Gospel for Asia and Compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 3

In CEO and founder 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.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting one of the concerns each day. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.

Read the entire ECFA letter on GFA’s violations here.

From that letter, here is the third compliance issue:

3. Delay in sending funds to the field. It was not until the meeting on August 12 that we learned that $47,898,342, or approximately 82%, of gifts received by GFA in 2014 designated for India were not sent to the field until the last two days of the calendar year.

To be clear, nearly $50 million of gifts were raised from January to December, with only modest amounts sent to the field until the end of the year. ECFA staff expressed concern over failing to send gifts to the field on a timely basis, raising compliance issues under ECFA Standards 4, 7.1, and 7.2, particularly given the urgent nature of many GFA gift solicitations. Subsequent to this discovery, GFA staff indicated that field partners requested the delay of sending the funds to the field due to challenges in transmitting funds into India. ECFA could not confirm if the delay in transferring the funds was justified.

Based on ECFA’s review of GFA’s internal financial statements as of June 30, 2015, GFA had a cash balance of $28,338,841 in funds designated for foreign field partners, or more than the total of all funds received for the field in the first half of 2015. In other words, the practice of sending funds to the field on a significantly delayed basis was not only followed for 2014 but also during the first half of 2015.

GFA staff informed ECFA on August 12 that part of the cash balances held by GFA on June 30 were transferred to field partners during the month of July. On August 21, GFA staff indicated there is now a plan to send funds to field partners on the 15th of each month.

When ECFA staff asked if the board was apprised of the delays in transferring funds to the field, GFA staff indicated the board was informed of this fact because the board received periodic financial statements. However, the internal financial statements erroneously reflected field funds as a liability and as an expense immediately upon receiving the funds. Thus, it would have been very difficult for the board to learn of the delays in sending funds to the field because the interim financial statements indicated the funds had been sent to the field when they had not. Therefore, ECFA found no indication that the board had approved, or even been clearly informed of the questionable practice of delaying sending funds to the field.

One of the reasons former GFA board member Gayle Erwin resigned related to his realization that he was being kept in the dark about how funds were spent. In this case, funds were being held from the field. Even though GFA representatives urgently solicited donations, the funds were not sent until near the end of the year.

There was no problem in submitting funds to India. However, the field partner Believers Church (K.P. Yohannan is the head of that church as well as CEO of GFA) may not have liked the scrutiny of the Indian government. Spacing out donations might have been part of their plan to manage foreign contributions. However, it is still unclear to me why GFA held back so much money.

In any case, GFA raised millions and held it for several years all the while begging for funds. The next post will deal with that problem directly.

Next post: 4. The level of urgency communicated in GFA donor appeals contrasted with reserves held by foreign field partners and delays in sending funds to the field.

Gospel for Asia and Compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 2

In CEO and founder 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.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting one of the concerns each day. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.

Read the entire ECFA letter on GFA’s violations here.

From that letter, here is the second compliance issue:

2. Excessive cash balances held in partner field accounts. Allegations were made that GFA had upwards of $150 million in partner field accounts, far more than necessary to provide appropriate operating reserves. During our visit on June 3, ECFA was informed that GFA field partner cash reserves were approximately $7 million. After ECFA requested detailed documentation of cash balances held by foreign field offices, on June 29, we discovered that GFA’s field partners had $259,437,098 on hand at March 31, 2014 and approximately $186 million in June 2015.

ECFA staff questioned the appropriateness of the high levels of cash being held in partner field accounts. We were told that GFA partners felt it was important to maintain the high balances in case the Indian government decided to block funds being transferred into the country.

The source of the balances was primarily from donor-restricted gifts to GFA, often raised in response to gift solicitations that communicated urgent field needs (see #4 below). ECFA staff expressed concern that the high reserves may not comply with ECFA Standards 4 and 7.1. Subsequent to our conversation on this matter on July 27, GFA provided ECFA with a plan to reduce partner field account reserves to $72 Million, and then amended the plan on August 27 to reduce reserves down to $11 Million. Again, GFA staff disclaimed that GFA exercises any control over field partners (see #10 below).

In our meeting on July 1, ECFA staff asked you what the GFA board would think if they knew of the high balances in partner field accounts. You indicated that neither the board nor you were aware of the magnitude of the balances. You responded, “They would be as surprised as I am.” Subsequently, the GFA board was notified, during their July 13 board meeting, of the balances held by field partners.

In the Spring of 2014, GFA had a quarter of a billion dollars in accounts from donors. At the same time, GFA representatives, including K.P. Yohannan, begged donors for money, the organization was sitting on incredible wealth. In May 2015, I publicly asked why GFA was sitting on $158-million.  At that time, GFA leaders told the staff that only $7-million was available. As noted in yesterday’s post, much of that money was sitting in accounts earning interest and not helping widows and orphans.

In 2017, the government of India did block GFA from receiving foreign funds. However, several NGOs in India are still getting money from GFA in the U.S. although it is not clear where that money is being used.

Note that this point has nothing to do with GFA’s accounting firm or practices.

Next: 3. Delay in sending funds to the field.

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.

Compare Gospel for Asia’s Image with Reality

In 2019, Gospel for Asia is celebrating 40 years in business. This comes the same year GFA settled a fraud lawsuit (Murphy v. GFA) for $37-million. The settlement was just finalized with about 26,000 claimants seeking just over $109-million. Not everybody will get what they donated but this shows that donors weren’t happy.

On their Patheos blog, an unnamed staff member wrote a glowing vanity piece about GFA founder K.P. Yohannan. I would like readers to compare that piece with an email from David Carroll to Yohannan from 2015. This email came to light during discovery in Murphy v. GFA. At issue in the case was the use of donor funds. Plaintiffs Garland and Phyllis Murphy contended that GFA didn’t use all donor funds as donors intended. As a part of fund raising, GFA made representations that the funds were all going to mission work and were urgently needed. The discovery process pulled back the curtain on GFA’s claims and found that the reality wasn’t always what they claimed.

