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As affinity fraud continues to victimize Christian churches and organizations, signs are emerging that more believers are demanding accountability and oversight.

But these efforts may be too late for victims who invested funds with suburban Phoenix resident Edward Purvis, indicted in January for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that promised riches while funding Christian causes. Or for Southwest Baptist University's nursing college, which is investigating a $500,000 embezzlement case that surfaced in March.

Such headlines may be one reason the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) welcomed 40 new members during the first four months of 2009, twice the rate of last year's growth. The record 102 new members in 2008 boosted ECFA's rolls to nearly 1,400 organizations. "Being up over our best year in 20 years is a good sign," said president Dan Busby.

Growing membership isn't the only sign of interest in better fiscal controls. John Van Drunen, ECFA's director of compliance, said many smaller organizations are outsourcing financial management or hiring accounting firms in an effort to reduce embezzlement and fraud.

Nor is concern limited to micro-sized ministries. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization plans to review ecclesiastical crime at its 2010 congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

In late April, Van Drunen addressed two dozen members of the Lausanne Resource Mobilization Working Group, which promotes generosity and improved use of resources in the worldwide church.

"We want to create awareness and reduce the significance of the amount of leakage going to ecclesiastical crime," said group member Ron Ensminger, a partner in the Strategic Resource Group of Easton, Maryland. "It could ...

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Christianity Today
Popping the Fraud Bubble
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June 2009

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