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.

Plaintiffs in Gospel for Asia RICO Suit Move to Add Related Entities to Case

K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube
K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube

In the event they prevail in their RICO suit against Gospel for Asia, the plaintiffs want to add GFA’s numerous related entities to the list of defendants.  In a motion filed on October 4, Garland and Phyllis Murphy want the federal court to allow any judgment against GFA to apply to the many organizations around the world controlled by K.P. Yohannan and the GFA board.
 
According to the motion:

Discovery is far from complete, but the Murphys have learned of at least 76 entities (thus far) that may prove to be alter egos of named Defendants GFA, Inc., K.P. Yohannan, and/or family members and close associates of Yohannan. (p.1)

The attorneys for the plaintiffs want the court to consider applying any verdict favoring the plaintiffs to these related entities, also known as alter egos.

…the best course of action under these circumstances is to address alter ego issues only if the Murphys first obtain a judgment against the named Defendants.2 But because the case management order is silent except for the approaching deadline to add parties, the Murphys—for clarity and out of caution—now ask the Court to explicitly build an alter ego phase of trial after verdict into the case management order. (p. 1-2)

The request is designed to protect against GFA moving assets to a related entity which has not been named as a defendant in the case. Since K.P. Yohannan and family are on the boards of these related entities, it is plausible to think they might move assets away from GFA to shield them from a judgment.

Lawyers Deny Yohannan Controls Related Entities

In a related response from GFA’s attorney’s filed on October 6, the defense team again asserted that K.P. Yohannan does not have control of entities in India.

The Field Partners are separate legal entities with their own governing boards. They are not controlled by GFA-USA or K.P. Yohannan, and thus Defendants do not have the authority to simply order them to produce documents. This separateness is important in India. (p.4)

GFA has yet to produce any proof that K.P. Yohannan has relinquished his control of Believers’ Church or any of the entities under their umbrella. According to numerous Believers’ Church documents, Yohannan is the supreme authority over the church and has the final word in matters of temporal and ecclesiastical control. As late as 2015, court documents in India refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers Church.

Alter Egos Listed

In Exhibit A of the motion to add alter egos, seventy-six possible entities are listed. They are:

1. Believers Church – India
2. Gospel for Asia – India (n/k/a Ayana Charitable Trust)
3. Last Hour Ministry
4. Love India Ministries
5. Believers Church
6. Believers Church – Bangladesh
7. Believers Church – Myanmar
8. Believers Church – Nepal
9. Believers Church – Sri Lanka
10. Gospel for Asia – Bangladesh
11. Gospel for Asia – Nepal
12. Gospel for Asia – Myanmar
13. Gospel for Asia – Sri Lanka
14. Gospel for Asia – International
15. Gospel for Asia – United Kingdom
16. Gospel for Asia – Germany
17. Gospel for Asia – Canada (n/k/a GFA World)
18. Gospel for Asia – New Zealand
19. Gospel for Asia – Australia
20. Gospel for Asia – South Africa
21. Gospel for Asia – South Korea
22. Gospel for Asia – Finland
23. Gospel for Asia, Inc. (TX Corp)
24. Gospel for Asia 75 LLC
25. Gospel for Asia 275 LLC
26. Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship
27. Bridge Builders, LLC
28. Cup Of Blessing, LLC
29. Grace in Action, LLC
30. In His Steps, LLC
31. Peace Givers, LLC
32. Road to Peace, LLC
33. Shepherd’s Care, LLC
34. Teaching Skills, LLC
35. Unconditional Love, LLC
36. Unfailing Love, LLC
37. Voice of Love, LLC
38. Way of Hope, LLC
39. Little Hills (Canada)
40. The Blind See (Canada)
41. The Lame Walk (Canada)
42. Lift Up Their Voices (Canada)
43. Growth in Fraternity Trust
44. Shekina Prophetic Mission Trust
45. New Hope Foundation
46. Holy Spirit Ministries
47. Rehaboth Indian Gypsy New Life Trust
48. Arul Shelter Home Trust
49. NISSI
50. POET
51. Heavenly Grace Ministry
52. Bridge of Hope
53. Cheruvally Rubber Estate
54. Believers Church Theological Seminary
55. Believers Church Residential School
56. Believers Church Residential School Tiruvalla
57. Believers Church Vidya Jyothi English School
58. Believers Church Mahatma Public School, Chavara
59. Believers Church Mahatma Central School
60. Believers Church Mulamanna VHSS
61. Believers Church Residential School, Orissa
62. Believers Church Residential School, Allapuzha
63. Believers Church Holy Angels Public School
64. Believers Church Grace Garden Public School
65. Believers Church Medical College Hospital
66. Caarmel Engineering College
67. Athmeeya Yathra Media
68. Athmeeya Yathra Television
69. Athmeeya Yathra Radio
70. AY Broadcast Foundation
71. Believers Church Medical Centre, Purulia, West Bengal
72. Believers Church Medical Centre, Konni, Kerala
73. Asha Grih Children’s Homes
74. Dora Microfinance
75. Gospel For Asia Football (soccer) Club – Myanmar Premier League
76. St. Johannes International School Rajasthan

