- 2015Nov 13
Daily, Gospel for Asia affiliates all over the world solicit donations to help support children and mission activities in Asia. GFA affiliates in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand collect money from donors and funnel it to various non-government organizations affiliated with GFA in several Asian nations, most notably India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.*
I have recently learned that on at least one occasion the flow of funds was reversed. In May, David Carroll and K.P. Yohannan revealed to GFA’s staff that in 2013 Believers’ Church (GFA in India is an arm of BC) gave nearly $20 million to GFA in the United States toward the construction of a new compound in Wills Point, TX. The compound serves as GFA’s headquarters and the location of GFA’s School of Discipleship. I am getting figures together but my estimates of the costs of the compound were between $30-45 million.
Several staff speaking anonymously due to fears of retaliation told me that staff were told by GFA leaders that an anonymous donor gave the large gift to help complete the project. The 2012 and 2013 audits done by Bland Garvey refer to an anonymous donor as well.
The sentence outlined in red above discloses that GFA received nearly $20 million “from an anonymous donor.” Former staff told me that the impression they had was that a single donor provided the gift and they had no idea that it came “from the field.”
Listen to David Carroll and K.P. Yohannan describe the gift (click the link to hear the audio). A transcript follows:
David Carroll: There is, I don’t want to call it a rumor, a story, an inquiry about, what about the $19 million anonymous gift that was given for the campus back a year or so ago? What’s that all about? Did that come from the mission field, from field funds? So I want to explain that gift to you so that you know.
In about April of 2013, as we were building the campus here, we were running pretty critically short on money. We went to a bank at the time, City Bank of Texas, they’re located in Lubbock. Many of you might remember, we were still at the other building and A group of 11 bankers came, talk about a room, 11 bankers and an accountant and John [Beers]. That’s 12 bankers and an accountant. That was a rip-roaring time. Anyway, um, they came interested in our project to loan to it. So we brought them out here, we showed them the whole thing, we explained our vision, and actually we were working toward finalizing that loan, we were at the place of getting terms from them and when we realized the cost of the loan, Brother KP mentioned it to some of the folks in Asia and mentioned that we were not able to do any better than that. We couldn’t, we would loved to have borrowed money from one of the Asian banks cause actually it’s much better terms, it would be much less costly, we weren’t able to do that being a foreign corporation.
And so, what the people in Asia did, and it is a board that is under Believers’ Church umbrella, but Brother KP’s not on that board, it wasn’t his decision. The decision was made by them that since GFA North America had sent so much money to us from undesignated field funds, where needed most funds over the years, and since this campus to us is seen as an international headquarters which will be leadership training, it will be RYPs, which are always fruitful for the field, every time we have an RYP, the field tends to benefit from that. It will save the ministry somewhere between 4 and 5 million dollars a year when we’re at capacity here which is about 350 people. When that happens, we’re going to receive a lot of that extra money back and so they made the decision while we were in that bank loan process, that rather than go with that bank loan, we would like to make an anonymous gift for the campus fund. And they did that.
Was it field funds that should have gone to Nepal for earthquake victims or
K.P. Yohannan: – (Unintelligible)
DC – I was just getting to that.
KP – Sorry
DC – That’s fine. No, it wasn’t. But what they did on the mission field is they actually took a loan from one of their sources to replace that money so they could use it for the purpose it had been designated for there. So in essence, they got our loan. There are several income producing entities in Asia. That’s why partly why we have 35% of our church is self-sustaining, by God’s grace now in Asia. And they felt they could pay that loan off very very quickly. They made that decision to give us that money and they wanted it to be anonymous. And I’m a little sad that it’s not anonymous, but I did want to explain to you where it came from, and the reasons behind it, and so, in their minds it was an investment.
KP – It’s legal.
DC – It’s completely legal, thank you. There’s a board member, board documents as I understand it, I don’t live in Asia, but there’s board documents on the other side. The whole thing was done in complete legality.
By the way, one question, one part of that question was, is this a related party transaction? And the answer is no. It is not a related party transaction because the board members here, they’re not the same board members as there. In other words, the leadership here did not influence that decision there. Brother KP mentioned it but it was not his decision. He had to get permission, actually they told…
KP – I think David, it is important for people to know the person I am. It’s like Paul said in one place he’s a doulos, he’s a servant, another place he’s an apostle, another place he’s a brother, and my role is being a spiritual father of right now about 2.7 million people scattered throughout all these nations and I do not have any legal say or decision about legal matters. My role is a spiritual leadership. You may not have asked that but there are hundreds of trusts and entities in all these countries. I don’t sit on any of those things. There are their own people. And my role is the spiritual leadership. And I hope to some extent that is here also.
This narrative raises so many more questions than it answers.
