At the beginning of October, The Times of India reported that the Indian government canceled the charity registration of Believers’ Church. BC is the field partner of Gospel for Asia in the United States. GFA is the second largest missionary organization in the U.S.
Fr Sijo Panthapallil, spokesperson of Believers Church, told ToI over phone from Delhi: We are not bringing foreign funds, as there is a standing re vision order [on the FCRA registrations, normally given for a five-year period and then renewed thereafter.]”
If BC (along with Gospel for Asia –now known as Ayana Charitable Trust — and other related trusts) is bring money into the country, then why hasn’t GFA alerted international donors? There is no assurance that funds now being given for India will get there. And yet, GFA continues to raise money as if those funds are all going to “the field.” The image below is from GFA’s website.
I searched throughout the GFA website but found nothing about the cancellation of GFA’s registration on the field. Perhaps GFA is sending the money to other Asian countries or other obscure affiliated charities. However, donors should know what is happening.
Why Not Tell Donors?
Currently, GFA is being sued by two couples in separatefraud cases in part because the donors believe their funds were not dispersed as they intended. It seems to me that GFA is setting themselves up for more such accusations by not telling donors that the funds for Indian missionaries, Indian children sponsored through Bridge of Hope, and other India-specific donations have been restricted from India.
In contrast to GFA’s silence, Compassion International has been quite vocal about the fact that the organization’s registration in India was .removed. For CI, the blow isn’t as dramatic since their operations are worldwide. However, most of GFA’s work in in India and their founder, K.P. Yohannan is a native of the Indian state of Kerala.
CI has offered donors the option to sponsor children in other nations and has been up front about it. GFA, on the other hand, has done nothing to alert donors who continue to give as if their funds are allowed to go into India. Compassion and GFA were registered under the same Ministry of Home Affairs and the removal of that registration has the same implications. Compassion is being candid and transparent; GFA is not.
In a shocking move, the Believers’ Church in India led by their Metropolitan bishop K.P. Yohannan has sued the Church of South India for defamation. According to Christian Today, the Church of South of India, affiliated with the Anglican Communion, doesn’t recognize Yohannan as a bishop. Recently, the CSI publicly said the church only sees Yohannan as a layman and not a bishop. For that reason the CSI pulled out of the National Council of Churches in India.
The CSI has never recognized Believers’ Church which has been a source of conflict among Indian Christians. Believers’ Church has now accused CSI of defamation.
This lawsuit comes just days after Believers’ Church and three other affiliated charities were stripped of their government registration to receive foreign funds. This means they are no longer able to accept foreign funds for their charitable work in India. They continue to operate on the funds raised in India.
The aggressive action by Believers’ Church comes as former donors have filed two fraud and corruption lawsuits against Gospel for Asia, the U.S. sister organization. Both groups were founded by K.P. Yohannan.
Implications for Gospel for Asia Donors
Donors should be aware that the two major organizations run by K.P. Yohannan — Gospel for Asia and Believers’ Church — are now engaged in funding three lawsuits. This means that donor funds will be used to either fund legal action or to subsidize other activities while other funds are used to pay attorneys.
Believers’ Church Seeks to Silence the Largest Protestant Church in India
It is mind blowing that Believers’ Church has willingly sued the largest Protestant church in India for exercising religious liberty. The CSI believes K.P. Yohannan isn’t a bishop. That is within the right of the CSI to administer those offices as they believe is right. The Believers’ Church lawsuit sets a dangerous precedent. Will Hindus now sue Believers’ Church for suggesting that Christianity saves and Hinduism doesn’t? A church suing another church over speech is scandalous and should be widely condemned.
In the event they prevail in their RICO suit against Gospel for Asia, the plaintiffs want to add GFA’s numerous related entities to the list of defendants. In a motion filed on October 4, Garland and Phyllis Murphy want the federal court to allow any judgment against GFA to apply to the many organizations around the world controlled by K.P. Yohannan and the GFA board.
Discovery is far from complete, but the Murphys have learned of at least 76 entities (thus far) that may prove to be alter egos of named Defendants GFA, Inc., K.P. Yohannan, and/or family members and close associates of Yohannan. (p.1)
The attorneys for the plaintiffs want the court to consider applying any verdict favoring the plaintiffs to these related entities, also known as alter egos.