Despite Denials, Trust Documents Show K.P. Yohannan is Supreme Authority over Believers' Church

KP Head of Church
For over a year, I have been looking for the deed of the Believers’ Church trust. I wanted to find it because I felt sure that it would demonstrate that CEO and founder of Gospel for Asia K.P. Yohannan was on the board of Believers’ Church. Since Yohannan once claimed he didn’t sit on any controlling boards in India, I wanted the trust document to check on that claim. More recently, a lawyer defending Gospel for Asia against fraud charges also claimed Yohannan doesn’t sit on boards of GFA affiliated organizations in India.

Denials from the Supreme Authority and His Lawyer

First, Yohannan made the claim in May 2015 in a staff meeting:

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

In May of this year, attorney Robert Mowrey made the claim in an Arkansas federal court.

Here is the big issue, and it doesn’t really have to do with bifurcation, but I think that the Court should give us some guidance on this today. If you look at their case management plan, we could go through. They have four pages, and we’re going to produce most all the things that they have asked for, except the problem that we have, Mr. Stanley [attorney for people suing GFA] has mentioned over and over how K. P. Yohannan just controls everything. There are many — there are entities in India: The Believers Church, GFA-India. K. P. Yohannan is not on the board of those entities. Is he the metropolitan? Yes, he is the Metropolitan of Believers Church. Does that mean he has access to all of their records? No, it doesn’t.
Now, Mr. Stanley doesn’t believe that. Mr. Stanley thinks that whatever K. P. Yohannan wants, he can get; but we have no problem in producing everything we can with respect to the entities that he has sued. But when it comes to wholly separate entities in India, that’s where the rub is.

In past articles, I have produced ample evidence that Yohannan is on the GFA (now Ayana Charitable Trust) board, the Believers’ Church board, the Bridge of Hope board, and the board of at least a couple of his for profit schools. Yohannan is listed as owner on the deeds to property owned by the church. However, I lacked the trust document which established Believers’ Church in India. Now I have the original 1993 trust document and a trust deed updated in 2004 (click the links to read each one).  Point 10 leaves no doubt who is in charge in the Believers’ Church.
KP Head of Church
These documents show beyond any doubt that K.P. Yohannan is a founding trustee of Believers’ Church and that he remains in control of the business and religious operations. All of the NGOs operate under the umbrella of Believers’ Church and would provide documents for the court action in the U.S. if the Metropolitan Bishop ordered it so.
The list of GFA trustees in 2004.
GFA 2004 list of trustees
It is possible that another deed has been filed since 2004. However, if that is true, it should not be difficult for fellow Patheos blogger K.P. Yohannan to produce it. He is, after all, the “constitutional head” and “supreme authority of the Church” who holds “the final word on all matters whether concerning policies or theological beliefs and activities of the Church.”
 

