In Hamilton Spectator Gospel for Asia Story, Canadian Director Contradicts GFA-US Executive

Steve Buist reporter for the Hamilton Spectator has written a major expose’ of Gospel for Asia. Published today, a shorter version will also appear in the Toronto paper tomorrow. The headquarters for GFA-Canada is in Hamilton so the story is a local and national one there.
In the story, GFA-Canada Director Pat Emerick denies one of the first claims told to me by GFA-US COO David Carroll. Emerick denied that Canadian donations had been lumped together with American donations:

“There has been no mingling of funds and field partners can absolutely account for the originating source of all deposits,” Emerick stated.

“All funds sent to the field have been accounted for separately in annual reports to the respective international boards as well as according to national accounting standards in the receiving countries,” Emerick stated.

He is not exactly answering the question. The fact is that Canadian funds were not reported to the Indian Home Ministry as coming from Canada. In May 2015, Carroll told me that Canadian funds were lumped in with American funds. He said there was no requirement for them to be reported separately.

The Canadian funds were combined with U.S. funds by our auditor in India for various accounting reasons. There is no requirement that they be reported separately.

Buist’s assessment is that the funds were combined without proper reporting.

Meanwhile, Gospel for Asia officials in the U.S. told an American evangelical financial accountability group last summer the charity didn’t exert any control over its Indian affiliates and how they spend the money.

Taken together, it means Canadian donations were lumped in with the American donations sent to India but the American charity didn’t exercise any control over the Indian affiliates receiving the money.

This would appear to be in violation of the CRA’s rules that state the Canadian charity must maintain control and direction of its donations and be able to account for how they have been spent, even when done through an intermediary.

Buist covers the waterfront and cites Bruce Morrison and me on a variety of financial matters. The entire class action suit is embedded online.
Readers of this blog will recognize much of the facts but Buist does a very fine job of weaving it all together in one place.

K.P. Yohannan Meets With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Donates $150k to Ganga Clean Up Project

Yes, indeed. K.P. Yohannan, defendent in a RICO lawsuit and leader of a charity found to be in violation of federal law, met with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi earlier this week.
primeministerKP
I suspect PM Modi is projecting an accepting of all faiths, which is of course, a good thing. However, I wonder if he realizes that Yohannan’s organization has lost membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, the Independent Charities of America, the National Religious Broadcasters and was forbidden from soliciting donations from federal government employees.
One reason for the meeting was for Yohannan to donate $150k to the “Ganga cleanliness campaign.”

Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Metropolitan Bishop of Believers Church, Kerala along with a delegation called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, today. Dr. Yohannan donated Rs. 1 crore towards Ganga cleanliness campaign. Prof. P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha was also present on the occasion.

I wonder where the $150,000 came from.
You can read more about the Ganga project here.

The aims and objectives of NMCG is to accomplish the mandate of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) of
1.To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and
2.To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

The twitter crowd doesn’t appear to be glowing in praise of Modi for the meeting.\

Bill Gothard's Institute Loses ECFA Membership

Seems like the ECFA found a voice.
Christianity Today is reporting the Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts has lost membership in the ECFA.
I went to one IBYC meeting in Michigan not long after I graduated from college. I ran the other way and never looked back.
 

Can You Get Your Money Back From Gospel for Asia?

Wills Point GFA Chapel
GFA’s Chapel in Wills Point, TX, source: HH Architects website

One former donor to Gospel for Asia has been so concerned about being a good steward that the donor tried to get payment stopped on a credit card used to send payments to GFA. It appears that the card company has been challenging GFA over those charges.
The donor does not want to be identified but has provided evidence of the charges.
The donor disputed the last three charges to the card and this week was credited for one month’s charges. The card company is still disputing the other charges.
According to my source,  a representative at the company said GFA did not provide documentation to verify that funds were used for the designated purpose. Instead, GFA gave the card company a letter sent to the card holder in 2014. The letter reminded the card holder that a recurrent payment had been set up to support GFA causes.
The representative told my source that a second disputed case had been filed by another donor against GFA this week.