The narcissism in this article is obvious. The blog is GFA’s and the person writing it is an anonymous GFA staffer and yet readers are expected to take the following statements at face value:

They, and others like them, can look back and stand in awe of how an Almighty God has blessed their ministries abundantly and beyond imagination.

I know a man exactly like that. His name is Dr. K.P. Yohannan. He is one of the humblest and most dedicated men I have ever known. Forty years ago, he responded to God’s call to minister to the millions of people in Asia. Little did he know that in 2019 he would be able to look back at the remarkable things the Lord did over the past 40 years.

By any objective assessment, GFA has not had such a good record since 2014. The organization has been embroiled in scandal, membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was removed, they lost other symbols of financial integrity, they lost their registration as a charity in India, at least one of their schools in India closed due to financial problems, and they have to pay a $37-million settlement to donors. Yes, K.P. is a remarkable CEO.

Leaving aside the fact that GFA hasn’t had a great record of late, the picture presented is that GFA is taking all of that money using it to help the poor and needy. Since all of this is done for the Lord, surely there wouldn’t be any deception or double talk.

Now let’s pull back the curtain a bit.

In the fraud lawsuit, an email from Chief Operating Officer David Carroll to CEO K.P. Yohannan surfaced which presents a different picture. Here is the email. 

Sir, I need to share with you where I am over this situation. I will try to summarize for brevity sake. We have a saying in our country: The numbers don’t lie. The published FC-6 reports show westerners that we have either sent money to the field raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope to fund the hospital and the corpus fund, or our FC-6 filings are filed wrong. Either way, this is a huge problem. It appears to those reading these that we might have been dishonest to the donors (fraud), or been dishonest to the Indian government, (a PR nightmare at least). Sister Siny’s report below will, in my opinion, do little to satisfy those who are printing out and analyzing our FC-6 reports. I am sorry for not expressing more confidence than this. I think we may have used money raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope for the hospital.

I think that India feels that we raise money and send it. I think that India feels that we raised money and sent it to them and they can legally use it any way they deem fit. I hope that I am wrong, but I am doubtful. I also don’t think that it is an intentional wrong, but if I am correct, it is a huge wrong. We’ve spoken at hundreds of churches with tears asking for the National Ministries and Bridge of Hope support, and the FC-6 that is public says that we sent much of that money for the hospital and the reserve corpus funds.”

“It doesn’t matter that we have now moved the money out of the corpus fund because according to the public FC-6 reports, we have been building them up for years. Moving the money only serves to confirm the feelings of guilt to outsiders.”

“I think the only way for us to handle the inquiries raised by Bruce and others is to refer them to our Indian office. Mr. Throckmorton (unless a miracle happens) will get this information and may even begin an investigation of us. 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. Can the field find a way out of this situation? I too am very nervous. I have always believed in total accountability of the field, yet the FC-6 reports provide numbers that, as a former auditor, I cannot just explain away with a simple explanation. I, and the world, will need numerical proof now, and I do not have the ability to get it from the USA end. Only the field can explain it, and I am in the hot seat in this crisis and I feel a lot of pressure.

If I say, well, it is not my problem, it’s a field problem, it’s as good as saying we are guilty of misappropriation, If I say “The FC-6 reports are filed inaccurately on purpose, due to the hostile environments we work in, it gets the field in trouble and turns the attention to them. I get the feeling that, although we are not financially dishonest, we are financially reckless — the stockpiling of money in the RBC [Royal Bank of India] account
and then the hurried transferring of it to the field, the Hong Kong account, et cetera. Sir, may I please have my name taken off of the RBC account as soon as possible?”

There is much in this email which is inside baseball. One would need to follow this story closely to understand all of what Carroll is worried about. But note this: He is worried. He is worried because GFA was caught in misrepresentations and feared that Bruce Morrison from Canada and/or I would investigate the matter further to expose it all. And we did.

For the purpose of this post, I want to highlight one misrepresentation. K.P. Yohannan told people that he had nothing to do with finances in India, that he didn’t control anything financially there. However, here is what David Carroll said about that.

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.

Yohannan told the the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and his staff the story that he had no power over finances in India. However, in this email, David Carroll acknowledged that Yohannan’s story would “not hold up.” Click this link to hear the audio of the staff meeting in 2014 when he and Carroll told the staff about a $20-million gift from India which was used to complete the GFA headquarters in Wills Point, TX. The transcript can be read here.

Carroll could see there was a problem with donor funds going into a corpus fund (a kind of rainy day fund) and being spent on a medical center and other projects instead of on what donors intended. Yet, GFA was officially denying all of this. Eventually, the ECFA removed GFA from membership when these discrepancies could not be cleared up.

GFA still hasn’t admitted publicly that anything was ever wrong. They haven’t been readmitted to ECFA membership. They were sanctioned by a federal judge for delaying discovery during their fraud trial. There isn’t an indication that anything has changed. For all we know, reality is still much different from what they are presenting.

One aspect of the fraud case settlement which might serve to bring GFA into the light is the addition of two new board members to GFA’s board. Plaintiff Garland Murphy and an unnamed person will be added. Provided GFA honors the intent of the settlement, there may be some light at the end of this tunnel. For now, the public would do well to discern reality from image.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the Settlement Agreement

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Psalm 69:4)

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

(Psalm  62:8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel for Asia Class Action Suit Claims Process is Now Open

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

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

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

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

Importantly, the claim deadline is July 11, 2019.

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

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