…the best course of action under these circumstances is to address alter ego issues only if the Murphys first obtain a judgment against the named Defendants.2 But because the case management order is silent except for the approaching deadline to add parties, the Murphys—for clarity and out of caution—now ask the Court to explicitly build an alter ego phase of trial after verdict into the case management order. (p. 1-2)
The request is designed to protect against GFA moving assets to a related entity which has not been named as a defendant in the case. Since K.P. Yohannan and family are on the boards of these related entities, it is plausible to think they might move assets away from GFA to shield them from a judgment.
Lawyers Deny Yohannan Controls Related Entities
In a related response from GFA’s attorney’s filed on October 6, the defense team again asserted that K.P. Yohannan does not have control of entities in India.
The Field Partners are separate legal entities with their own governing boards. They are not controlled by GFA-USA or K.P. Yohannan, and thus Defendants do not have the authority to simply order them to produce documents. This separateness is important in India. (p.4)
GFA has yet to produce any proof that K.P. Yohannan has relinquished his control of Believers’ Church or any of the entities under their umbrella. According to numerous Believers’ Church documents, Yohannan is the supreme authority over the church and has the final word in matters of temporal and ecclesiastical control. As late as 2015, court documents in India refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers Church.
Alter Egos Listed
In Exhibit A of the motion to add alter egos, seventy-six possible entities are listed. They are:
1. Believers Church – India
2. Gospel for Asia – India (n/k/a Ayana Charitable Trust)
3. Last Hour Ministry
4. Love India Ministries
5. Believers Church
6. Believers Church – Bangladesh
7. Believers Church – Myanmar
8. Believers Church – Nepal
9. Believers Church – Sri Lanka
10. Gospel for Asia – Bangladesh
11. Gospel for Asia – Nepal
12. Gospel for Asia – Myanmar
13. Gospel for Asia – Sri Lanka
14. Gospel for Asia – International
15. Gospel for Asia – United Kingdom
16. Gospel for Asia – Germany
17. Gospel for Asia – Canada (n/k/a GFA World)
18. Gospel for Asia – New Zealand
19. Gospel for Asia – Australia
20. Gospel for Asia – South Africa
21. Gospel for Asia – South Korea
22. Gospel for Asia – Finland
23. Gospel for Asia, Inc. (TX Corp)
24. Gospel for Asia 75 LLC
25. Gospel for Asia 275 LLC
26. Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship
27. Bridge Builders, LLC
28. Cup Of Blessing, LLC
29. Grace in Action, LLC
30. In His Steps, LLC
31. Peace Givers, LLC
32. Road to Peace, LLC
33. Shepherd’s Care, LLC
34. Teaching Skills, LLC
35. Unconditional Love, LLC
36. Unfailing Love, LLC
37. Voice of Love, LLC
38. Way of Hope, LLC
39. Little Hills (Canada)
40. The Blind See (Canada)
41. The Lame Walk (Canada)
42. Lift Up Their Voices (Canada)
43. Growth in Fraternity Trust
44. Shekina Prophetic Mission Trust
45. New Hope Foundation
46. Holy Spirit Ministries
47. Rehaboth Indian Gypsy New Life Trust
48. Arul Shelter Home Trust
51. Heavenly Grace Ministry
52. Bridge of Hope
53. Cheruvally Rubber Estate
54. Believers Church Theological Seminary
55. Believers Church Residential School
56. Believers Church Residential School Tiruvalla
57. Believers Church Vidya Jyothi English School
58. Believers Church Mahatma Public School, Chavara
59. Believers Church Mahatma Central School
60. Believers Church Mulamanna VHSS
61. Believers Church Residential School, Orissa
62. Believers Church Residential School, Allapuzha
63. Believers Church Holy Angels Public School
64. Believers Church Grace Garden Public School
65. Believers Church Medical College Hospital
66. Caarmel Engineering College
67. Athmeeya Yathra Media
68. Athmeeya Yathra Television
69. Athmeeya Yathra Radio
70. AY Broadcast Foundation
71. Believers Church Medical Centre, Purulia, West Bengal
72. Believers Church Medical Centre, Konni, Kerala
73. Asha Grih Children’s Homes
74. Dora Microfinance
75. Gospel For Asia Football (soccer) Club – Myanmar Premier League
76. St. Johannes International School Rajasthan
For over a year, I have been looking for the deed of the Believers’ Church trust. I wanted to find it because I felt sure that it would demonstrate that CEO and founder of Gospel for Asia K.P. Yohannan was on the board of Believers’ Church. Since Yohannan once claimed he didn’t sit on any controlling boards in India, I wanted the trust document to check on that claim. More recently, a lawyer defending Gospel for Asia against fraud charges also claimed Yohannan doesn’t sit on boards of GFA affiliated organizations in India.
