There’s a new acronym in evangelical Christendom: ECFA, or the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. And it may spell greater openness on the part of evangelical agencies in their financial dealings with the public.

The primary purpose of ECFA, as put forth at an organizational meeting in Chicago last month, is “to promote voluntary financial disclosure among evangelical agencies.” Potential ECFA members must comply with seven uniform standards of financial disclosure, including an annual outside audit that would be made available upon request. Member agencies will be able to display their ECFA “seal of approval” in fund raising and promotional efforts.

Seventy-five persons attended the formative meeting last month who, according to ECFA organizers, represented over 1,100 Christian charities with a combined annual income approaching $1 billion. (Actually, about thirty-five organizations were represented at the meeting, but many of them were umbrella groups, such as the National Religious Broadcasters, which has almost 800 affiliate members of its own.)

The organizers had driven or flown to Chicago, to a hotel near O’Hare International Airport, where, during a four-hour meeting, they adopted with only slight revision articles of incorporation and financial standards that had been drafted earlier by a study committee. The uniform standards of financial disclosure, which ECFA organizers said could later be “elaborated on or added to,” were:

• An annual audit by a public accounting firm performed in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards … financial statements prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

• Audited financial statements made available upon request.

• An audit committee ...

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