UPDATE: I have created a survey for Calvary Chapel pastors, staff and members regarding Gospel for Asia and church support. Please click through via this link to take the survey.
Phoenix Preacher is reporting that Joe Focht, pastor at Calvary Chapel – Philadelphia announced to his congregation on Sunday that it would not be “unreasonable” to suspend support for Gospel for Asia. According to PP, Focht added that donors might reconsider if ECFA membership is restored.
Last week, Calvary Chapel – Oxnard (CA) advised members to stop support. In late September, Calvary Chapel pastor Bill Gallatin rebuked K.P. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church rituals.
Historically, Calvary Chapels have helped sustain GFA. A Google search finds numerous (well over 100) CC’s which support GFA or GFA staff.
Some CC pastors/staff have made blog comments about GFA. I invite others to do so as well. If you are reading and pastor at a CC, consider leaving a comment about GFA with your name and church. If you support GFA, chime in and say why. If you have changed your view, then leave a comment to that effect. Given what has been revealed about GFA’s dealings, I think it would be hard for a church to do nothing. A review of the issues is in order no matter where you eventually land.
I may have more to say about this report in the coming days, hopefully with some commentary from Mark Yarhouse, but for now, I am going to link to it.
Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth was released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report recommends the end of change therapies for minors via professional advocacy and legal strategies.
Mark Yarhouse, co-author with me of the Sexual Identity Therapy framework and professor at Regent University, was an evangelical presence on the panel of experts who produced the consensus statements.
The most controversial parts of the report, in my opinion, deal with gender identity. I think most therapists now understand that sexual orientation is durable and rarely, if ever, changes dramatically as the result of change therapy. However, the recommendations on gender identity are more controversial. Despite the use of the word consensus, I question whether there is a consensus among professionals of all ideologies about how to respond therapeutically to youth dealing with stress over gender expression.
As for the goal of ending change therapy for youth, I am a supporter. Despite years of research and effort, no safe, effective and ethical approach to sexual orientation change has emerged. The very few people who still claim effectiveness are small operations with no research of their own methods. The anecdotes of harm are convincing and the candid admissions of people like Alan Chambers that the change they claimed didn’t happen is enough to cause significant skepticism. My own professional experience researching change efforts in clients and research participants informs me that any claimed change is unlikely to be lasting or complete. The biological research, while not conclusive, supports a very early establishment of sexual desires (especially for males). The available options for attempting change are often bizarre and carry potential to create psychological problems. Thus, limiting these efforts in a free society to adults seems like a reasonable professional position.
In the context of explaining why Believers’ Church in India gave $19.8 million to Gospel for Asia for construction of headquarters at Wills Point, TX, GFA CEO K.P. Yohannan said this:
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.
Yohannan said these things at a staff meeting held at GFA’s office complex on May 14, 2015. The audio is embedded at the end of the post.
When I posted the audio in August, I also posted images of court cases involving Believers’ Church which refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers’ Church. Even though Yohannan said it was a conflict of interest to be on the board in India and the CEO in America, court documents dated in 2015 refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of the entity (Believers Church) that “decided” in 2013 to send $19.8 million to another entity (Gospel for Asia) run by Yohannan in order to build a new campus.
Recently, I have been given two documents which establish beyond doubt that Yohannan’s statement to staff was misleading. The first document is a 2005 letter from BC Bishop Samuel Mathew to all Believers’ Church Bishops regarding the proper way to file land deeds. The church Constitution requires all land to be in K.P. Yohannan’s name since he is the highest legal authority in the church.
Read the entire letter here.
At this time, by Consitution, all land was to be registered to “the Most Rev. Dr. K.P. Yohannan.” Why? As Metropolitan Bishop is the legal authority on everything that belongs to the Church. Presumably, at one time, $19.8 million belonged to the church but after the “anonymous gift to GFA,” that money belonged to the other entity controlled by Yohannan, GFA.
