and do. I loved the children at GFA, and would always volunteer in the kid’s ministry. Knowing this, K.P. said “There are 72 children here at the ministry, and you are going to ruin the lives of every one of them.” (That is a direct quote. I will never forget those words.)

Nick tried hard to be a good staffer and did not tell Nicole about his feelings. Nicole was unaware that GFA leaders had warned Nick about pursuing a relationship with her.
According to Nicole, who was then serving as one of Yohannan’s writing assistants, Yohannan began to ask her if she thought Nick liked her. Nicole described these initial questions as being delivered in a “friendly, fatherly way.” Gradually, the questions became more persistent and Nicole decided to talk to Nick. Nick acknowledged his feelings but didn’t have an intention to pursue a relationship in order to honor the dictates of leadership.
Not knowing that Nick had been warned about talking to her, Nicole told Yohannan that Nick liked her. According to the couple, Nick was kicked out as a consequence. Nick wrote on the Diaspora website:

The next day I was called into K.P.s office and told that I was being fired and kicked out of the ministry. The girl was then told that she was not allowed to communicate with me ever again in any way.

Despite Yohannan’s warning, Nicole later contacted Nick and told Yohannan that she did. According to Nicole, Yohannan turned from fatherly and friendly to mean and intrusive. She added that Yohannan became increasingly critical of her. According to at least two former staff, the mistreatment became obvious to others (see the testimony of Bernard and Jena on the Diaspora website for their account).
According to the couple, Nick was told to leave the campus immediately without any of the money he had raised in his staff account. He had to find money to live on without the funds he had raised while at GFA.
According to Nicole, GFA also told remaining staff that Nick left due to psychological problems and that GFA was going to pay for counseling. According to the couple, none of that was true.
The story does have a happy ending. Both Nick and Nicole left GFA and are now happily married with a child.
Although not all staff and students have bad experiences, Nicole told me that she believes concern for current staff and students is warranted. She worries for the students, often just out of high school, who sign up for the School of Discipleship. Nick and Nicole are telling their story with the hope that students will be wary of GFA’s approach to mentoring youth and find another way to learn about ministry.
As noted at the beginning, I asked GFA for their side of this story but got no response. I have, however, interviewed numerous former staff and several current staff and students in the School of Discipleship. Many, although not all, have echoed concerns similar to those expressed by Nick and Nicole.

Gospel for Asia: What Happens When You Speak Up

Today, I was sent a link to a blog written by a former GFA staff person who was married to a GFA leader. Sara Sluberski wrote about being uninvited to a wedding. The social rejection was triggered by the Christianity Today article about GFA which dropped Thursday (Sara’s husband Tom was cited in the CT article).
This article sent me on an excursion through her other posts. On September 28, she wrote:

GFA has been accused of shunning people.  While we were working there we could alway explain away this behavior.

In this same post, she describes how her husband was called in and discouraged from spending too much time with non-GFA people. She wrote:

One day my hubby and I were invited to a double date on a Saturday night. It was so much fun! Our song played and My hubby and I got up and danced to it, or rather swayed together in time to the music. Our friends took photos and posted the cutest one on Facebook. These friends had left the ministry previously but our connection to them was so strong. We still baby sat for each other and we had not “let them go.” as was so typical of our life at GFA.  Did we talk about GFA… no we were more into food, fun and parenting.

Monday morning my Knight in Shining Armor is called into his bosses office.  He is questioned about his Saturday night activity.  Did he understand that some people in the ministry could be upset by his Saturday night companions.  This baffled us. I could understand if someone was upset by “dancing” as some denominations do not accept it, but that was not the issue at hand. It seemed that hanging out with likeminded friends who encourage us and bring us joy is the problem. 

This is a spooky story.
Even now, in the face of a public relations disaster and the dramatic and rare loss of ECFA membership, GFA loyalists are closing ranks. Don’t come to the wedding. Speaking up makes you an unacceptable distraction.
Sara wrote in the most recent post:

I’m trying to wrap my mind around how much we didn’t know, how much my pride was wrapped up in the fruit on the field, of the 100% goes to the field designations.

Throckmorton asked the question in May/ June? (when I was studiously behaving and obeying leadership and not reading him).  How were people within the ministry taking the news of smurfing and the 19.8 million gift. 