Gospel for Asia's Christian Astroturf

In the past, Gospel for Asia has spent donor money on “reputation management” — using fake accounts to flood social media with positive information about GFA.  It appears they are at it again. On twitter, the image below is the result of a search for GFA.
GFA spam bots
The glam photos, odd name combos and exact same message give away the spam. I am not sure of the value of these tweets since the accounts are quite small. In any case, someone is reporting lots of social media traffic which is ultimately fake.
The following accounts also appear to be fake.
gfa spam1
gfa spam2
gfa spam3
The format is all the same (there are dozens of these) and they all hope to see me around. I doubt it. They link to blogs which are either fake addresses or to blogs which have no entries.
We know GFA has contracted with Reputation Management Consultants in the past to shore up GFA’s image. Instead of a grassroots uprising of donors defending GFA, it appears that more donor money is going to Christian astroturf.

Mega-Ministry Methods: David Jeremiah Sows the Wind and Reaps the Windfall

David Jeremiah, Screen capture from YouTube
David Jeremiah, Screen capture from YouTube

One of the key events that led to the demise of Mars Hill Church in 2014 was the revelation that the church leaders had used around $250,000 of church money to strategically buy a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for Mark and Grace Driscoll’s 2011 book Real Marriage. Manipulating bestseller lists became a debated topic for several months after it was learned that other leading Christian authors had also used Result Source to manipulate the bestseller list (e.g., Les & Leslie Parrott, and David Jeremiah). Articles in World, Christianity Today, and this blog examined the ethics of the matter.
Stepping into the debate at the time was a former Chief Financial Officer (2007-2009) of David Jeremiah’s Turning Point ministry, George Hale. In a January 14, 2015 post, Hale asserted that David Jeremiah used similar book buying practices as those made famous by Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Hale said he left Turning Point because he didn’t agree with the ethics of using ministry funds to manipulate the bestseller lists and enrich Jeremiah.
Turning Point is a large ministry that took in over $47 million in 2013 compared to nearly $40-million the year before. The last two years David Jeremiah’s non-profit has spent more than it made by around $3.2-million. However, the organization’s balance is strong with net assets of just over $9.5-million, as of June 2014.
At the time, Hale did not explain just how beneficial the arrangement was for Jeremiah. Now, Hale has disclosed that Jeremiah was able to purchase a $2-million ocean front condominium (San Diego Co., grant deed) in January 2010 not long after receiving a $3-million advance from Faith Words, a book publisher based in Nashville.
Hale said, “I never saw a contract between David Jeremiah and a publisher, but I did see an advance check made out to David for $3-million for a multi-book deal.” The books covered by the advance were The Coming Economic Armageddon (2010), I Never Thought I’d See The Day (2011), and God Loves You (2012). All three of these books made the New York Times bestseller list.
Despite the financial success of the books, Hale questioned the ethics of using donor money to create a fiction and personally benefit David Jeremiah. In 2015, Hale said in his public letter:

I began my employment at Turning Point during July 2007.   During August of 2007 Turning Point began promoting David Jeremiah’s Book “Captured by Grace” for pre-publication purchase for a donation of $25 or more.  I believe that approximately 100,000 books were pre-purchased (I could be wrong on this number but I think it is close) for an average donation of $25 during the months of August and September 2007.  When the book was released in October, Turning Point used the money donated for the book to purchase copies of the book from retail booksellers such as Amazon and Borders. Turning Point then sent the book to those who had donated and requested the book.  These purchases where timed to get the book listed as a “best-seller.”  It worked.
After this occurred, I voiced my concern as to the ethics of such action to David Jeremiah.  I was also concerned because Turning Point could have purchased the same books directly from the publisher for approximately $10 each instead of the $25 each paid to the book retailers.  David assured me that his agent and attorney, Sealy Yates had opined that the transactions were honest and ethical.
This same action was repeated during August, September and October 2008 with the same results. I again requested that Turning Point not repeat such transactions as I could not discern any benefit to Turning Point for purchasing the books at retail versus purchasing the books wholesale from the publisher.   I thought the transaction to be unethical.  David told me that he would take my advice under consideration.
During August 2009 David Jeremiah said that he wanted to promote his new book for pre-publication purchase but for a donation of any amount.  He had not yet made a decision as to the method that Turning Point would use to purchase the books to be sent to those who would request them.
During September 2009 David Jeremiah told me that he had decided to use the money received by Turning Point from those requesting his book to purchase the books at retail from booksellers and not purchase the books from the publisher at a lower amount.  He acknowledged that he was aware that this was disappointing to me.
Turning Point had received an average donation of $35 per book instead of $25 dollars during this 2009 campaign.  Therefore, if my memory is correct, Turning Point had received approximately $3.5 million dollars for the approximately 100,000 books pre-sold.  I thought that the added donation over and above the $25 purchase price of the book was meant to benefit Turning Point and was not to be used to purchase additional books at retail.  This did not happen. This thought, together with my prior opinion that the entire method was unethical and did not benefit Turning Point, led me to immediately resign my position with Turning Point which I did September 15, 2009.

Hale later told me that he was paid until early 2010 to allow a narrative to be floated that Hale retired instead of quitting abruptly over ethics concerns.
As a result of the book buying scheme, Turning Point’s membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was jeopardized. Hale told me, as did one other source in a position to know, that in early 2010, Turning Point was allowed to drop membership in the ECFA instead of being publicly removed over the bestseller list manipulation scheme. These tactics are not allowed for ECFA members and, according to Hale, Turning Point chose to drop out instead of modify their book business.
One consequence of losing ECFA membership was the loss of membership in the National Religious Broadcasters since members are required to either be members of ECFA or some comparable group. However, after years of non-membership, I have learned that Turning Point is a member again. It is unclear if this means Turning Point has renounced the book buying scheme or if the NRB made an exception. Neither organization has responded to my questions regarding Turning Point’s membership.
If the return of Turning Point to the NRB means that David Jeremiah has finally taken George Hale’s advice, that would be quite a story. I hope the usual big evangelical cone of silence doesn’t cover up the matter.
In any case, with the ongoing silence and secrecy over bestseller list buying, the debate over the ethics of it will continue.

Update to the Gospel for Asia Fraud Lawsuit – Why Are Board Directors Not Named as Defendants?

Wills Point GFA Chapel
GFA’s Chapel at Wills Point, TX

After I read the lawsuit against Gospel for Asia, I asked the lawyers bringing the suit why Board directors were not included as defendants.
In response, Martin Woodward of Stanley Law Group told me:

Defendants may be added or removed throughout the litigation of a case based on the available information.

Understandably, those bringing the suit do not want to signal their moves. My guess is that the process of discovery will reveal information which could lead to additional defendants. On that point, I am wondering if board members who knew K.P. Y0hannan altered Gayle Erwin’s report on the GFA diaspora might find themselves added to the suit.
Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to see that the organization operates ethically and in keeping with laws. Even so, Erwin pulled back the curtain and let the public know that much of what was happening was not known by the board of directors. Given what Erwin revealed, it is certainly possible that the author of the recent board statement did not actually come from the board.
 

Statement from Gospel for Asia’s Board of Directors on ECFA, Fraud Lawsuit, and a Blogger

Just today, the Gospel for Asia Board of Directors placed the following statement on the GFA website.

STATEMENT FROM GOSPEL FOR ASIA BOARD ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Wills Point, Texas – February 12, 2016: In the fall of 2015, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) revoked Gospel for Asia USA’s membership, after a 36-year relationship. ECFA is an organization that provides accreditation to Christian nonprofits in the U.S. based on their “standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance.” ECFA accreditation entitles a ministry to use the ECFA seal, but the loss of accreditation does not mean that the organization is guilty of illegal or unethical behavior. It simply means the organization no longer meets the standards chosen by ECFA to entitle an organization to the ECFA endorsement. Gospel for Asia was a founding member of ECFA, so an endorsement by ECFA is and remains a great honor to us. However, many very reputable organizations are not members of ECFA because they do not meet their rules for membership or they have chosen not to meet them, but Gospel for Asia has always valued our endorsement by ECFA and therefore made efforts to remain in good standing for 36 years.

