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ECFA strips Gospel for Asia's membership

Church planting ministry cited for violations related to governance and financial management


Gospel for Asia founder K.P. Yohannan Associated Press/Photo by Donna McWilliam

ECFA strips Gospel for Asia's membership

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) terminated the membership of Gospel for Asia Friday for violations of ECFA standards. The termination came after a lengthy review of the church planting ministry’s practices that began on June 10.

Gospel for Asia, founded in 1978 by K.P. Yohannan, operates mostly in India, where it is known as Believers Church. The group says it has planted thousands of churches that now have hundreds of thousands of members. Believers Church also operates dozens of regional Bible colleges and an accredited seminary. It also owns a 2,000-acre rubber plantation and other real estate holdings throughout India.

The ECFA found that Gospel for Asia had violated five of the financial accountability group’s seven standards, touching virtually every aspect of the ministry. The ECFA noted that Gospel for Asia failed to engage in “truthfulness in communications,” did not honor “giver expectations and intent,” and did not have appropriate management and controls for an organization its size, including a “responsible board of not less than five individuals, a majority of whom shall be independent.”

A focus of the investigation was a new Gospel for Asia headquarters campus in Wills Point, Texas. That facility cost about $40 million, with half of the money coming from Gospel for Asia–India, which was likely given by donors to promote the spread of the gospel in India. Gospel for Asia COO David Carroll admitted that the organization “did not disclose in 2013 that gift from our field partner [Gospel for Asia–India].” The lack of disclosure and the use of funds in ways contrary to donor intent were key reasons for the ECFA terminating the ministry’s membership.

An ECFA member since the financial accountability group’s founding in 1979, Gospel for Asia, has grown to become one of the largest Christian ministries in the world, with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Though the ministry does not publish its audited financial statements or Form 990s, Carroll said Gospel for Asia’s total revenue in 2013 exceeded $90 million.

Carroll said Gospel for Asia has made ECFA-recommended changes and hopes to regain its membership. He admitted the ECFA’s action “might have some impact” on donations, adding, “We just don’t know yet.”

The ECFA’s action comes after months of posts by blogger Warren Throckmorton that severely criticized Gospel for Asia for its internal operations and financial management. MinistryWatch.com’s Rusty Leonard has advised donors to “halt all donations to [Gospel for Asia] immediately” because of the “broad scope of the violations.”


Warren Cole Smith

Warren is the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. He previously served as WORLD’s vice president and associate publisher. He currently serves as president of MinistryWatch and has written or co-written several books, including Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan To Change the World Through Everyday People. Warren resides in Charlotte, N.C.

@WarrenColeSmith

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LATIF

When we help out mercenaries rather than sending out missionaries this is what can happen. 

David Taylor

I have been disappointed with a past article and regular ads concerning GFA in World Magazine.  Having worked with a few ministries in India, one in which K.P. was raised up under until he started his own, I was aware of some of these type of issues with GFA but there are other issues as well.  

DBMiller

Thank you for reporting this. I trust the motives and methods of ECFA. The issues need to be addressed and remedied before we will contribute again to GFA. 

Ivy

This is all very interesting, but I don't see this as being anything that might be called corruption.  It is in no way like TBN or Jim and Tammy Baker, or Benny Hinn.  Every organization requires ministry space and funding and that should be obvious.  Don't the pastors of our churches receive a salary and isn't some of the money given for 'ministry' used for such needs as food, clothing, housing, transportation, church repair, etc?  Isn't it wise to only spend what can be skillfully managed, to keep a reserve, and do long term planning?  I don't see that expanding the US HQ of GFA is a fraudulent use of funds as long as there is a ministry purpose, which I'm convinced there is.  Money has not been spent buying private jets, and having multi-million dollar estates in various places.  Note that no one is accusing them of not founding the churches they claim to have founded; or not having the seminaries that they claim to run; or not producing seminary and BOH graduates; or not performing the relief activities that they claim to perform.  It seem that some are upset because they built a larger US HQ facility, funding a portion from other ministry assets from India.  But I think this is just wise planning and appropriate for a multinational ministry.  They are doing much gospel work and acts of mercy, and their actions don't seem to me to merit the harsh criticism.  I will continue to support both BOH and indigenous pastors in the field, both financially and in prayer, and urge them forward to reaching the billions in India that are without Christ.

Jampa

Sorry about this ministry, we have given in the past, but no longer due this story

Duval

Thank-you for this article. I am thankful the ECFA finally took action. Word needs to get out, so that no more believers in this country or in India are defrauded. No one likes to see these stories of corruption in ministries, but Christians should not help cover up sin. Our daughter was on staff there for 2 1/2 years until she noticed some integrity problems connected with her work. We are so thankful she got out. It was the tip of a very large iceberg.  

cln

I am sick about this. We have supported missionaries and children from their Bridge of Hope program for years. What does this mean? I assume they have met criteria of the ECFA in the past? I hope there is follow up and some assurance that problems are only recent?