Membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) leapt to over 490 with the acceptance of more than 40 Christian groups this past summer. The financial watchdog organization, whose visibility has increased in the last two years as a result of the moral failures of leading televangelists, also announced that three organizations resigned and two, including an ECFA charter member, were expelled by ECFA’s board of directors.

Calvary Temple Church, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was dropped for not complying with ECFA’s standard governing board makeup. And the Charlottesville, Virginia-based ministry Christian Aid Mission (CAM,) one of ECFA’s original members, was cited for violating four of ECFA’s seven standards, including those governing fund-raising practices, board structure, and ethical integrity.

Victimized By Enemies?

With a staff of about 35, CAM specializes in raising funds for indigenous evangelistic ministries overseas. According to the 1987 annual report supplied by CAM to CHRISTIANITY TODAY, the ministry took in almost $3 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1987.

CAM president Robert Finley said his organization has been victimized by enemies, including disgruntled former staff. Finley was scheduled to meet last month with an ECFA-appointed committee to explain the allegations. (That meeting was scheduled to take place after CT’s press deadline.)

ECFA executive director Arthur Borden said that even if Finley has a good explanation for many of the charges, the decision to terminate CAM was justified. “The main problem [with CAM] is the organization of the organization,” said Borden. He explained that CAM’s bylaws clearly violate ECFA standards for selection and makeup of their board. Borden said 1988 is the first year ECFA has examined the bylaws of member organizations.

According to Borden, CAM’s bylaws reveal that it is controlled not by its board, but by a smaller group within the board that has the power to select and remove board members. This smaller group, known as the Membership, currently includes Finley, his wife, and a CAM staff member. The entire CAM board consists of only five people; three other board members resigned in May, citing disagreements with Finley.

Finley responded extensively by telephone and in writing to questions submitted by CHRISTIANITY TODAY. He said CAM was delaying replacing the board members who resigned until ECFA ruled on CAM’s process for selecting its board. Borden said that if CAM is willing to make changes required by ECFA, it could reapply for membership and would be treated like any other organization seeking ECFA’s acceptance.

However, Fredrick Lester, one of three board members who resigned in May, said he had his doubts that Finley would make changes that diminish his control of CAM. Lester said Finley has stated that CAM donors do not care whether it belongs to ECFA. Finley declined comment on whether he valued ECFA membership.

Lester, a retired businessman, said that he and the two others who resigned did so because the “situation was hopeless with regard to cleaning the ministry up from the inside.” But Finley indicated that one of those who resigned, Donald Michels, did so for reasons that had nothing to do with CAM’s policies or practices.

However, Michels said that although he considers Finley a brother, he was displeased with Finley’s leadership. He said board members approached Finley more than once with concerns about ministry operations, but that Finley was unresponsive.

Early this year Lester served on a committee of board members that interviewed almost all of CAM’s employees, some of whom had approached the board with concerns about the way the ministry was being operated. Lester said some of those interviewed questioned whether donated funds were actually being disbursed overseas. Some of the money, he said, is deposited into bank accounts “to be assigned,” accounts controlled by Finley.

Lester said Finley fired a CAM staff attorney who had informed board members of questionable ministry practices. Finley accused the attorney in question of a clandestine attempt to “divide and conquer” the ministry. He said CAM’s books are audited yearly by a respected certified public accountant. “I’ve never spent a penny [of money donated to CAM] on anything except for what we have publicly reported,” Finley said.

Finley did acknowledge that an unethical fund-raising letter went out over his signature last year, but he said the staff person responsible for the letter sent it out without his knowledge. According to Finley, that staff member has since been released.

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