Each year registered charities in India are required by law to disclose how they spend foreign contributions. Out of curiosity, I examined Gospel for Asia’s FC-6 report for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2014 (most recent data available). Below is a chart that combines the money spent from contributions from GFA (U.S., Germany, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) in U.S. dollars to GFA-India, Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries.* GFA also sends funds to affiliates in Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. According to GFA’s financial statement ending in 2013, India receives 96% of the contributions from the U.S.
The largest expense is construction and administration of Believers’ Church Medical College Hospital. According the hospital website, “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.”
About $1.9 million for the BCMCH came from GFA affiliates in Germany, Australia, and the UK, with the rest coming from GFA in the U.S.
If one includes the hospital, two-thirds of the funds — just over $35 million — are spent on support for ministries of Believers’ Church in India. At least one pastor recently announced that he gave up his support for GFA because he learned that he was really supporting a church he didn’t feel comfortable supporting.
A prominent expense is for welfare of children which includes school fees, food, and funding for the Bridge of Hope program. According to GFA’s most recent financial statement, they claim that 60,000 children are enrolled in the BoH program.
That works out to only $105 per child per year.
According to the forms filed with the Indian government, there is a combined balance of just over $23.5 million designated for “welfare of children” sitting in GFA-related accounts. I cannot understand why so much money is sitting in accounts when GFA claims the need is so great (and I have no reason to doubt that the need is great).
GFA promises that “Gospel for Asia sends 100 percent of the money you donate for work on the mission field to the field. Nothing is taken out for administrative expenses.” While that may be true for those working in administration in the U.S., it is not true for GFA, Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries, and Last Hour Ministries.
As I noted in a prior post, GFA has stopped replying to my questions. However, I extend an ongoing invitation to correct anything I write which they believe to be incorrect. There is a link in the footnote below if readers want to check these figures, and I am open to any additional evidence.
Been meaning to try this for awhile so here goes…
I am going to put up five songs I like and then in the comments, suggest five songs you like. As we get time through the weekend, let’s listen and enjoy them. It would be best to just put the title, artist and a link to the song, rather than post five videos. I am posting the videos but I would prefer you post links to save space.
In a recent staff meeting (May 14, 2015), Gospel for Asia leaders told staff that they had $7 million in cash balance in India. Responding to a question from a staffer about why GFA is sitting on so much cash in India, COO David Carroll answered:
That account will tend to build up over the year, it will ebb and it will flow and it will go down as money is spent. Currently, is there 94 million dollars in there or someone asked is there $150 million dollar fund on the field? No, currently the balances from what I understand from India are around 7 million dollars in that particular, those particular accounts. The reason that they are there is because we have to report all foreign contributions that come in. Money will swell and as we spend the money the money will go. We cannot spend the money until we can spend it on the project for which it was designated.
This puzzled me because it seems to contradict the financial contribution reports filed with the Indian government every year. Something isn’t adding up when one compares Carroll’s information to what is filed with the Indian government. According to the most recent report showing GFA’s use of foreign contributions for the Indian fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, GFA alone had $54,929,800 listed as a cash balance. If you include the other entities that receive money from U.S. based GFA controlled limited liability corporations, the balance swells to $158,165,400.*
GFA and Believers’ Church both receive money from several LLCs with Texas addresses (e.g., see this list). Two other groups do as well: Last Hour Ministry, and Love India Ministry. The image below shows the cash balances for each of those organizations in India. These numbers do not include U.S. operations, which are likewise substantial.
Carroll is correct that funds designated for a particular purpose cannot be used for another purpose and so if GFA receives a lot of money for something that is not needed on the field, then they have to wait until they need it to spend it. The report filed with the Indian government provides a reasonable amount of detail about where funds have been and are designated to be spent (see the entire report here). See below:
Note the red boxes on the right side of this chart. The cash balance GFA reported to the Indian government was (in rupees) 3,288,264,488.79. Using the exchange rate on March 31, 2014, this converts to $54, 929,800. Similar calculations led to the image above showing over $150 million. Also note that the previous balance was (in rupees) 2,984251885.50. At the March 31, 2013 exchange rate, that converts to $54,601,600 as a cash balance in 2013.
Donors might have a lot of questions after reviewing this information. For instance, what is a Corpus Fund, and why was $21,512,100 sitting in it as of March 31, 2014? It doesn’t appear that any foreign funds were spent on welfare of widows and orphans. There may be perfectly good explanations for all of the questions raised by these reports. However, given GFA’s promises, the massive amounts of money involved, and the other issuesidentified of late, there is no reason the public and staff shouldn’t ask.