Regarding the claim that Yohannan doesn’t sit on any boards of trusts in India, I offer this 2010 deed of trust for the Bridge of Hope (entire document), a program run by Believers’ Church. Yohannan is not only on the trust but he signed on behalf of Believers’ Church as “Executant.”
BOH – Trust Deed
Also, note that four of the six board members are Yohannan and his family (Siny Punnoose – niece; Sarah Johnson – daughter; Daniel Johnson – son-in-law).
These documents along with the court papers filed by Believers’ Church paint a completely different picture than drawn out by Yohannan in the May 14 staff meeting.
I invite GFA and/or Believers’ Church to submit evidence to the contrary. If BC’s Constitution has been changed or trust deeds have been amended, I will gladly publish those if they are supplied.
Of late, Yohannan has been unavailable for comment. Perhaps, David Carroll or John Beers can provide explanation or proper documentation.
K.P. Yohannan at the May 14 staff meeting:
An aspect of the Gospel for Asia story that I have not explored much is the claim of controlling actions on the part of GFA leaders. Today, I want to bring out one such claim. Before I tell this story, I want to alert readers that I reached out to GFA through their PR firm InChrist Communications. I told InChrist Communications that I wanted GFA leaders to have a chance to address these serious claims. I received no answer.
On the GFA Diaspora website, a former male employee named Nick tells about his experience about a decade ago of expressing romantic feelings toward a female staffer at GFA. One would think such sentiments would be encouraged in a Christian ministry, but according to Nick and the girl who was the object of his feelings — Nicole — GFA leaders went out of their way to end the relationship.
Nick attended Bible college and had interned in a Calvary Chapel before coming to GFA. Nicole had led mission trips and was a worship leader with GFA. Nick was 25 and Nicole was 22. Their interest in one another was age-appropriate and they seemed to be heading in the same direction.
On the Diaspora website, Nick wrote:
In a friendly conversation with David C., I told him I was interested in a girl who was on staff (we were just friends at the time). I was called into K.P.’s office and told that I was not allowed to continue to like this girl, and that I was not even allowed to pray about getting married for at least 2 years. I was surprised that I was being told not to pray, but my heart and intention was to do all that I could to comply with the wishes of the leadership. Shortly thereafter, all of the newer young single people on staff were called into a meeting where we were told that we had entered the ministry single, and so that is how we should remain.
After the scolding, Nick did not tell Nicole about his feelings. However, his disclosure seemed to change his standing at GFA. According to Nick, the GFA leaders subjected him to what can only be described as harassment:
The 3 leaders (K.P. Yohannan, John B., and David C.) would call me into K.P.’s office, and KP would proceed to tell me all sorts of terrible things about myself. He told me that I probably wouldn’t be a Christian in 10 years. He called me a mad man and said that he was glad that there was no one else like me at GFA, because he couldn’t imagine what I might go out and do. I loved the children at GFA, and would always volunteer in the kid’s ministry. Knowing this, K.P. said “There are 72 children here at the ministry, and you are going to ruin the lives of every one of them.” (That is a direct quote. I will never forget those words.)
Nick tried hard to be a good staffer and did not tell Nicole about his feelings. Nicole was unaware that GFA leaders had warned Nick about pursuing a relationship with her.
According to Nicole, who was then serving as one of Yohannan’s writing assistants, Yohannan began to ask her if she thought Nick liked her. Nicole described these initial questions as being delivered in a “friendly, fatherly way.” Gradually, the questions became more persistent and Nicole decided to talk to Nick. Nick acknowledged his feelings but didn’t have an intention to pursue a relationship in order to honor the dictates of leadership.
Not knowing that Nick had been warned about talking to her, Nicole told Yohannan that Nick liked her. According to the couple, Nick was kicked out as a consequence. Nick wrote on the Diaspora website:
The next day I was called into K.P.s office and told that I was being fired and kicked out of the ministry. The girl was then told that she was not allowed to communicate with me ever again in any way.