Indian Government Halts Flow of Foreign Funds to Gospel for Asia

Pope KP2In a surprising development, the nation of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the registration of Gospel for Asia and three related organizations. According to the Times of India, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) was the largest recipient of foreign funds in the nation during fiscal year 2016. The other affiliated organizations which lost registration are Believers’ Church, Last Hour Ministry and Love India Ministry. Believers’ Church is the ecclesiastical arm of GFA in Asia.
In India for a charity to accept foreign funds, the charity must be registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The organizations affiliated with Gospel for Asia have traditionally been among the richest in India. In FY 2016, these charities pulled in $206.5-million from foreign donors, most of that from the United States.
Gospel for Asia is the target of two RICO lawsuits in the U.S.  Plaintiffs allege fraud and misuse of funds. At least one of these cases has been slated for trial in 2019. In October of 2015, GFA was evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for multiple violations of EFCA’s financial standards. GFA vowed to regain membership in the financial watchdog but has yet to satisfy ECFA requirements.
In 2016, GFA was sanctioned by the federal Office of Personnel Management for failing to abide program standards. As a consequence, the U.S. government banned GFA from accepting donations from federal employees during the annual workplace charitable fund drive.
In 2015, it was learned that GFA leaders asked student visitors to India to take U.S. dollars into India without reporting the funds to customs officials.
Below is the cancellation notice on India Ministry of Home Affairs website for Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly Gospel for Asia in India).
ayana FCRA cancelation
GFA does business in India under other organizational names that apparently have not been cancelled (e.g., New Hope Foundation, Holy Spirit Ministries) but most funds go to the four cancelled entities. In practice, the move might not immediately hurt Believers’ Church and GFA in India because the organization has hoarded so much cash over the past decade.

Church of South India Pulls Out of State Council of Churches Over Admission of Believers' Church

The Church of South India was a charter member of the Kerala Council of Churches in India. However, according to a news report in The Hindu, CSI has pulled out of the KCC in response to the admission of K.P. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church into the KCC.
The background of the move involves the insistence by the CSI that Yohannan (also the CEO of Gospel for Asia) was not consecrated officially as a bishop and has no authority as such.

The latest development has to be viewed in the backdrop of the controversy over the episcopacy claims of the Believers Church that its head, K.P. Yohannan, was consecrated by the CSI Church.
However, the CSI has outrightly rejected this claim of the Believers Church, saying that the former has never done such a thing at any point of time.
The CSI Moderator, Bishop Thomas K. Oommen, told The Hindu that the regional forum of the CSI Synod members had unanimously decided to disassociate with the KCC and its programmes.

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.

Yohannan and several bishops created the Believers’ Church due to the need to have a church in India to receive donations from abroad. However Yohannan claimed recognition from CSI when in fact the relationship is nonexistent according to CSI. The leaders of that denomination felt so strongly about it that they pulled out of the KCC to protest the recognition of Believers’ Church. To CSI, Yohannan is a lay person pretending to be a Bishop.

Gospel for Asia Tops India's List of Foreign Donation Recipients for FY 2016

Source TT Architects website
Source TT Architects website

A March 20 article in the Times of India puts focus on just how much money pours into India via the mega mission organization Gospel for Asia. A companion piece on Believers’ Church features K.P. Yohannan again saying he has no legal standing in any of his organizations. His own church Constitution seems to contradict this statement.
According to the ToI article, Ayana Charitable Trust (Gospel for Asia’s new name in India) took in $126,376,000 (Rs 8.26 billion). Much of that came from Ayana’s Hong Kong bank accounts. Because of this infusion of cash from their Hong Kong bank, it is hard to know the impact of GFA’s fall from respectability over the past year.
Believers’ Church recorded $128,824,000 in donations although $76.5 million came from “foreign funding from local sources.” While it is hard to know what this means in the case of Believers’ Church, presumably some of these funds are interest payments on the massive bank accounts owned by Believers’ Church. Since the Times article didn’t track all of the NGOs controlled by GFA, it is also possible that shell NGOs like Love India Ministries gave money to Believers’ Church which originally came from GFA in the U.S. or Canada.
Combining the two mega charities, Gospel for Asia’s Indian partners declared $255,200,000 in revenues for FY 2016 alone. According to the articles, all of the entities affiliated with GFA and Believers’ Church have $366,735,000 just sitting in bank accounts. GFA founder K.P. Yohannan boasts of the outreach conducted by his group. However, with the funds available to them, GFA could do significantly more than they do now.
Yohannan told the ToI that he does not head up any organizations.