To explore these reports, go to the foreign contributions portal, and then click on the years of interest. All data are not available for 2014-2015 as yet, so click 2013-2014 for the most recent data. Then also click on “Kerala” for the state and hit submit. There you will see all of the charities operating in Kerala. Find Gospel for Asia, Believers’ Church, Love India Ministry, and Last Hour Ministry. Historical exchange rates can be found here.
In one of my early communications with Gospel for Asia’s COO David Carroll I asked:
Can you confirm that the reason GFA organizes as an episcopal type church is related to Indian law. I have been told that Indian law requires GFA to register as a church and assume a governance structure similar to the officially recognized Catholic Church and the United Church of India. That means an episcopal structure (with bishops, etc.) is required. Thus KP Yohannan is officially the Metropolitan (archbishop) of the Believers Church. Is this why allegiance to KP Yohannan and kissing his ring is involved?
In regard to Gospel for Asia’s structure, while we are thoroughly evangelical, our organization and church structure is specific and unique to the areas where we work most heavily. Additionally, K.P. Yohannan’s title is understood in the countries where we work to refer to the senior leader of the organization. In regard to your question about kissing K.P.’s ring, I haven’t seen it, nor am I aware, that it has ever happened.
On ring kissing, David Carroll needs to see this video: [youtube]https://youtu.be/rfHoh6xMEkM[/youtube]
The man seated is K.P. Yohannan and the men coming forward are being ordained into the Believers’ Church. They very clearly are kissing Yohannan’s hand, and at times, it seems clear that they are kissing his ring.
The allegations that GFA and Believers’ Church have evolved from an evangelical ministry to a self-contained episcopal type denomination have dogged GFA for about a decade. This video was taken at an ordination service. According to my source, the service took place in 2009 in India at one of the Believers’ Church seminaries.
One former leader in India told me that the pastors were taught several years ago to kiss Yohannan’s ring, which has the Believers’ Church emblem on it. However, many felt awkward with practice and the leaders revised the ritual to include bowing low before Yohannan before he touched a person’s forehead with his signet ring. In any case, these rituals seem to place significant emphasis on allegiance to the Metropolitan.
As recently as April of this year, Yohannan denied remembering it. In a staff meeting, in response to a question about it, Yohannan said:
Did anybody ever kiss my hand or my ring? In memory I cannot ever recall I allowed it to happen or if they did it. Because we never teach it. We never promote it. That is not our doctrine, I am not a god, anything, but if people who talk about it and say this, they saw it, what can I do.
What have I done to you or to anyone here to promote me? When I took the ring on my hand, as God Almighty my witness, I was going to a death chamber. I never asked anyone to kiss my ring, I never allowed it to happen. We never teach it, we never promote it.
The audio is hard to make out but the first quote above is first on the audio followed by the second quote.
Of course, none of this means that Gospel for Asia is ineffective in ministry to the poor or in service to others. However, the practice of structuring cash transfers to India in ways which evade detection by customs officials and now the double talk on their ecclesiastical practices raises many questions about the organization’s other claims. GFA has asked for and received a significant exception to financial reporting requirements from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Prominent pastors like Francis Chan claim that GFA’s practices are clean. However, perhaps GFA should respond to these recent concerns with increased transparency rather than silence as they have in the past two weeks.
Tony Evans raised eyebrows several weeks ago when he said the African-American family was “a lot stronger” during slavery than now. He later issued a statement saying “slavery was “ungodly, unrighteous, and unbiblical.” However, he maintained that Black families today have “lost some of our unity” in contrast to Black unity during slavery. While we disagree about the stronger slave family, I appreciated Evans’ efforts to address his earlier remarks.
Evans had other things to say in that Dallas Theological Seminary interview. Although I appreciated the fact that the conversation was happening at all, I have to take issue with something else that Evans taught in the interview. Talking about African-Americans adapting to “the White world,” Evans said:
It’s not an equitable adaption because it’s not the same situation. And so that’s just a reality. Now you can fight about it but that’s the way it is. And since that’s the way it is we need to learn spiritual truth that enables us to do that and not fight against that reality. That becomes a growth opportunity for both sides.