As with Mars Hill Church, leaders in GFA were telling staff not to read information about the organization they worked for. Limiting information, discouraging contact with outsiders, and shunning those who transgress some internal norm are all marks of a mind-control group.
And the CEO is unavailable for comment.
I wish Sara and her Shining Armor Knight lots of freedom, fresh air, and dancing.

Things I Think After Reading Christianity Today's Article on Gospel for Asia

Just out today, Bob Smietana penned an article at Christianity Today on the controversies surrounding Gospel for Asia including the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability board vote to terminate GFA’s membership.  It is a lengthy piece with many quotes from former staff. I hope you will read it and then come back here to discuss.
Where in the World is K.P. Yohannan?
I was struck right away by this sentence:

Founder K.P. Yohannan was not available for comment.

Why not? My sources tell me that staff are saying he is India. I am pretty sure they have phones in India. Probably he has a cell phone. Yohannan is the founder and CEO. He is listed as the International Director. Seems like the buck should stop with him. It is mind boggling that he is “unavailable.”
Smietana writes about the ring-kissing ritual in the article but no one from GFA addresses the obvious deception from Yohannan. This is another mind blowing aspect of this situation. GFA still has no answer to what is right in front of everyone’s face.
Not Skeptical Enough Francis Chan
And then there is Francis Chan, Rev. Skeptical. His endorsement has been removed from the GFA website but he is quoted in CT’s article as saying he is remaining on GFA’s board. He endorsed GFA by saying that he is a skeptical person and that he checked GFA out thoroughly before he endorsed them.  Several months after Chan was first made aware of discrepancies between what GFA said in America and what they reported in India, Chan now says he needs more time to study the situation. On May 21, I alerted Chan to the money smuggling and his assistant Chaz told me that Chan had the information but probably wouldn’t get back to me. I continued sending my posts to Chaz who said he was passing the information along.  I also passed along letters from a GFA supporter who started giving money to GFA on the strength of Chan’s endorsement. No answer.
An Investigation
We also learn in the CT article that Homeland Security may be investigating GFA. I want a little more information on GFA’s denials about the money smuggling. At first, David Carroll said it was all legal and they asked their auditor how to do it. Then later they admitted it was illegal and they sought counsel. In the CT article, we learn that GFA’s attorneys filed late customs reports (is that even possible?).
Did GFA really ask auditor Bland Garvey if money smuggling was legal? Did Bland Garvey really sign off on it? Bland Garvey won’t talk about it and GFA didn’t clear this up. There are many unanswered questions.
No Money Found to Be Missing?
What an odd phrasing – no money was found to be missing. Is it missing or was it found? I think I know what David Carroll means but this is not an answer to the fact that Gospel for Asia’s 2013 audit claims $58.6 million was sent to Gospel for Asia – India but only $6 million was reported by Gospel for Asia there as being deposited. Even if all money to Believers’ Church and two other NGOs is considered, there is still nearly $30 million in 2013 unaccounted for. GFA still has not answered this simple question.
ECFA: Mixed Feelings
After calling on the ECFA to take action, I am pleasantly surprised that the board did. However, I think an even greater service to the donor public would be to describe what GFA actually did which led to their vote. As it is, GFA supporters can imply that the violations were minor and have been corrected. We may never know.
Here are some things we now know
K.P. Yohannan is missing in action, Francis Chan is not as skeptical as he says he is, big boys in the church still take care of their own, and the little people are still on their own to make sense of this scandal.

More Missing Gospel for Asia Endorsements: Ray Comfort, Emeal Zwayne, William Blount and Many More (UPDATED)