Our change in status with ECFA caused concern by some and raised questions about financial accountability of Gospel for Asia. ECFA’s decision was made after conducting a special review of Gospel for Asia, and we respect ECFA’s evaluation. Our response was to begin a focused review and to implement the ECFA’s recommended improvements.

For more than 30 years, Gospel for Asia has served in some of the most complex environments in the world. Some of the questions raised relate to measures Gospel for Asia felt forced to take to continue our work in hostile environments where very real threats exist to Christians of all kinds, new believers and international humanitarian organizations. Gospel for Asia has always had “enemies” who didn’t want our mission to continue, but sometimes our biggest challenges have related to managing the complex economic and political environments within which God has called us to serve.

Most of ECFA’s issues resulted from us growing more quickly than our processes and procedures were able to accommodate while we were simultaneously navigating unbelievably complicated circumstances in sometimes dangerous and confusing environments. Over the course of these challenges, we made some good decisions and some bad ones and sometimes we didn’t have the right counsel or any counsel at all.

We willingly accepted—and appreciated—ECFA’s concern because our processes and procedures needed improvement, and in some cases, we were still operating like a small organization as opposed to an organization of our size and influence. We have always welcomed ECFA’s efforts to help us improve.

We learned of the lawsuit when reporters began to call us. It’s worth noting, the first to post anything related to the lawsuit was a blogger who has leveled a relentless attack on Gospel for Asia for months.

We appreciate the role and responsibility—and often good intentions—of journalists in the “new media” and in traditional media, but we have been grieved to discover that too many of them have chosen to consider us “guilty until proven innocent” as opposed to “innocent until proven guilty.”

We must take the time to fully understand the nature of the accusations being leveled against us, and then we will respond accordingly. The issues surrounding our change in status with ECFA have been misunderstood, but regardless of viewpoint, we have taken and will continue to take a focused approach to implement suggested changes to our operations.

We will fully cooperate with the law and are in the process of securing specialized legal counsel to help us and our other legal advisors navigate this new challenge.

We consider it a blessing to finally have the opportunity to bring this matter to full resolution through an impartial arbiter, and you can rest assured that in the meantime we will continue operating on behalf of some of the world’s most desperate people in some of its most complex environments. We hope you will pray for us, for these ongoing challenges are certainly also challenges and distractions to our mission.

The staff leadership of Gospel for Asia are working diligently to handle all of this responsibly and with integrity. We will come out of this stronger.

We thank our committed staff, our donors, prayer partners and friends, for walking with us all these years, especially during this challenging season.

As the Board of Directors, we take our responsibility seriously and we have full confidence in the ministry of Gospel for Asia.

—Board of Directors of Gospel for Asia

This statement mentions “a blogger.” Note to GFA board: I have a name. Furthermore, I have an email address. GFA’s David Carroll has it. He stopped answering my emails in May 2015. Is that what you wanted him to do? I just sent an email to Taun Cortado asking for comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. Instead, you respond to me via other sources.
I have sent many emails to board member Francis Chan with questions about the unaccounted for funds. Chan has not replied. Why not? Is it easier for you to accuse bloggers of misrepresenting facts or having bad motives? This is a losing strategy. Most people can see through it when you answer a charge with an ad hominem attack. Instead of attacking me, you should try talking.

If there is information you believe I am missing, please do what a responsible organization would do — contact me and let’s talk. It is unseemly for you to continue to blame the messenger. If there are answers to the many unanswered questions, then you are to blame for failing to communicate them.