With this quote and in the rest of this segment, Evans provided a pretty good description of White privilege. Begin watching at 14:16 into the video:
Transcript (from Dallas Theological Seminary’s page):
Dr. Evans: Well you do have to fight against it because you are – and a lot of times swimming upstream against background history, what your mother and daddy taught you, what your experiences have been, if you had negative experiences with a minority and you’re Anglo, that’s gonna color that. You know so and we also have to understand there’s a real reality here and that is African-Americans have to function in a White world. You know, your work is going to typically be in that world and you have to, you don’t have a choice. You have to do business in that world.
So but the Anglo world rarely has to function in an African-American context. It does it because it chooses to. African-Americans do it because you have to. And that dynamic colors a lot because Anglos are much less acquainted with my world. I’m much more acquainted with their world because I have to be. And therefore that colors the perspective and that colors who the power brokers are because you know, for my ministries to survive I have to be heavily dependent in our national ministry on stations that I don’t own and have limited influence in, and for people I need to engage them in a way that doesn’t so offend them that they’re not willing to support me even though I’m African-American because that is the world in which we live. So you always as an African-American dancing a little bit.
Dr. Bock: You’re negotiating with a majority culture.
Dr. Evans: You’re negotiating with a major – now for other African-Americans who are offended by that and some are offended by that and I get often called an Uncle Tom. Well you know the question is do I want to stay where you want me to be or do I want to stay where God has called me to be? And to do that you do have to negotiate without compromising truth or principle.
Dr. Bock: Yeah you know it’s interesting. Most or many Anglos I think who live in our culture don’t understand what it is to be in a minority culture. I will say there are pockets where this can happen. And that is if you – as my children did. My children went – we chose to put our children in public school. They were a minority at Hillcrest High School here in Dallas. I mean they were, there were like 170 languages, there was only a 12 percent, I think it was 12 percent Anglo population in the school.
Everyone else was either from Latin America or they were African-American or they were from another foreign country. It was a real mix. And my kids got the experience. I actually thought it was a terrific experience for them of what it was like to be in a minority, what it was like for everyone around you to be different. My equivalent of that experience was when we moved to Germany.
We moved to Germany I didn’t have the language, or at least not very well. I mean I could order food and do some, but didn’t really have the language. I would go to a PTA meeting where our kids were in schools in the German schools and be struggling to get the language. I knew what it was like to be Hispanic in an American PTA meeting and not really know English. You know I experienced what that’s like.
And there is a negotiating is also a word but there’s also a coping that you have to go through. There’s adjustments about here you have all these thoughts in your head and what you’re thinking but you’re not able to express it and connect with people in the midst of it, that kind of thing. And you realize you’re on a different page and you’re coming from a different place and all that goes into – there’s a frustration with not being able to really show who you are in the midst of some of this.
Dr. Evans: Absolutely. You have to adapt. People have to adapt all the time to different scenarios. The difference is that because African-Americans have to be in the White world and therefore have to adapt, and Whites don’t have to be in the Black world and therefore don’t have to adapt, the adaption is not equal.
Dr. Bock: That’s right.
Dr. Evans: It’s not an equitable adaption because it’s not the same situation. And so that’s just a reality. Now you can fight about it but that’s the way it is. And since that’s the way it is we need to learn spiritual truth that enables us to do that and not fight against that reality. That becomes a growth opportunity for both sides.
I agree with Evans that White privilege exists, but I disagree with him when he says we should “not fight against that reality.”
Evans knows that the adaptation of African-Americans to “the White world” is “not an equitable adaption.” However, he doesn’t seem to challenge it head on. He says that Blacks have to adapt to the White world, even saying African-Americans are always “dancing a little bit.”
When I first heard this, it bothered me. The more I thought about it, the more it seems to me that this way of thinking could too easily become an apologetic for White privilege. Although I agree that too often White privilege is real, it should not be. However, Evans appears to oppose fighting “the way it is.”
Now you can fight about it but that’s the way it is. And since that’s the way it is we need to learn spiritual truth that enables us to do that and not fight against that reality. That becomes a growth opportunity for both sides.
If I understand him correctly, I disagree. I don’t want to live in a White world. I live in God’s world where, according to my beliefs, privilege is not given because of the color of one’s skin. In contrast to Evans’ message, I believe we do need to fight against “that reality.” I can’t imagine any spiritual truth that should enable acceptance of White privilege. The growth opportunity is in confronting and opposing the harmful status quo.