UPDATE 2 (10/8/15) – This morning I noticed that now two-thirds of endorsements on the GFA website are now missing. Prior to the GFA’s loss of ECFA membership, there were 18 endorsers on the GFA endorsements page. Now there are six: Patrick Johnstone, George Verwer, Luis Bush, Dan Wooding, Suellen Roberts and Frank Wright.
Now missing are Francis Chan, Ray Comfort, Emeal Zwayne, William Blount, Katey Hearth, Karol Ladd, Sharon Geiger, Jeff Lutes, Ashley Elliot, Barbara Dowling, Terry Powell, and Megan Basham.
Only Ray Comfort and Emeal Zwayne have issued any kind of statement.
UPDATE: I just received this from Daniel at Living Waters: “Yes, at this time Living Waters has temporarily pulled its endorsement of GFA, while awaiting further information.”
I also see that another name has been pulled from the list: William Blount
Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing.
GFA Chan Page Not Found
It remains up here.
………………..
More big names are missing from the Gospel for Asia endorsements page.  Just recently, Ray Comfort and Emeal Zwayne, both affiliated with Living Waters, were featured endorsers of Gospel for Asia. Now their names and endorsements are gone.
ComfortZwayneClip
If you check out the endorsement page now, those names aren’t listed. I wrote Living Waters for confirmation and will add any communication I receive.
I am not sure why someone would pull an endorsement but stay silent about it. Apparently, Francis Chan is taking this approach. Some of his endorsements are missing from the GFA website but he has declined to reply to multiple requests for comment on his position.
UPDATE: David Cooke, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Riverhead, NY has been pulled from the list of pastor endorsers (see Google cache).
 

Has Francis Chan Dropped His Endorsement of Gospel for Asia?

Francis Chan once was here but now is not.
Yesterday, he was there:
GFA Endorse Chan
Today, he isn’t:
GFA Endorse No Chan
He is also missing from this page as of this morning.
Chan’s recommendation is elsewhere on the GFA website, hence the question (Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing. It remains up here.). I have reached out to Chan on many occasions, including yesterday and today with no answer. It is possible that the overworked website staff at GFA haven’t been able to keep up and the other locations on GFA’s website will soon disappear.
Francis Chan’s video endorsement is now missing. His endorsement remains up here and here.
GFA Chan Page Not Found
Actually, this was a result of sneaking the endorsement off the page.

Former Staff at Gospel for Asia Speak Out About GFA's Response to ECFA

On October 2, the board of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability voted to terminate the membership of Gospel for Asia due to multiple violations of ECFA standards. This board action came after an ECFA investigation into GFA’s financial dealings, integrity and public statements. Yesterday, GFA responded to ECFA.
In that response, GFA leaders claimed they have corrected the problems found by ECFA but presented no specific actions they have taken. It is also not clear if the letter came from the GFA board or senior leaders (K.P. Yohannan, David Carroll, John Beers, and Danny Yohannan).
Today, two former GFA staff have responded to GFA.* I asked several former staff to comment about GFA’s statement. I wanted to know if the former leaders at the mission organization believed the statement was credible and/or represented a positive change.
Cody Carnine was formerly Co-Director of Development at GFA and managed the construction of the new headquarters. He was not impressed by GFA’s reply to ECFA. According to Carnine, the statement did not reflect a change of heart. He said:

Sponsors and donors have also been misled by GFA. But instead of apologizing and asking forgiveness from the ECFA and the supporting donor base of GFA, we get talking points and spin from GFA. Those that have sacrificially given and prayed for the work of GFA are entitled to straight answers. One way of doing this would be for GFA to release the detailed report from the ECFA showing in concrete example after example where GFA has not been in compliance with the basic Biblical principles of the ECFA for the last 30 plus years since the incorporation of Gospel For Asia. 

Carnine’s challenge to GFA is to release the results of ECFA’s investigation. It would be a helpful step for GFA to do this. I would add that an explanation of why the violations were allowed to occur should accompany the report. GFA went for months saying everything was fine. They criticized the former staff and disregarded my reporting. Now we learn that ECFA has come to similar conclusions. GFA has a lot of fences to mend and much to explain.
Travis Helm told me that his reaction is to be skeptical. Helm was a senior leader and Co-Director of Development with responsibility for church relations. Having left GFA several months ago, he doesn’t have trust in GFA’s senior leadership. Helm said,

GFA top leaders have betrayed the trust of the faithful and loyal service of me and my family as well as other former staff. It doesn’t stop there. The betrayal extends to the donors who have sacrificially given and prayed for years. The negative and damaging effects are real and for some the wounds may be chronic. Please stop the posturing and spiritually abusive behaviors. 

