Gospel for Asia Still Claims Membership in Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

In a mailing just received today, Gospel for Asia’s fund solicitation still carries the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability seal. The letter is dated October 15, which is nearly two weeks after the ECFA board voted to terminate GFA’s membership.
Here is the pledge card with the seal and “Enhancing Trust” slogan (click to see letter and other materials):
pledgecareoct15ECFA
 
Along with the ECFA charter member seal, the pledge card carries the meaningless ICA “Best in America” Seal.
According to the ECFA standards, this GFA mailing violates Standard 7.1 which relates to “Truthfulness in Communications.” According David Carroll, GFA’s COO, GFA will seek membership in the future. Continuing to violate a standard doesn’t seem like the best way to make a case for reinstatement.
By continuing to claim membership in the ECFA, GFA is in violation of ICA standards and the standards for qualification as a charity for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign.
The ICA requires truthful and non-deceptive fundraising materials (see the next to last bullet point in the image below):
ICA Standards
 
The Office of Personnel Management’s standards also require truthful materials.
CFC Rule Truth
 

ECFA Seal Remains on Gospel for Asia Correspondence

On the reply card provided in the October mailing of the Gospel for Asia newsletter Harvest, the ECFA seal is clearly displayed.
So GFA has removed many references to ECFA on their web pages (although not all of them), but doesn’t seem inclined to spend money to send out accurate print materials.
ECFA GFA Cards
GFA is getting the benefit of membership without paying the dues at this point.
 

Gospel for Asia's Christmas Catalog Displays ECFA Seal and 100% Pledge

I am aware that the Christmas catalogs were probably printed before the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability voted to terminate Gospel for Asia’s membership. I know it would been costly to reprint the catalogs. I also know that because GFA leaders decided to mail the catalogs with the ECFA seal, they have misrepresented the situation. Take a look:
gfa-catalog-ecfa
and the 100% pledge lives on…
gfa-gift-catalog-kp-ecfa
Guaranteed. I wonder if that is a money back guarantee.
We now know that administrative expenses are taken out in India. And we know that $19.8 million came back from “the field” to fund nearly half of the costs of construction of the new Wills Point, TX campus.
Based on my investigations last year, I am highly skeptical that GFA uses one person’s donation for a goat or chicken to buy an individual goat or chicken. It doesn’t work that way for World Vision, and I doubt it works that way for GFA (see my series on holiday animal buys – link, link).
What should GFA do now?
Clearly, the ECFA seal of membership gives the wrong impression and hides the fact that ECFA believes GFA has not honored donor intent in giving. A tax court in India has ruled in the same manner. If GFA doesn’t let catalog recipients know, chances are good that most won’t find out. GFA could send a letter to all on the mailing list alerting them to ECFA’s action to terminate membership. GFA leaders could defend the organization but at least donors would be informed. Will they do it?
How GFA leaders handle this problem will tell us something about GFA going forward.
 
 
 

Calvary Chapel of Oxnard Takes a Stand on Gospel for Asia

Earlier today Calvary Chapel of Oxnard (CA) posted the following notice on their public Facebook page:

Attention People of CCO: We will no longer be supporting Gospel for Asia (GFA) and we encourage you to prayerfully consider ending your support or their missionary sponsorship program & Bridges of Hope. EFCA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) has recently removed GFA due to serious issues of financial mismanagement and activity that removes them form what can be called “Evangelicalism.”
We’ve investigated the charges and spoken to someone high in GFA. The results of that indicated GFA is in serious trouble and is NOT an organization we can continue to support. Please know this isn’t reactionary or a lightly arrived at decision. The issue has been under review for several months.

Today, Christianity Today published an article with more detail about the ECFA action to terminate GFA’s membership. Also, more endorsements were removed from the GFA website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Response — ECFA

October 5, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel for Asia Leadership

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

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

Ministry Watch Alert: Donors Should Immediately Cease Donations to Gospel for Asia

Rusty Leonard at Ministry Watch today issued the following statement on his website (see also ECFA’s statement which is included below):

