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.

Gospel for Asia Asks Donors to Give Back Settlement Money

After settling the $37-million fraud lawsuit with new board member Garland Murphy, Gospel for Asia now wants donors to regift their settlement funds back to Gospel for Asia. According to an appeal letter sent to me by a former donor, GFA is spending promotional money in an attempt to recapture their losses. Take a look:

This isn’t the first time GFA has attempted to collect these funds from former donors.

Where are the audits?

In the first image above, GFA boasts about their clean annual audits. Prospective donors should know that GFA refuses to release those audits to the public. One of the initial red flags about GFA came from the last publicly available audit. In that audit, GFA said the nearly $20-million to complete their Wills Point, TX headquarters in 2013 came from an anonymous donor.  However, now we know that those funds actually came from donor funds given to Believers’ Church in India as a related party transaction. GFA acknowledged this to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability which was one of the reasons for GFA’s expulsion from that group.

Since that time, GFA has kept their audits in house. Why should we believe them? GFA told the world the 2012-2013 audit was clean and accurate. Trust has to be earned and GFA has not shown any ability to step into the light. They do not answer questions about these audits, their loss of charity registration in India or their practices in Believers’ Church. It long past time for GFA to address these issues for the sake of the mission they claim to uphold.

 

Gospel for Asia Issues Takedown Notice for Video of K.P. Yohannan and Francis Chan

I was informed by YouTube on August 31 that Gospel for Asia issued a takedown notice to my YouTube account for a video clip of K.P. Yohannan and Francis Chan discussing Believers’ Church.

Due to a copyright takedown notice that we received, we had to take down your video from YouTube:

Video title: K.P. Yohannan and Francis Chan discuss Believers Church customs
Video url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVbGMDcP1Sw
Takedown issued by: Gospel for Asia

That seems odd since the clip was K.P. Yohannan and Francis Chan talking. However, maybe they didn’t want to make it easy for readers to see just the part where they discuss Believers’ Church customs. Well, readers are resourceful, they can still find out things from this post:

Some Questions for Francis Chan, K.P. Yohannan, & Gospel for Asia about Believers Church and Ring Kissing

In that post, I showed this picture and asked why K.P. Yohannan said that people didn’t kiss his ring when it sure seems like that is what is happening in this picture.

And then even though I don’t have the video clip posted on my YouTube account any more, K.P. Yohannan has it posted on YouTube and I can embed it at just the location in the video where Francis Chan asks him about people kissing his ring. Watch:

Now you could watch the whole rest of the video or stop at about 8:50 if you want to just get the two claims I wrote about. In this video, K.P. Yohannan says there isn’t a ring kissing practice and he says he isn’t any more powerful than the other 30 bishops in Believers’ Church.

I invite you to click the link to the article below to see evidence counter to those claims.

Some Questions for Francis Chan, K.P. Yohannan, & Gospel for Asia about Believers Church and Ring Kissing

For the record, I believe my use was fair use but because Gospel for Asia seems to have a lot of money to spend on lawyers, I am concerned that they might sue me just for sport. And because GFA has the same material embedded at YouTube, you can still compare what the Metropolitan said to what the Constitution of his church says and what your own eyes tell you in this video.

Some Questions for Francis Chan, K.P. Yohannan, & Gospel for Asia about Believers Church and Ring Kissing

Francis Chan and K.P. Yohannan are out with press releases and a video conversation designed to rehabilitate Gospel for Asia’s reputation. Francis Chan is investing his substantial reputation in this effort and I hope it is worth it to him. The men are hoping to convince donors that it is safe to trust Gospel for Asia now that the mission giant has settled a fraud lawsuit with Garland and Phyllis Murphy.

In the Chan-Yohannan conversation, several questions are raised which demand answers if they expect to be trusted. In this post, I will take two issues which pertain to K.P. Yohannan’s (or as he is known in the Believers Eastern Church “Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan“) status as Metropolitan of the Believers Eastern Church in India. First, here is the segment of the video where he claims he is equal to the other bishops, and that nobody kisses his ring.*

Yohannan and His Power

Yohannan says “I have no greater power than the 30 other bishops.” I have questions for Chan and Yohannan about that statement.

According to the Believers Church constitution (see also chapter three), the Metropolitan is the “final authority” on all matters ecclesiastical and temporal.  Yohannan serves until he wants to leave and is the head of all bodies in the church. He can’t be removed. None of the other 30 bishops have that kind of power. The Metropolitan can appoint and disband committees and clergies, consecrate Bishops, and when he decides there is not a consensus of bishops he can exercise his “discretionary power.” No one else can do that.