In the coming days, I call on GFA leaders (where is K.P. Yohannan?) to release the ECFA report and provide specific answers in response to multiple outstanding questions.
*More may be added to this post as staff respond on the record. Others have replied as well but did not want their name to be used.

Gospel for Asia Responds to ECFA but Fails to Address Troubling Questions

Earlier this evening, Gospel for Asia leadership posted a response to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability after the ECFA voted on October 2nd to terminate GFA’s membership.
The statement:

Our Response — ECFA

October 5, 2015

For more than 30 years, Gospel for Asia Inc. has been a member of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Gospel for Asia values and respects both the high standards of ECFA and the good advice they have given us.

This past year GFA had four extensive meetings with ECFA representatives about fiduciary matters. Although there were no findings of money missing, ECFA felt that some of our procedures and practices did not line up with their Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. GFA was grateful for ECFA’s input and put into practice every suggestion that was mentioned in these meetings. We were not always in agreement with ECFA’s conclusions, but were glad to continue in our relationship and make the adjustments that they advised.

Nevertheless, on October 2, 2015 the ECFA Board of Directors terminated our long-time membership. Although this is disappointing, Gospel for Asia accepts the decision with regret and sadness.

Our greatest concern is for our friends and donors who deserve an explanation as to why this cancellation happened. This will be given in due time through our regular communication channels. In the meantime, we thank our supporters for not jumping to conclusions until those explanations have been made and for continuing to cover us with their prayers.

The expansion of any organization is always filled with growth pains, and we look at these issues questioned by ECFA as a time to learn and grow, increasing our understanding in areas where we have been unintentionally negligent. While we will be working to improve our reporting of financial matters to donors, we will always be cautious about disclosing anything that may jeopardize the safety of ministry partners working in areas hostile to the Gospel. We continually look to the Lord for His wisdom and guidance in often complicated international financial and political environments. We believe that much of the conversation we have had with ECFA has indeed been part of the Lord showing us the way and how to walk in it. We are truly grateful for this part of our journey in learning how to better serve our Lord Jesus, our donors and sponsors, and our field partners as we go forward.

Gospel for Asia Leadership

Yes, GFA, your friends and donors deserve an explanation. Instead, GFA has again delayed and deflected donors with promises but no substance.

Essentially, GFA is claiming they did everything ECFA asked but ECFA dropped them anyway. Given that ECFA has no recent history of dropping organizations where leaders seek compliance after a period of non-compliance (e.g., Mars Hill Church), this is not a credible response and does nothing to inspire confidence in their stewardship.

World Magazine: Gospel for Asia Admits Some Lack of Disclosure; Hopes to Regain ECFA Membership

World magazine’s Warren Smith has an article out today which provides some additional information regarding the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s termination of Gospel for Asia’s ECFA membership.
According to Smith’s reporting, the lack of disclosure surrounding the $40+ million headquarters was key. As I first reported here, GFA failed to disclose the $19.8 million transfer of cash from Believers’ Church to help complete GFA’s new Wills Point, TX headquarters.  This cash was not reported as a related party transaction but as an anonymous donation. GFA’s leaders told staff that the organization would not borrow money for the construction but in fact did borrow money from a U.S. bank in 2014 and then took money which Believers’ Church borrowed from an undisclosed source in India.
GFA’s CFO David Carroll said ECFA changes had been made and hopes to regain membership. I will have more to say about this in coming posts.
According to World, Ministry Watch’s Rusty Leonard has advised donors to halt all donations to GFA due to the extent of the problems.
Look for another article on this news from Christianity Today. Spokespeople for the magazine disclosed via multiple channels that an article is coming.

Gospel for Asia Adds Board Members

According to a former staffer in a position to know, Gospel for Asia added Frances Chan (Crazy Love), David Mains (Chapel of the Air), and Damian Kyle (Calvary Chapel – Modesto) to their governing board.
The addition of these men makes GFA’s silence all the more troubling. It seems fair to call these men into accountability for the questions which GFA has refused to answer about their financial and other dealings.
These new members join founder and CEO K.P. Yohannan, his son Danny, his wife Gisela, Chuck Zink, Gayle Erwin, Robert Felder and Skip Heitzig as board members.