In its ordination services, for example, new priests are asked to kiss Yohannan’s rings as an act of obedience. Helm said that Yohannan, whose title as head of Believers Church is metropolitan, denied that the ring-kissing ceremonies have taken place for fear of offending evangelical donors.
For years, Helm said, GFA told donors that building a new church in India cost $10,000. Then he was told to increase this amount to $40,000 in GFA promotional materials. He said that there was no indication that the cost of churches had actually increased.
Helm doesn’t believe that GFA has mismanaged money. Instead, he thinks it is less than truthful with donors, which caused him to lose faith in the organization.
“If I can’t trust them with the small things, why would I trust them with money?” he said.
In its statement, GFA acknowledged it had experienced growing pains and may have been “unintentionally negligent at times.”
“While we will be working to improve our reporting of financial matters to donors, we will always be cautious about disclosing anything that may jeopardize the safety of ministry partners working in areas hostile to the gospel,” GFA said in a statement to CT. “We continually look to the Lord for his wisdom and guidance in often complicated international financial and political environments.”
Helm, the former development director, believes ECFA’s decision will cost GFA money. The ECFA seal of approval appears on all of GFA’s literature, he said, and is used to promote the trustworthiness of GFA.
“They live and die by ECFA,” he said.
David Cooke, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Riverhead, New York, said that he was disturbed by the loss of ECFA membership. Cooke has endorsed GFA in the past, but that may change.
“I find the reported issues at GFA to be very concerning, and I will likely be asking to have my endorsement removed,” he told CT in an email. “I pray that they will repent of all wrongdoing and make things right.”
In contrast, Jimmy Morales, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain in Las Vegas and another GFA supporter, said it was “heartbreaking to see these things happening” but that GFA leaders had “historically been exceedingly meticulous regarding their financial accountability.”
“Knowing the leadership of [GFA] intimately, I am certain that none of these things were done out of wickedness or greed, but apparently some amount of carelessness has crept in regarding finances that needs to be addressed,” he told CT in an email. “I am looking forward to seeing GFA resolve these matters, and I hope that they do it before they lose very much of their support base.”
The ECFA decision was troubling to pastor and author Francis Chan.
Chan joined GFA’s board earlier this year. He’d only been to one meeting before the ECFA decision was announced.
“I was surprised and concerned when I read the report from ECFA,” he told CT in an email. “It has been weighing heavy on my heart. It’s not often that I make a decision that impacts millions of people.”
Chan told CT he’s still learning about the size and scope of GFA’s ministry. That will help him make better decisions as a board member.
“I know too little about the culture in India to make judgments about their decisions,” he said. “I have never run a ministry of this magnitude. I have experience with leading thousands, but not millions. I have experience with budgets of millions, not hundreds of millions. I am going to spend time listening and researching.”