According to the Constitution, the Metropolitan also is co-owner with Believers Church of all property maintained by the church. From Chapter three:

In 2005, local church pastors were reminded to register property in Yohannan’s name. This letter was sent to make sure they did it according to church policy.

And then finally, there is the 2015 email from former GFA Chief Operating Officer David Carroll to K.P. Yohannan which asked Yohannan how he could explain Yohannan’s claim not to be in charge of things in India. Click here to read a transcript of the email which came to light as a part of discovery in the Murphy v. GFA case. The relevant segment is when Carroll wrote to Yohannan:

We can say all we want that we don’t have anything to do with the Believers Church or the field and that you are only the spiritual head of the church and that finances are handled by others but you, but as a practical matter, that will not hold up.

As many former staff members and at least one former board member (Gayle Erwin) acknowledge, K.P. Yohannan has much more power than the other 30 bishops. Now, Metropolitan and Rev. Chan could you please explain why these documents tell a different story than you all told on the video?

Ring Kissing

Yohannan told Chan, “We do not have a practice of people kissing my ring.” Then what is this from K.P. Yohannan’s birthday video:

Yohannan wears his Metropolitan ring on his right hand.

Now review this video of an ordination ceremony. One can’t see lips to ring but it doesn’t really look like a hand to the forehead either. It appears to me that the priests are kissing his right hand.

While these matters are not as large as where millions of dollars went (see David Carroll’s email for more about that), they do make me question credibility. Chan and Yohannan want the public to believe every word they say. However, here is direct evidence my eyes can see which contradicts what they are telling me on this new video. What am I supposed to believe?

Since 2015, I have repeatedly asked GFA for answers to these kind of questions. I have asked them why K.P. Yohannan’s name is all over legal documents in India and why the Believers Church constitution says he is the supreme authority when at the same time. he tells American audiences that he isn’t. I have gotten no answers. Sorry Rev. Chan and Metro Yohannan unless you provide some answers that make sense, I will believe my eyes.

*On September 2, 2019, YouTube issued a take down notice of my fair use video clip of Yohannan’s and Chan’s conversation. Although I believe the clip was fair use of that material for the purpose of commentary, I am not going to fight it at this point because I can simply embed their YouTube version which starts at the point in the conversation where they discuss Yohannan’s role in The Believers’ Church.

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.

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.

Gospel for Asia Again Fails to Produce Promised Evidence

In February 2016, it was learned that Gospel for Asia was removed from membership in the National Religious Broadcasters. NRB membership requires members to demonstrate good financial oversight and GFA had been evicted from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in October of 2015. Thus, GFA was removed from NRB. In response, GFA spokesperson Johnnie Moore told the Christian Post:

Gospel for Asia is 100% focused on continuing its work around the world while working very hard to put an end to the false accusations being continually made against the ministry. Gospel for Asia can document the legal and ethical use of funds donated and clearly answer every question.

GFA’s leaders and spokespersons have repeatedly said they want to provide the information which will establish their innocence. Why haven’t they done so?
Over 2.5 years later, GFA’s leaders still are unable or unwilling to produce materials which could prove donated funds were spent as promised. In the federal fraud case brought by Garland and Phyllis Murphy, GFA’s lawyers recently filed a motion (October 6, 2017) to prevent discovery of the very information GFA’s leaders said in 2016 they wanted to reveal.
In the Murphy’s reply of October 16, 2017, attorney Marc Stanley asked the federal judge to require GFA to supply information which would establish whether or not donations went where GFA promised they would go. Murphy wrote:

In sum, there should be no further obstacles between whatever the truth is, and the parties and the Court. If the requests for admission will establish that Defendants do not have the evidence of how the donated funds were spent, Defendants should simply admit that. If they will establish that Defendants have such evidence, Defendants should furnish it. Deflections, inaccurate representations, and obfuscation will not substitute for the simple truth the Murphys have been attempting to discover.

The promises from GFA have not been kept. The Murphy motion lays out the promise with the failure to keep it. It seems obvious that GFA eitherPope KP2 doesn’t have the information to answer the charges or is withholding it. Since K.P. Yohannan controls both GFA in the U.S. and Believers’ Church in India, I believe the latter explanation is most likely.
From the motion to order GFA to produce evidence or declare they don’t have it:

The Court then specifically asked Defendants’ counsel about how the money is tracked:
THE COURT: All right. Mr. Mowrey, you apparently—your clients apparently track donations received by these different categories. Help me
understand the methods that they use to track their disbursements or their expenditures by purpose.
MR. MOWREY: All right, your Honor. Yes, and I will answer that question.
Transcript [Doc. 37] 18:25-19:4.
But the question was never answered. And, with the benefit of two weeks from the time of the conference to submit a written response, Defendants have come no closer to furnishing an answer. All of the verbiage in their response says nothing remotely definitive or clear about how they track expenditures by purpose, much less whether they have such evidence (or, if so, when they will produce it). Either Defendants have the information or they don’t—only they know the truth. If they don’t, they should simply say so.
As Your Honor observed in addressing Defendants’ counsel:
THE COURT: They have a right to acquire it independently; and to the extent that you don’t have the documentation and you do not control in any manner production of documents that have been requested, then I get it. You may not be in a position to provide documents that you don’t have access or control over; but if that’s the case, that’s your response.
Transcript [Doc. 37] 28:15-21.
Instead of giving that response—which the requests for admission would elicit— Defendants insinuate in their brief that they may now attempt to reconstruct some type of accounting from information they (maybe) receive from entities they (supposedly) do not control. But that is not relevant to whether Defendants in fact discharged their obligation to track the donated funds over the last several years (at least through the agreed-upon discovery period of 2009 to Q1 of 2016) and ensure that they were spent as donors designated.
In addressing the Court at the telephone conference, Defendants’ counsel reaffirmed (at least indirectly) that they can corroborate or verify how the donated funds were actually spent:
THE COURT: You’re describing for me somewhat of a shell game inasmuch as if a donor were ever to say, “How can I know that the money that I designated for ministry tools actually went to ministry tools,” and you’re saying, “Well, we can’t prove that. You’d have to ask the people that we gave it to,” who, by the way, are foreign companies or foreign entities or foreign individuals.
So if that’s what the response is, then are you telling me that there is no accounting or accountability mechanism from the people that you forward money to in Asia to corroborate or verify that they are spending the money in accordance with your donors’ intentions?
MR. MOWREY: No, your Honor, I’m not saying that….
Transcript [Doc. 37] 22:2-15.
But Defendants’ response sheds no light at all on what the mechanism is. It obliquely says that more documents may be coming (who knows when), but it also says that “the situation in the Field is complex,” suggesting otherwise. Interestingly, the main “complexity” Defendants cite is “to ensure that the Field partners’ FCRA status is not jeopardized.” Response [Doc. 39] at 6. (“FCRA” is the Indian law requiring registration of entities that receive foreign donations.).
Yet, on the very day Defendants filed their response, The Times of India reported: “The Believers Church, founded by K P Yohannan, and three NGOs associated with it have been barred from bringing in foreign funds to India with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cancelling their FCRA registrations.”
The Times of India report also quotes Believers Church spokesperson Fr. Sijo Panthapallil: “Our FCRA registrations are under revision for the last one year. They had sent us a letter asking for documents and we have submitted the required documents.” Fr Panthapallil said they had submitted a huge cache of documents, weighing 60kg, to MHA two months ago. “Then they demanded four further documents, which we had submitted on September 4, 2017,” he said. Might the 132 pounds of already-compiled documents (plus four further ones) sitting in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs have any bearing on what happened to the donated funds? Or are they all completely irrelevant? Whatever the truth is, only Defendants know, but at least obtaining answers to questions like this won’t jeopardize the Field partners’ FCRA status, as the MHA had already suspended it.
In sum, there should be no further obstacles between whatever the truth is, and the parties and the Court. If the requests for admission will establish that Defendants do not have the evidence of how the donated funds were spent, Defendants should simply admit that. If they will establish that Defendants have such evidence, Defendants should furnish it. Deflections, inaccurate representations, and obfuscation will not substitute for the simple truth the Murphys have been attempting to discover.

For years GFA has promised the public to clear up the allegations of fraud and yet they don’t produce even an audited financial statement. Meanwhile donor dollars continue to be plowed into legal and public relations maneuvers to keep the evidence from seeing the light of day.

Why Hasn’t Gospel for Asia Told Donors about Cancelation of Charity Registration in India?

At the beginning of October, The Times of India reported that the Indian government canceled the charity registration of Believers’ Church. BC is the field partner of Gospel for Asia in the United States. GFA is the second largest missionary organization in the U.S.

According to the report in The Times of India, Believers’ Church acknowledged that the church was not bringing in foreign funds.

Fr Sijo Panthapallil, spokesperson of Believers Church, told ToI over phone from Delhi: We are not bringing foreign funds, as there is a standing re vision order [on the FCRA registrations, normally given for a five-year period and then renewed thereafter.]”

If BC (along with Gospel for Asia –now known as Ayana Charitable Trust — and other related trusts) is bring money into the country, then why hasn’t GFA alerted international donors? There is no assurance that funds now being given for India will get there. And yet, GFA continues to raise money as if those funds are all going to “the field.” The image below is from GFA’s website.
GFA Sponsor Missionary
I searched throughout the GFA website but found nothing about the cancellation of GFA’s registration on the field. Perhaps GFA is sending the money to other Asian countries or other obscure affiliated charities. However, donors should know what is happening.