Bruce Hornsby had it right in the song “The Way It Is”
Some things will never change That’s just the way it is Ah but don’t you believe them
Remarkably, Evans suggests that his success as an African-American radio personality has come, in part, because he has not offended “White world” station owners.
…that colors who the power brokers are because you know, for my ministries to survive I have to be heavily dependent in our national ministry on stations that I don’t own and have limited influence in, and for people I need to engage them in a way that doesn’t so offend them that they’re not willing to support me even though I’m African-American because that is the world in which we live. So you always as an African-American dancing a little bit.
I want to know more about this. What has Evans had to dance about ? What has he had to do and say to avoid offending White station owners? We need to know more about this, not sweep it under the rug.
I understand that White privilege exists, but I don’t believe that White privilege is the way it ought to be. I call on Rev. Evans to reconsider and issue another statement, this time denouncing acquiescence to this two world policy.
My middle school aged son is doing some research on the mutual influence of religion and beliefs about extraterrestrial life. You can help him out by taking the survey below (if you don’t see the survey embedded, then click this link). Should take between 5-7 minutes depending on your responses.
Appreciate any feedback in the comments section. Thanks in advance. Create your own user feedback survey
We will report the results here after a week or so of collecting responses. Again, thanks!
You can also click here: Religion and Extraterrestrial Life
Last week, I reported the testimony of several former Gospel for Asia students and staffers who told me that GFA asked them to carry envelopes of cash into India.Some groups may have carried as much as $135,000 in cash to India via individual envelopes of cash packed in luggage or backpacks. According to U.S. law, more than $10,000 leaving or entering the country must be declared and cannot be split up among co-travelers to evade declaration. No source I spoke with filled out any customs forms to declare the cash as required by law.
I asked GFA COO David Carroll for comment or explanation before that article was published with no response. I have reached out again this week but have not heard back.
In the mean time, I was given audio of a staff meeting which took place last week after my article was published where GFA leaders Carroll, KP Yohannan, and Danny Yohannan answered a staff question about the practice of various GFA travelers carrying money to India. In the meeting, the leaders acknowledged that students, pastors and staff had carried cash to India. Even though staff have complained for months, the staff were just informed last week that GFA leaders have decided to discontinue it. Listen to the segment in response to a question from a female staffer:
(Author’s note: During the week of November 13, 2015, GFA, through attorneys, demanded the removal of the audio from this post. Even though the use of the audio is in keeping with fair use of the material, I decided to post a link to the audio rather than embed it.)
Female staffer: Ok, so the money regarding the students taken over to India, you know we have to carry the money over. How is that audited? Because if I lost my backpack, all that money would have been lost, and that’s money from sponsors and donors. So why is that put in place, and if it was lost, how would you track that?
David Carroll: That’s a good question and actually that was going to be one of the next questions that we answered because someone wrote a very emotional question about that and said why we were endangering students by having them carry the money to India, and I just want to say that for whoever asked the question that I’m sorry we’ve given you, truly sorry that we’ve given you the impression that we were endangering students. A couples things you should know we would never endanger students or anyone else, we’ve had pastors carry money, we’ve had staff carry money, we’re always looking for ways to get money into India because the reality is that it’s getting more difficult to do that, and we are looking for other ways that we’re able to do that. But we checked with our auditors before we ever would allow such a practice. We actually called Bland Garvey, they’re our audit firm and said this is what we’re planning to do, this is what we are intending to do, and they told us how we get it receipted they said it’s completely legal, you’re under all limits, you need to get receipts, there need to be receipts here, there need to be receipts there which Lori has receipts from here. The Indian side also account for that money as received. If you were to lose it, they couldn’t receive it, and in that case, we would say it’s lost basically. We would have to tell the auditors we gave it and it didn’t get to the other side and I’m sure they wouldn’t be very happy, but is it receipted on the other side as received, and accounted for? Yes, it is on the other side of the pond.
So, we have stopped that practice, we feel that it put more emotional burden on people than we realized and then we wanted to and so…
KP Yohannan: It is a perception problem also. Like when I go to Burma and Nepal, I carry quite a lot of travelers checks and get into the country and cash it into local currency and I give it and then the border department, they account for that money in the local Burmese currency or wherever I’ve been to so (?). It’s a legal thing, you cannot carry any more than $5000 and not declare it but when you get India, Nepal, Burma, you can cash it, you can burn it, you can eat it, you can throw it away, you can give it, it is a local currency you are giving it and so receipts are accounted in the book are reported to the government (?) and that is an absolute thing because what I am trying to say, it’s not trying to be under the radar, or illegal smuggling money into the country, nothing like that.