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.
Here is the big issue, and it doesn’t really have to do with bifurcation, but I think that the Court should give us some guidance on this today. If you look at their case management plan, we could go through. They have four pages, and we’re going to produce most all the things that they have asked for, except the problem that we have, Mr. Stanley [attorney for people suing GFA] has mentioned over and over how K. P. Yohannan just controls everything. There are many — there are entities in India: The Believers Church, GFA-India. K. P. Yohannan is not on the board of those entities. Is he the metropolitan? Yes, he is the Metropolitan of Believers Church. Does that mean he has access to all of their records? No, it doesn’t.
Now, Mr. Stanley doesn’t believe that. Mr. Stanley thinks that whatever K. P. Yohannan wants, he can get; but we have no problem in producing everything we can with respect to the entities that he has sued. But when it comes to wholly separate entities in India, that’s where the rub is.
In past articles, I have produced ample evidence that Yohannan is on the GFA (now Ayana Charitable Trust) board, the Believers’ Church board, the Bridge of Hope board, and the board of at least a couple of his for profit schools. Yohannan is listed as owner on the deeds to property owned by the church. However, I lacked the trust document which established Believers’ Church in India. Now I have the original 1993 trust document and a trust deed updated in 2004 (click the links to read each one). Point 10 leaves no doubt who is in charge in the Believers’ Church.
These documents show beyond any doubt that K.P. Yohannan is a founding trustee of Believers’ Church and that he remains in control of the business and religious operations. All of the NGOs operate under the umbrella of Believers’ Church and would provide documents for the court action in the U.S. if the Metropolitan Bishop ordered it so.
The list of GFA trustees in 2004.
It is possible that another deed has been filed since 2004. However, if that is true, it should not be difficult for fellow Patheos blogger K.P. Yohannan to produce it. He is, after all, the “constitutional head” and “supreme authority of the Church” who holds “the final word on all matters whether concerning policies or theological beliefs and activities of the Church.”
In a surprising development, the nation of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the registration of Gospel for Asia and three related organizations. According to the Times of India, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) was the largest recipient of foreign funds in the nation during fiscal year 2016. The other affiliated organizations which lost registration are Believers’ Church, Last Hour Ministry and Love India Ministry. Believers’ Church is the ecclesiastical arm of GFA in Asia.
In India for a charity to accept foreign funds, the charity must be registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The organizations affiliated with Gospel for Asia have traditionally been among the richest in India. In FY 2016, these charities pulled in $206.5-million from foreign donors, most of that from the United States.
Gospel for Asia is the target of two RICO lawsuits in the U.S. Plaintiffs allege fraud and misuse of funds. At least one of these cases has been slated for trial in 2019. In October of 2015, GFA was evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for multiple violations of EFCA’s financial standards. GFA vowed to regain membership in the financial watchdog but has yet to satisfy ECFA requirements.
In 2016, GFA was sanctioned by the federal Office of Personnel Management for failing to abide program standards. As a consequence, the U.S. government banned GFA from accepting donations from federal employees during the annual workplace charitable fund drive.
In 2015, it was learned that GFA leaders asked student visitors to India to take U.S. dollars into India without reporting the funds to customs officials.
Below is the cancellation notice on India Ministry of Home Affairs website for Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly Gospel for Asia in India).
GFA does business in India under other organizational names that apparently have not been cancelled (e.g., New Hope Foundation, Holy Spirit Ministries) but most funds go to the four cancelled entities. In practice, the move might not immediately hurt Believers’ Church and GFA in India because the organization has hoarded so much cash over the past decade.