When questioned whether he is personally heading these organizations, Yohannan said: “I don’t hold legal positions in any of them. We have in our church, councils and committees of 22 bishops that run these trusts.”

However, as I have reported before, Yohannan is the supreme authority over spiritual and temporal matters for Believers’ Church according to the church Constitution. He also heads the boards of at least some of the schools and the Bridge of Hope and is considered the benefactor of Believers’ Church Medical Center.
In October of 2015, GFA’s membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was revoked due to multiple infractions of ECFA’s financial standards.

Gospel for Asia's Believers' Church to Start Over 500 Schools; K.P. Yohannan St. Johannes?

This is an intriguing video posted today by Indian Narada News.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/xSz840lLg-8[/youtube]
If this video is what it seems to be, K.P. Yohannan’s India educational staff believe St. Johannes schools are named after Yohannan. While I am not aware of a formal induction into sainthood, Yohannan is the supreme authority in Believers’ Church.
The video establishes that Believers’ Church is working toward over 500 schools which will charge tuition. In some locations, the government requires some seats to be given to the poor. However, elsewhere schools are operated without charity as a goal.
American donors have for years been giving money thinking they were helping poor kids go to school. Some poor kids probably have gotten some education but much of that money has apparently gone into building a tuition generating dynasty for Yohannan’s church. GFA in the states still uses his book, Revolution in World Missions, which decries the use of mission money for schools and hospitals. It appears that donations are being solicited under false pretenses.
Things have been quiet here on the GFA front but this expose may bring renewed attention to the organization.
 

K.P. Yohannan Criticizes Social Programs in His First Book But Spends Millions on Them in India

Will the real K.P. Yohannan please stand up?
In his first book Revolution in World Missions, K.P. Yohannan (through ghostwriter Bill Bray) criticized social programs such as hospitals and schools. However, Yohannan has directed massive amounts of donor money to build and purchase hospitals and schools in India. In the book RWM, Yohannan claims:

One issue involved one of the most far-reaching policy decisions I ever would make. For some years I had suffered deep pain over what appeared to be massive imbalance between our busyness with maintaining Christian institutions, like hospitals and schools, and the proclamation of the Gospel. Both in India and in my travels around Western countries, I constantly uncovered a preoccupation with so-called “ministry” activities operated by Christian workers, financed by church monies, but with little else to distinguish them as Christian.
Far too much of the resources of North American missions is spent on things not related to the primary goal of church planting.(p. 104-105, 2015 edition)

In contrast, Yohannan controls a massive empire of for profit businesses on behalf of himself and the church he runs, Believers’ Church. Twelve schools are listed on The Believers’ Church website, including a medical college and an engineering school. The flagship healthcare institution is his Believers’ Church Medical College and Hospital in the state of Kerala. In recent years, much donor money appears to have gone into the building or purchase of these institutions without the knowledge of American donors.
K.P. Yohannan – Patron
On the Believers’ Church Medical College and Hospital and the Caarmel Engineering School websites, K.P. Yohannan is described as the patron of these institutions.
The engineering school website proclaims Yohannan’s leadership:

Believers Church Caarmel Engineering College, established in 2002, is a leading self-financing private co-educational institution under the Caarmel Educational Trust owned and managed by the Believers Church headquartered at Thiruvalla, Kerala. Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Metropolitan, Believers Church, is the Chairman and Patron of the College. Fr. C. B. Williams is the Manager and Dr. Paul A. J is the Principal of the College.

In contrast to Yohannan’s claim that he doesn’t sit on the boards of any of the trusts in India, he is described as the Chairman and Patron on the school website. The school appears to be quite elaborate with excellent facilities. You can take a virtual tour of the campus online (link).
caarmel engineering
The Medical College and Hospital are quite new with the medical college just opening this year. Again, Yohannan is described as the patron:

Believers Church Medical College Hospital is a healthcare project of Believers Church. The Church is dynamically involved in various nation-building social and educational projects, healthcare initiatives, charitable activities, community development programs, rehabilitation projects and relief works. Dr. K.P. Yohannan, Metropolitan of Believers Church is the patron of the hospital and Dr. George Chandy is leading the project.