You fail to mention the testimony of your former colleague Gayle Erwin. Remember him? He was on the GFA board and pulled back the curtain.
Former donors are speaking out. Former Canadian board members are speaking out after being improperly dismissed.  The Office of Personnel Management found you guilty after an investigation.

The ball is in your court.

Gospel for Asia Accuses Certain Bloggers of Misrepresenting Facts

GFA HQ inside
Inside Gospel for Asia’s HQ. HH Architects website

I wonder who they mean.
Gospel for Asia apparently will only talk to Christianity Today. About the recent RICO class action suit against GFA, an unnamed spokesperson for GFA told CT (go read the entire article):

“While we are more than willing to answer any questions asked of us, it would be irresponsible for us to do so at this time since we have not yet been served any lawsuit,” GFA told CT. “All we know is what has been posted on the internet by certain bloggers who have previously misrepresented facts related to Gospel for Asia in a relentless attempt to discredit our ministry.

The first statement is a blatant lie. For months, GFA has not answered questions from donors and media (e.g., 20 year donor Bruce Morrison). GFA stopped answering my questions on May 7, 2015. At the end of this post, I have provided statements from survey respondents regarding the unwillingness of GFA to answer questions.
UPDATE: (Since I first posted this, I read an article posted by the Christian Post with the same statement. CP identifies the source of the statement as Daniel Punnose, K.P. Yohannan’s son. So, Rev. Punnose, please point out any facts you believe I have misrepresented.)
GFA also told CT:

“Once we know the nature of the accusations, we will respond accordingly and transparently,” GFA stated. “We remain—as we have been for over 30 years—committed to operating with integrity on behalf of so many of the world’s most desperate people. That is our commitment and we will remain focused on our Christian mission. We are so grateful for all of those who support our work.”

This statement insults the intelligence of everyone who has done any kind of investigation into GFA. Let’s review GFA’s recent record.

  • On October 2, 2015, the board of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability disclosed that GFA’s membership had been terminated due to multiple violations of ECFA guidelines. The letter from ECFA outlining the violations of financial integrity standards can be viewed in this previous article.
  • In their response to the ECFA, GFA admitted smuggling cash to India. While GFA says it didn’t know such smuggling was illegal, questions remain about their conflicting stories.
  • The Independent Charities of America did not offer membership to GFA due to GFA’s failure to provide a clean audit for 2014.
  • The Office of Personnel Management banned GFA as an approved charity due to violations of eligibility requirements. The OPM imposed the most severe response allowed by law. GFA will not be allowed to solicit donations from federal workers for at least the next campaign year.

It is clear that GFA has learned nothing from their recent problems. Despite the removal of ECFA and ICA memberships and the disciplinary action of the OPM, GFA continues to blame bloggers for their problems.
I challenge GFA to back up the statements to CT. Where have I or any other blogger misrepresented facts relating to GFA? I have asked repeatedly for clarification and information which might clear up these matters. However, GFA has consistently refused to answer any questions from me and has made no effort to address the many loose ends surrounding their management of donor funds.
Because GFA has attacked my integrity, I challenge the organization to provide me, CT or any media source with evidence that I have misrepresented facts about GFA. I will gladly provide their explanation and any evidence GFA offers to my readers.
 
In October 2015, I created a survey designed for anyone leading and attending a Calvary Chapel. I have 77 responses so far. For participants who had contacted GFA, I asked if they were satisfied with answers given by GFA.  Most did not answer (59), but of the 18 that did, four were satisfied and 13 were not satisfied. Some of the negative replies are below. The four positives simply indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with GFA’s responses.

  • Saddened, not satisfied. Sin is blinding and deceptive. The answers the leaders and staff members gave me have broken my heart, and I pray for them daily that they will turn and be restored.
  • I got no answers or responses to my concerns and comments.
  • Not at all satisfied. They tried to turn the tables on the dialogue basically saying: “Prove the accusations to be true.” No offer of explanation or dialogue. This has been the recurrent theme with others in our congregation who attempted to address the issue with them.
  • Standard response was to blame the blogs as propaganda for former staffers.