Why Not Tell Donors?

Currently, GFA is being sued by two couples in separate fraud cases in part because the donors believe their funds were not dispersed as they intended. It seems to me that GFA is setting themselves up for more such accusations by not telling donors that the funds for Indian missionaries, Indian children sponsored through Bridge of Hope, and other India-specific donations have been restricted from India.

In contrast to GFA’s silence, Compassion International has been quite vocal about the fact that the organization’s registration in India was .removed. For CI, the blow isn’t as dramatic since their operations are worldwide. However, most of GFA’s work in in India and their founder, K.P. Yohannan is a native of the Indian state of Kerala.

Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.
Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.

CI has offered donors the option to sponsor children in other nations and has been up front about it. GFA, on the other hand, has done nothing to alert donors who continue to give as if their funds are allowed to go into India. Compassion and GFA were registered under the same Ministry of Home Affairs and the removal of that registration has the same implications. Compassion is being candid and transparent; GFA is not.

Church of South India Sued by K.P. Yohannan and Believers' Church

Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.
Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.

In a shocking move, the Believers’ Church in India led by their Metropolitan bishop K.P. Yohannan has sued the Church of South India for defamation. According to Christian Today, the Church of South of India, affiliated with the Anglican Communion, doesn’t recognize Yohannan as a bishop. Recently, the CSI publicly said the church only sees Yohannan as a layman and not a bishop. For that reason the CSI pulled out of the National Council of Churches in India.
The CSI has never recognized Believers’ Church which has been a source of conflict among Indian Christians. Believers’ Church has now accused CSI of defamation.
This lawsuit comes just days after Believers’ Church and three other affiliated charities were stripped of their government registration to receive foreign funds. This means they are no longer able to accept foreign funds for their charitable work in India. They continue to operate on the funds raised in India.
The aggressive action by Believers’ Church comes as former donors have filed two fraud and corruption lawsuits against Gospel for Asia, the U.S. sister organization. Both groups were founded by K.P. Yohannan.

Implications for Gospel for Asia Donors

Donors should be aware that the two major organizations run by K.P. Yohannan — Gospel for Asia and Believers’ Church — are now engaged in funding three lawsuits. This means that donor funds will be used to either fund legal action or to subsidize other activities while other funds are used to pay attorneys.

Believers’ Church Seeks to Silence the Largest Protestant Church in India

It is mind blowing that Believers’ Church has willingly sued the largest Protestant church in India for exercising religious liberty.  The CSI believes K.P. Yohannan isn’t a bishop. That is within the right of the CSI to administer those offices as they believe is right. The Believers’ Church lawsuit sets a dangerous precedent. Will Hindus now sue Believers’ Church for suggesting that Christianity saves and Hinduism doesn’t? A church suing another church over speech is scandalous and should be widely condemned.

Federal Court Rejects Gospel for Asia's Motion for a Stay; New Plaintiffs Request to Join Suit

On Wednesday, the Western Arkansas federal district court rejected Gospel for Asia’s request for a stay of trial proceedings while an appeals court considers GFA’s motion to dismiss the case. This will allow the case to proceed to discovery and trial.
Read the judge’s order at the link below. Some best hits from the order:

The only foreseeable “harm” of discovery in this forum is that it might reveal that Defendants have, in fact, committed fraud against Plaintiffs and the purported class. This is not the kind of harm a stay is intended to prevent.
Because this Court has no control over appellate dockets or calendars, the risk of harm a stay poses to Plaintiffs and putative class members is substantial.
The public interest weighs heavily against staying this matter. It is certainly the case that the Federal Arbitration Act’s liberal preference for arbitration would favor a stay if Defendants were more likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal. However, the gravity of Plaintiffs’ allegations—that between 2003 and 2014, Defendants fraudulently solicited $700,000,000 in donations from putative class members, and that Defendants continue to fraudulently solicit such donations—and the publicity generated by those allegations give rise to a strong public interest in resolving the merits of this dispute.

In another development, another donor couple have requested to join the suit against GFA.

Motion to Intervene as Plaintiffs
Plaintiffs Matthew Dickson and Jennifer Dickson and proposed Plaintiffs-Intervenors Garland D. Murphy, III, M.D. and Phyllis A. Murphy (residents of this jurisdiction) respectfully request the Court to grant the Murphys permission to intervene as Plaintiffs and proposed class representatives, and to file the proposed amended complaint attached hereto as Exhibit A.

The Murphys donated to GFA but were never employees of GFA.
Motion to Intervene as Plaintiffs
Order on Motion to Stay