The commitment of Christian organizations to financial accountability remains high, according to the annual membership report of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), which was released last month. Executive director Art Borden told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that new groups are signing up for ECFA membership at a rate of one per week, with 31 organizations becoming members so far in 1990. A total of 627 evangelical nonprofit groups are currently members of ECFA, according to the report.
However, Borden said that while 1990 looks as if it will be ECFA’s third-best year in signing new members, growth has “slowed considerably” from the previous two years. “There hasn’t been a crisis to bring this to people’s attention like we’ve had in the past,” Borden said. “That’s good news, but it makes it easier for us to be put on the back burner.”
Member organizations submit to uniform standards of good governance, financial practice and disclosure, and fund-raising ethics. All members must also voluntarily submit to an annual review to assure continued compliance with the standards. Twelve on-site reviews have been completed so far in 1990, with more scheduled for the year.
Since January 1989, the memberships of Manna Bible Institute of Philadelphia and Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc., of Pittsburgh were terminated by the ECFA board because those organizations did not provide the information requested for their annual evaluations, Borden said. Freedom Ministries/Dallas Can also resigned at the request of ECFA for the same reason.
The annual report also noted that 15 organizations have resigned voluntarily from ECFA since January 1989, including several well-known groups, such as the U.S. Center for World Mission, Southern California College, and Jack Van Impe Ministries.
Ralph Winter of the U.S. Center for World Mission told CT his ministry resigned because it felt ECFA was duplicating the services of the Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association (IFMA), a founding organization of ECFA. Winter characterized IFMA as a “lean, tough, accountability structure for mission agencies” whose standards exceed those of ECFA. “We felt we might be unqualified to belong to any accountability association if we wasted our donors’ money by belonging to two associations and duplicating unnecessary expense,” he said.
Southern California College, an Assemblies of God-sponsored liberal arts school in Costa Mesa, also felt its ECFA membership was a duplication of other services, according to its president, Wayne Kraiss. “We are an accredited school, regularly audited by CPA firms, the federal government, our accrediting association, and both the district and general councils of the Assemblies of God,” he said, noting that all of the other groups have a stricter scrutiny than ECFA does. Kraiss said he holds ECFA in high regard and that the college is considering rejoining the group to “help support ECFA’s credibility.”
John Lang, executive director of Jack Van Impe Ministries, declined to comment on why the television evangelist’s group decided to withdraw from ECFA. He said, however, that the organization does provide audited financial statements to those who request them.
ECFA charter member Bible Memory Association International (BMAI) of Ringgold, Louisiana, resigned “for an interim period” in order to protect “the integrity of ECFA,” said executive director Greg Peters. After review of an “antiquated bookkeeping system,” Peters said his organization last year discovered financial irregularities.
“We were half-a-million dollars in debt and in trouble with the IRS,” he said. “We felt that if we were not going to be an upstanding organization with no questions about our finances, then we needed to pull out until we were.” Now, says Peters, BMAI is “debt free” and doesn’t “owe the IRS a penny,” so it will again apply for ECFA membership.
Meanwhile, the push for accountability continues among the nation’s religious broadcasters. Borden, who administers the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) accountability program, Ethics and Financial Integrity Commission (EFICOM), said that more than 400 NRB members have now been fully certified. About 300 members do not have to comply with the standards, and “a few others” are being processed, he said. The NRB has an estimated 883 members (CT, Mar. 5, 1990, p. 30). A new EFICOM report was due out last month, but had not yet been released by press time.
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