Leading television ministers assured a congressional subcommittee last month that new steps toward self-regulation will prevent financial abuses similar to the ones that plagued the PTL ministry under Jim and Tammy Bakker. At the same time, members of the House subcommittee quizzed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department officials about strengthening government scrutiny of religious broadcasters.

Gordon D. Loux, president of Prison Fellowship Ministries and chairman of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), defended that group’s effectiveness as a monitoring organization. “What you would like to see done is already being done,” he told subcommittee chairman U.S. Rep. J. J. Pickle (D-Tex.). ECFA, a voluntary, 400-member organization, stresses compliance with standards of full financial disclosure, board membership that is not dominated by family members or ministry employees, annual independent audits, and strict fund-raising guidelines.

ECFA has been criticized as ineffective because PTL was a member in good standing from 1978 until December 1986. Beginning last March, abuses of donor funds and tax-exempt status by PTL have been under examination. Loux conceded that ECFA relied on assurances of financial integrity by PTL and its accounting firm. “Hindsight shows that this reliance was misplaced,” he told the subcommittee. He added that the ECFA board would meet before the end of October to consider instituting a nationwide network of volunteer accountants and attorneys to conduct random audits of member organizations.

A second attempt at self-regulation comes from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). Executive director Ben Armstrong told Pickle’s ...

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