The facilities are extraordinary.
BelChurch Hosp
In his RWM book, Yohannan decries such “nation building” programs as causing him “deep pain.” He spends several pages indicating that his ministry will not focus on “social concerns.”

Because of this teaching, many churches and mission societies now are redirecting their limited outreach funds and personnel away from evangelism to something vaguely called “social concern.” Today the majority of Christian missionaries find themselves primarily involved in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick through hospitals, housing the homeless or other kinds of relief and development work. In extreme cases, among nonevangelicals, the logical direction of this thinking can lead to organizing guerrilla forces, planting terrorist bombs or less extreme activities like sponsoring dance and aerobic exercise classes. This is done in the name of Jesus and supposedly is based on His command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. The mission of the Church, as defined by these humanists, can be almost anything except winning people to Christ and discipling them.
History already has taught us that this gospel—without the blood of Christ, conversion and the cross—is a total failure. In China and India we have had seven generations of this teaching, brought to us by the British missionaries in a slightly different form in the middle of the 19th-century. My people have watched the English hospitals and schools come and go without any noticeable effect on either our churches or society. (p. 109-110, 2015 edition)

 
I don’t know if GFA hosts dance and aerobics, but the group does sponsor a soccer team in Myanmar.
I have written before about GFA’s rubber plantation, but there are many more real estate holdings, according to Narada News in India. Then there is the matter of many tuition-funded residential schools which take in children of all faiths (e.g., the posh Believers Church Residential School).
In his book, Yohannan criticizes British missionaries but he has recreated the same infrastructure using donations from his affiliates around the world. Let me add that I personally have no problem with the work being done in these institutions. The problem is the deception of donors who read RWM and want to get behind a ministry which puts into practice what Yohannan preaches. For this and many reasons, donors should beware and be wise.

Plaintiffs File Response in Dicksons v. Gospel for Asia

Attorneys for Matthew and Jennifer Dickson filed responses (see below) to Gospel for Asia’s motions to dismiss and compel arbitration in the RICO lawsuit against leaders of GFA. According to the filing, the Dickson’s provided ample detail and a clear and compelling case against GFA. The response concluded:

Under a straightforward application of the pleading standards, the Court should find the Dicksons allege facts sufficient to support each of their claims. Their Complaint leaves no doubt as to the nature of their allegations, and it is nearly impossible to imagine that Defendants need even a shred of additional detail to prepare their defenses. Accepting the allegations as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the Dicksons’ favor, there is no question that all Defendants are liable for the misconduct the Dicksons allege under each of their four claims. The Court should therefore deny the motions to dismiss, and this case should proceed to discovery forthwith.

In response to GFA’s demand that the Dicksons enter arbitration, the plaintiffs said GFA’s demand was based on an invalid and unenforceable employment agreement. The plaintiffs concluded:

Defendants have entirely failed to carry their burden of proving the existence of a valid arbitration agreement. The arbitration language in the Statement lacks consideration and is helplessly vague. Moreover, the Statement is palpably irrelevant to the dispute the Dicksons have brought before the Court for redress: the deliberate misleading of tens of thousands of similiarly situated donors resulting in Defendants’ enrichment. Rather than allowing Defendants to evade responsibility for their conduct based on the happenstance of the Dicksons’ former and terminated status as “members” of GFA, the Court—following well-settled precedent—should deny Defendants’ motion in its entirety.

 
Documents:
Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Claims
Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration

Gospel for Asia Has Changed Some Promises To Admit They Can Spend Donations As They Want

In a mailing to donors asking for money for new church construction in India, Gospel for Asia has changed their promise about how funds are used.
On their website, GFA still promises that 100% of donations go to the “field” with nothing taken out for administrative costs.
GFA 100 percent 2016
However, in this new mailing, GFA tells donors:
GFA build a church 2016
I wonder how long the 100% promise will remain on the website. As of right now, the messages are contradictory. Website donors are still being misled. This new appeal appears to be how GFA has done business in the past. According to the ECFA, GFA has used donor money for purposes other than intended. This new mailing asks for money for churches (see the letter and enclosures), but the disclaimer tells the donor that the money may not go to build a church.
Given the documentation that GFA is using money in India to purchase land, schools, and medical centers for income production, donors should be aware that the money you hope goes to build a church may build a business instead.