Despite Yohannan’s warning, Nicole later contacted Nick and told Yohannan that she did. According to Nicole, Yohannan turned from fatherly and friendly to mean and intrusive. She added that Yohannan became increasingly critical of her. According to at least two former staff, the mistreatment became obvious to others (see the testimony of Bernard and Jena on the Diaspora website for their account).
According to the couple, Nick was told to leave the campus immediately without any of the money he had raised in his staff account. He had to find money to live on without the funds he had raised while at GFA.
According to Nicole, GFA also told remaining staff that Nick left due to psychological problems and that GFA was going to pay for counseling. According to the couple, none of that was true.
The story does have a happy ending. Both Nick and Nicole left GFA and are now happily married with a child.
Although not all staff and students have bad experiences, Nicole told me that she believes concern for current staff and students is warranted. She worries for the students, often just out of high school, who sign up for the School of Discipleship. Nick and Nicole are telling their story with the hope that students will be wary of GFA’s approach to mentoring youth and find another way to learn about ministry.
As noted at the beginning, I asked GFA for their side of this story but got no response. I have, however, interviewed numerous former staff and several current staff and students in the School of Discipleship. Many, although not all, have echoed concerns similar to those expressed by Nick and Nicole.
Yesterday, I saw via tweet from Janet Mefferd that Creflo (I want a Gulfstream) Dollar removed a Facebook posting and Tweet that claimed, and I’m paraphrasing, Jesus died so we could be financially rich.
However, today this was tweeted to me by Garrett O’Hara:
— Garrett O'Hara (@Dallascernment) October 12, 2015
And sure enough, Dollar actually claims on his website that
Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity.
Today, I was sent a link to a blog written by a former GFA staff person who was married to a GFA leader. Sara Sluberski wrote about being uninvited to a wedding. The social rejection was triggered by the Christianity Today article about GFA which dropped Thursday (Sara’s husband Tom was cited in the CT article).
This article sent me on an excursion through her other posts. On September 28, she wrote:
GFA has been accused of shunning people. While we were working there we could alway explain away this behavior.
In this same post, she describes how her husband was called in and discouraged from spending too much time with non-GFA people. She wrote:
One day my hubby and I were invited to a double date on a Saturday night. It was so much fun! Our song played and My hubby and I got up and danced to it, or rather swayed together in time to the music. Our friends took photos and posted the cutest one on Facebook. These friends had left the ministry previously but our connection to them was so strong. We still baby sat for each other and we had not “let them go.” as was so typical of our life at GFA. Did we talk about GFA… no we were more into food, fun and parenting.
Monday morning my Knight in Shining Armor is called into his bosses office. He is questioned about his Saturday night activity. Did he understand that some people in the ministry could be upset by his Saturday night companions. This baffled us. I could understand if someone was upset by “dancing” as some denominations do not accept it, but that was not the issue at hand. It seemed that hanging out with likeminded friends who encourage us and bring us joy is the problem.
This is a spooky story.
Even now, in the face of a public relations disaster and the dramatic and rare loss of ECFA membership, GFA loyalists are closing ranks. Don’t come to the wedding. Speaking up makes you an unacceptable distraction.
Sara wrote in the most recent post:
I’m trying to wrap my mind around how much we didn’t know, how much my pride was wrapped up in the fruit on the field, of the 100% goes to the field designations.
Throckmorton asked the question in May/ June? (when I was studiously behaving and obeying leadership and not reading him). How were people within the ministry taking the news of smurfing and the 19.8 million gift.
As with Mars Hill Church, leaders in GFA were telling staff not to read information about the organization they worked for. Limiting information, discouraging contact with outsiders, and shunning those who transgress some internal norm are all marks of a mind-control group.
And the CEO is unavailable for comment.
I wish Sara and her Shining Armor Knight lots of freedom, fresh air, and dancing.
Just out today, Bob Smietana penned an article at Christianity Today on the controversies surrounding Gospel for Asia including the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability board vote to terminate GFA’s membership. It is a lengthy piece with many quotes from former staff. I hope you will read it and then come back here to discuss.
Where in the World is K.P. Yohannan?
