Leaders from Gospel for Asia (GFA), one of the largest missions agencies in the United States, says they may have been “unintentionally negligent” in their financial and management practices. But they deny any wrongdoing after being ousted by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
In a rare move last week, ECFA terminated the membership of Gospel for Asia (GFA), one of its charter members.
ECFA believes that GFA misled donors, mismanaged resources, has an ineffective board, and failed to live up to its promises as an ECFA member. It had been investigating GFA since June.
All told, ECFA found that GFA violated five of the accountability group’s seven core standards. As a result, the ECFA board voted on October 2 to cut ties with GFA. The board said its decision is final.
“This ends Gospel for Asia’s 36-year-long status as an ECFA member,” the council said in a statement.
The move caught GFA by surprise. In a statement provided to CT, GFA said that no money “was found to be missing” in ECFA’s extensive review of the ministry’s finances. But the review did reveal conflicts between GFA procedures and ECFA standards. Leaders at GFA said they were working to make changes recommended by ECFA, and had expected to remain in good standing.
“Although this is disappointing, Gospel for Asia accepts the decision with regret and sadness,” GFA said in a statement.
David Carroll, GFA’s chief financial officer, told CT that the termination letter from ECFA and the report of its GFA review have not been released to the public. Founder K.P. Yohannan was not available for comment.
Losing ECFA membership is the latest setback for GFA, which has been under scrutiny since the summer of 2014. In a letter to the GFA board of directors, a group of former staff calling itself the GFA Diaspora accused the group’s leaders, including Yohannan, of mistreating staff and lying to donors.
In response, GFA’s board of directors launched a formal investigation. The board said the investigation found no merit to the complaints.
“While the board investigation concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of leadership, we recognize that, as humans, our leadership is not always going to be perfect,” Carroll told blogger Warren Throckmorton in a statement earlier this year.
Cody Carnine said he originally dismissed the critics’ claims as untrue when he worked as volunteer manager for GFA.
“When the letter from the Diaspora first came out, I thought they were crazy,” said Carnine, who left GFA in June 2015 after 10 years on staff.
Carnine said that as he looked further into the complaints made by former staff, he began to agree with them. He felt that too much deference was being paid to Yohannan.
And he worried that GFA has too much control over the lives of its staff members. Most live in GFA-owned housing at the group’s campus in Wills Point, Texas. Yohannan, he said, discouraged staffers from attending a local church. Instead, they were told to turn to him and other GFA leaders for spiritual guidance. Staff members were also told that their work was more important than anything, including their families—a charge also made by the GFA Diaspora.
Carnine also worried about the work GFA was doing overseas.
American staffers were allowed to visit India on so-called “vision tours,” said Carnine. But they weren’t privy to any of the finances of the overseas work. And they were discouraged from even being Facebook friends with overseas staff.