Carroll: We had heard that one explanation you were given was that the tax rate is high, which would indicate that we’re trying to avoid tax on the money and that’s not the case. I’m sorry if that got skewed but that’s not the case. It’s actually reported on the other side legally so we can do everything we’re supposed to do in reporting that money to the Indian government.
Yohannan: But we don’t do that anymore.
Carroll: We’ve stopped the practice.
Danny Yohannan: We are always looking for legal ways to bring resources into the ministry, but also over there we’re trying to be as responsible to even raise funds on that side…
Shorter GFA: We did nothing wrong and we won’t do it again.
Several questions come to mind. If GFA is not trying to be “under the radar” then why are students given $4500 each? In India, customs would need to be informed in individuals bring in $5000 or more. Clearly, more than $5000 at a time was sent from Texas to India (the smallest group I have heard about so far is 10 people = $45,000; largest was 30 – $135,000). Thus, structuring the transfer among the students to avoid informing the Indian officials seems to be flying under the radar. Furthermore, on the U.S. side, the law requires aggregate amounts more than $10,000 to be declared. If there is no desire to hide the full amount being sent from Texas to India, then why give each member of the group $4500? Why give cash to students, ministry partners and pastors at all? Why not have the GFA staffer in charge simply declare the entire amount when leaving the U.S. and when arriving in India?
It is hard to understand the reason that GFA needs to get money to India. GFA sends millions to India through established channels. It seems hard to understand why donor funds have been risked in this manner.
None of my sources recall getting receipts in India.
A new source told me that a group of between 20-30 people traveled to India in April, each carrying $4500. If GFA has discontinued the practice, it happened just recently. At this point, very little of the explanation given by GFA can be verified. Emails to Bland Garvey and David Carroll have gone unanswered. However, it is now clear that GFA has been moving large amounts of cash from Texas to India via students, staff and pastors.
A group called “People Against Fundamentalism” plans to protest Brian Houston’s decision to bring Mark Driscoll to the Sydney Hillsong Conference this summer.
According to the group’s website, the protest will take place on May 31 at the Sydney church’s Waterloo campus.
Protests may also occur in London where Driscoll is slated to speak in July. A petition asking Hillsong to remove Driscoll as a speaker has garnered nearly 1,000 signature on Change.org. Pastor Houston issued a statement indicating that Driscoll is not going to speak but share what he has learned in an interview with Houston.
Driscoll’s recent activities may signal his stance at Hillsong. At Bayside Church two weeks ago, Driscoll spoke about forgiving those who wrong him but said next to nothing about his part in the demise of Mars Hill Church. Then, just this past weekend, Driscoll failed to correct Gold Creek Community Church pastor Dan Kellogg when Kellogg claimed that Driscoll’s was “completely mistreated by former staff people.”
Just when I thought we were getting somewhere…
Today, Sutton Turner posted an apologetic of sorts* (pdf of the post) for separation of pastors from pews in big churches. Turner seems convinced that the corporate world is a good analogy for a church leadership.
This quote seems to capture the mood:
When an organization grows and people lose access to the senior leader, many will take the selfish route and leave. They look back on the smaller, familial organization as the golden days, but Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NIV) reads, “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.”
Call me crazy but I doubt the Ecclesiastes verse means I am selfish to prefer a small, familial church. Furthermore, I doubt it is a prohibition on leaving a church when you believe the governance structure is more aligned with big business than the New Testament.
I don’t think Turner meant this as an explanation for Mars Hill demise but in light of what has happened, it is an interesting statement:
Unfettered access to the senior leader will damage if not destroy the organization.
In contrast, very few people had access to the executive elders at Mars Hill. At least some of staffers who reported to the executive elders felt far removed from influence and access. Probably a little more access would have helped.
Some people like a megachurch and some don’t. My personal view is that large churches bring pressures to bear on pastors and members that compete with the mission of the church. On the other hand, very small churches can burn out the few faithful volunteers. Somewhere in the middle seems about right but even that is a matter of preference.
The relevance of this to Mars Hill is that the events of 2007 continue to reverberate even after Mars Hill Church is no more.
On another note, I just couldn’t get this song out of my mind…
*The post seems to be down now. To read it, click the pdf link