I was struck right away by this sentence:
Founder K.P. Yohannan was not available for comment.
Why not? My sources tell me that staff are saying he is India. I am pretty sure they have phones in India. Probably he has a cell phone. Yohannan is the founder and CEO. He is listed as the International Director. Seems like the buck should stop with him. It is mind boggling that he is “unavailable.”
Smietana writes about the ring-kissing ritual in the article but no one from GFA addresses the obvious deception from Yohannan. This is another mind blowing aspect of this situation. GFA still has no answer to what is right in front of everyone’s face.
Not Skeptical Enough Francis Chan
And then there is Francis Chan, Rev. Skeptical. His endorsement has been removed from the GFA website but he is quoted in CT’s article as saying he is remaining on GFA’s board. He endorsed GFA by saying that he is a skeptical person and that he checked GFA out thoroughly before he endorsed them. Several months after Chan was first made aware of discrepancies between what GFA said in America and what they reported in India, Chan now says he needs more time to study the situation. On May 21, I alerted Chan to the money smuggling and his assistant Chaz told me that Chan had the information but probably wouldn’t get back to me. I continued sending my posts to Chaz who said he was passing the information along. I also passed along letters from a GFA supporter who started giving money to GFA on the strength of Chan’s endorsement. No answer.
We also learn in the CT article that Homeland Security may be investigating GFA. I want a little more information on GFA’s denials about the money smuggling. At first, David Carroll said it was all legal and they asked their auditor how to do it. Then later they admitted it was illegal and they sought counsel. In the CT article, we learn that GFA’s attorneys filed late customs reports (is that even possible?).
Did GFA really ask auditor Bland Garvey if money smuggling was legal? Did Bland Garvey really sign off on it? Bland Garvey won’t talk about it and GFA didn’t clear this up. There are many unanswered questions.
No Money Found to Be Missing?
What an odd phrasing – no money was found to be missing. Is it missing or was it found? I think I know what David Carroll means but this is not an answer to the fact that Gospel for Asia’s 2013 audit claims $58.6 million was sent to Gospel for Asia – India but only $6 million was reported by Gospel for Asia there as being deposited. Even if all money to Believers’ Church and two other NGOs is considered, there is still nearly $30 million in 2013 unaccounted for. GFA still has not answered this simple question.
ECFA: Mixed Feelings
After calling on the ECFA to take action, I am pleasantly surprised that the board did. However, I think an even greater service to the donor public would be to describe what GFA actually did which led to their vote. As it is, GFA supporters can imply that the violations were minor and have been corrected. We may never know.
Here are some things we now know
K.P. Yohannan is missing in action, Francis Chan is not as skeptical as he says he is, big boys in the church still take care of their own, and the little people are still on their own to make sense of this scandal.
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.
Repeatedly, Gospel for Asia has proclaimed that 100% of donation goes to the mission field. Now, after having their ECFA membership terminated, the wording regarding donations has changed. From the “Financial Integrity” page:
What does “preferenced” mean? Does it mean something different than “designated?”
Donors should read the second sentence carefully:
Contributions are income tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, and are made with the understanding that Gospel for Asia has complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds.
As I read it, this sentence allows GFA to spend donations anyway they want to, even in ways that you might not prefer.
GFA might also be addressing the IRS requirement that donated funds come under the discretion and control of the non-profit. Is that the case now? Does GFA actually control what they give in India? In times past, the leaders have been unclear about how they do that.
I will say that the last sentence is revealing. I demonstrated early on that GFA has millions sitting in Indian banks. Last year, an Indian court ruled that GFA/Believers’ Church spent some of their funds in ways donors did not intend. Now, with this disclaimer, GFA can raise money using popular causes as a marketing tool, then take the excess and do whatever K.P. and crew want. If we can believe ECFA, it appears that donor intent has not been carefully followed prior to this new phrasing.
In any case, perhaps this new wording satisfies some legalese requirement, but it isn’t clear to me what GFA is promising.
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.
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.
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).