For years, one of the world’s largest missions agencies has told supporters that 100 percent of donations for its work in India are sent to the field.
That promise of good stewardship is one of the main selling points that Gospel for Asia (GFA) offers donors.
“Gospel for Asia is firmly committed to good stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our friends and donors,” the ministry’s website claims. “We promise to use your gifts wisely and effectively in Christ’s name.”
Yet, a previously confidential letter from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to GFA, published last week by blogger Warren Throckmorton, shows that GFA failed to live up to that promise.
The ECFA letter reported that GFA used $19.8 million in restricted donations to build its headquarters in Carrollton, Texas, just outside of Dallas.
Those donations were intended for missions work. Instead, the money was sent overseas to one of GFA’s affiliates. The affiliate then returned the money to the United States, without the knowledge of GFA’s board of directors or donors.
GFA leaders also tried to conceal the source of those funds. The $19.8 million was listed in GFA’s 2013 audit as an anonymous donation. Earlier this year, GFA admitted that restricted donations for missions work had been used for the building.
The ministry also solicited millions of dollars in donations, claiming urgent needs, while its overseas affiliates held onto huge cash balances—nearly $250 million in 2014.
The ECFA letter (dated September 2, 2015) was the result of a four-month investigation into GFA’s finances. Soon after the report was issued, ECFA expelled GFA from its membership.
At the time, ECFA said GFA had violated five of its seven core standards. But details of the ECFA investigation were not available to the public. That changed last week when former GFA board member Gayle Erwin released the ECFA’s letter and other documents to Throckmorton.
The ECFA investigation found that GFA leaders misled donors and board members about the state of the ministry’s finances. GFA leaders also tried to withhold details about finances from ECFA.
Among other findings:
- GFA delayed sending nearly $50 million in donations to its overseas partners in 2014. The funds were not transferred overseas until the end of the year. GFA also delayed sending $28 million in donations overseas in 2015.
- GFA failed to keep track of how it spends designated funds for specific projects.
- GFA’s leader, K. P. Yohannan, repeatedly withheld information about the ministry’s finances from its board of directors.
- $29 million dollars in donations was moved to the Hong Kong bank account of GFA's India affiliate without disclosing that transfer to the Indian government. GFA also hid financial transactions from both the Indian government and US officials.
- GFA failed to exercise control over millions of dollars in donations sent to its overseas affiliates.
The ECFA report also indicates that GFA was less than cooperative with the inquiry.
“Certain information provided to ECFA by GFA that was crucial to our review was, at least initially, inaccurate,” wrote John C. Van Drunen, ECFA’s executive vice president, in September 2015.
ECFA would not comment to CT for this story.
A key moment in the investigation came in June 2015.
ECFA asked GFA about the cash reserves held by its overseas affiliates. At first, GFA claimed those affiliates had $7 million in reserves. When ECFA pressed for more details, GFA revealed that its affiliates had $259 million on hand in March 2014, and $186 million as of June 2015.