Gospel For Asia Expelled from ECFA – Donors Should Cease Donations
The self-regulatory body for Christian ministries, the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA) late Friday announced Gospel for Asia (GFA) had been expelled from the group for violating most of its Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship all members commit to uphold. Clearly, there has been extensive problems uncovered at the ministry as a result of an audit/review of GFA’s operations starting in June 2015 and concluding on October 2, 2015. GFA had been a founding member of the ECFA and thus a member for the past 36 years. DONORS TO GOSPEL FOR ASIA SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CEASE MAKING DONATIONS TO THE MINISTRY. While the ECFA did not disclose the exact nature of the violations, it is clear they are very serious. We encourage the ECFA to change its policy of not revealing the specifics of its findings in cases like this as donors who gave their hard earned money to the ministry deserve to know what happened.
Blogger Warren Throckmorton has been writing extensively about suspect actions at GFA for some time and deserves full credit for causing the ECFA to investigate GFA more closely. How the wide range of problems at GFA had escaped the ECFA’s notice over the years remains an open question. While the ECFA announcement failed to address any specific problems at GFA, in line with their usual practice, Throckmorton’s blog had raised concerns about finances and governance among other potential problems. Interested donors should visit Throckmorton’s blog to read his many posts regarding GFA at https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2015/10/04/what-termination-from-ecfa-means-for-gospel-for-asia/.
Here is the text of the ECFA’s brief announcement:
Statement from ECFA on Gospel for Asia
 On June 10, 2015, ECFA began formally reviewing member organization Gospel for Asia for compliance issues. The review concluded on Oct. 2, 2015 when ECFA’s board voted to terminate the organization’s membership for violation of the following standards: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.1 and 7.2. This ends Gospel for Asia’s 36-yearlong status as an ECFA member.
ECFA enhances public trust in Christian churches and ministries by establishing and applying Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ to review and accredit organizations. These standards are biblical and are fundamental to operating with integrity. ECFA uses a pass or fail concept in applying the standards rather than a rating system.
Rusty Leonard, CFA
Founder & CEO

What Termination from ECFA Means for Gospel for Asia

Word out of Wills Point, TX (GFA’s HQ) is that GFA’s leadership is hoping to find a friendly reporter to bring forth a puff piece which will minimize the importance of losing membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
That may be a hard sell.
In the past, GFA has relied on ECFA membership as a means of proving their financial integrity. To illustrate, consider these prior statements:


When GFA’s CFO David Carroll last wrote to me on May 7, 2015, he defended GFA by claiming that GFA adhered to ECFA’s guidelines:

Warren,
No, Gospel for Asia has not violated the law.
When you first contacted us, I mentioned that we would not be able to respond to every question you put before us. Now, with the increased volume and frequency of your questions, it has become clear that this back and forth has become a distraction from our mission work. For this reason, this will be my final response. We understand that you will continue to explore issues around Gospel for Asia and continue to be fed accusations from former employees, and we accept that.
We continue to remain accountable to all applicable laws and regulations, to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and to independent auditors.
Sincerely,
David

Apparently, ECFA now disagrees that GFA was accountable.
Prior to Friday, the GFA website proclaimed:
ECFAGuarantee
What does it say about GFA that the seal may no longer be displayed?
By the way, I don’t look for the other seal to be there much longer.
For all articles on Gospel for Asia, click here.

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Terminates Gospel for Asia's Membership

Just today the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability posted notice that they have terminated Gospel for Asia from ECFA membership due to failure to comply with multiple ECFA standards.  GFA was a charter member of the ECFA, having joined in 1982.
The reasons for termination are listed on the ECFA former member page:
ECFADropsGFA
This is a major development in this story and represents enforcement action one rarely sees from the ECFA.
GFA told Mark Woods at Christian Today that the ECFA review of GFA would be done sometime in October and that GFA would then answer all outstanding questions.
The lack of compliance involves the following ECFA standards:

Standard 2 – Governance

Every organization shall be governed by a responsible board of not less than five individuals, a majority of whom shall be independent, who shall meet at least semiannually to establish policy and review its accomplishments.

VIEW COMMENTARY

Standard 3 – Financial Oversight

Every organization shall prepare complete and accurate financial statements. The board or a committee consisting of a majority of independent members shall approve the engagement of an independent certified public accountant, review the annual financial statements, and maintain appropriate communication with the independent certified public accountant. The board shall be apprised of any material weaknesses in internal control or other significant risks.

VIEW COMMENTARY

Standard 4 – Use of Resources and Compliance with Laws

Every organization shall exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the organization’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations, such conformity taking into account biblical mandates.

VIEW COMMENTARY

Standard 7 – Stewardship of Charitable Gifts
7.1 Truthfulness in Communications
In securing charitable gifts, all representations of fact, descriptions of the financial condition of the organization, or narratives about events must be current, complete, and accurate. References to past activities or events must be appropriately dated. There must be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact, use of misleading photographs, or any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.
VIEW COMMENTARY
7.2 Giver Expectations and Intent
Statements made about the use of gifts by an organization in its charitable gift appeals must be honored. A giver’s intent relates both to what was communicated in the appeal and to any instructions accompanying the gift, if accepted by the organization. Appeals for charitable gifts must not create unrealistic expectations of what a gift will actually accomplish.
VIEW COMMENTARY

I am surprised that Standard 5 was not also mentioned since GFA has not produced an audited financial statement for 2014.
Additional Information:
GFA’s charter member profile on ECFA’s website (Google cache)
GFA’s characterization of the meaning of ECFA membership (Google cache):

The ECFA seal is tangible evidence to donors that a ministry is complying with the highest standards of Christian ethics in its governance, fundraising and financial accounting and reporting.