First, the gift
According to the Bland Garvey audit, nearly $19.8 million was given to GFA from the “anonymous donor” which we now know to be an entity of Believers’ Church. According to Carroll, the $19.8 million came from “a board under the Believers’ Church umbrella.” It sounds as though the entity took money given for field work and then replaced it with funds from another source. Carroll said:
But what they did on the mission field is they actually took a loan from one of their sources to replace that money so they could use it for the purpose it had been designated for there. So in essence, they got our loan. There are several income producing entities in Asia. That’s why partly why we have 35% of our church is self-sustaining, by God’s grace now in Asia. And they felt they could pay that loan off very very quickly.
What source has nearly $20 million dollars which can replace money given by donors for designated purposes? So Believers’ Church borrowed $19.8 million from “one of their sources” in order to replace money given for other purposes but given instead as a gift to GFA in the United States. I am not sure about the legality of sending donor money back to GFA when an Indian NGO borrows it from another part of their operation.
I also wonder why the Indian NGO needs donations from GFA affiliates if it can “very very quickly” repay a $19.8 million loan. GFA said they sent $58.5 million to India in 2013 while Indian government reports say only $28.5 million came in. This is one of the big discrepancies GFA refuses to address. For now my purpose is to show how the $19.8 million gift compares to what GFA sends Indian NGOs per year, and as one can see, the $19.8 million gift is a substantial portion in comparison to what they receive each year.
K.P. Yohannan, his board memberships and related party transactions
As I showed in two prior posts, that K.P. Yohannan is referred to in India as the “managing trustee of Believers’ Church.” However, in this staff meeting, Yohannan again says, along with David Carroll, that he is not on any boards and has no legal standing. While it is possible that he might not be on boards at this moment, he was “managing trustee” up until February 2015. He would have been in management at the time these gifts were given. For GFA leaders to have any credibility on this matter, they need to explain the discrepancy between what Yohannan told the staff in May and what their own websites and legal documents filed in India say. They refer to K.P. Yohannan as managing trustee of Believers’ Church.
Furthermore, Yohannan is also the Metropolitan Bishop of the Believers’ Church. Bishops pledge their allegiance and obedience to him. He sits on the boards of GFA (UK) and GFA NZ. He also sits on the interagency council involving Canada, US and Germany. The gifts were given in order to enhance GFA International which Yohannan leads. Carroll said Yohannan “mentioned it.” Why did he mention it if he has no power? In contrast to what David Carroll said, it is hard not to see this as a related party transaction.
This gift was reported by Bland Garvey but not as a related party transaction. It is oddly posted under “Concentration of Credit Risk.”
Many more questions
I will let readers suggest more questions, but here is one. Why did GFA find itself in so much trouble that a gift from the field was necessary? Did they not anticipate that a $40 million project would require funds? According to the records I have seen, GFA only took in a little over $20 million for the building in 2013. In other words, GFA was in the middle of a building project with no funds and no fund raising campaign. They were bailed out by the funds which came from Believers’ Church which is led by the CEO of Gospel for Asia. What builder would undertake a project of that magnitude without knowing something about the funding? What responsible board would start a $40 million project with no idea where the money would come from?
*These are the major donor nations and recipient NGO locations. There may be more donor nations and there are most certainly additional recipient nations but GFA has not provided specific information on the flow of funds to these nations and public records aren’t readily available.
K.P. Yohannan Says He Doesn't Have Legal Authority in India, Indian Court Documents Tell a Different Story
- 2015Nov 13
Listening to the May 14, 2015 Gospel for Asia staff meeting, I heard K.P. Yohannan say he doesn’t have control or sit on any boards of GFA organizations in other countries. Listen (Click the link to hear the audio):
And by the way, just so you know, I am not legally on any boards, any trusts, anything in any of these countries. I have no powers to make decisions or sign money, or release money, or make decisions, I am completely legally…why? Because anybody who work in the United States or overseas countries have a board membership or have legal membership should not be part of their legal entities in India. It’s a conflict of interest and therefore we send the funds and it is immediately under the government watch care and the government of India is responsible and investigative agencies and tax divisions to make sure that is carried out within the time frame or whatever they do, that is a public thing.
I found this to be an odd declaration since the 2013 financial audit seems to point to a common board member of GFA in the United States and GFA affiliates in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. From the 2013 audit:
If this board member isn’t K.P. Yohannan, then who is it? No matter who it is, by Yohannan’s reasoning, being on both boards would be unethical since Yohannan says having an American board member on the board of an Indian charity which allocates American funds is a conflict of interest.
However, it certainly seems as though it is Yohannan. For instance, Yohannan is referred to as a plaintiff in a court case brought by Gospel for Asia in India (click the link to read the case notes). He is also described as the “managing trustee and president” of Gospel for Asia based in Kerala. From the Indian website:
This document is dated February of 2015, just three months before Yohannan told his staff he wasn’t on any boards. There are many other court cases which list him as “mananging trustee and president” of Gospel of Asia (link, link, link, link).
In another lawsuit, Yohannan is listed as the managing trustee of the Carmel Education Trust of the Believers’ Church.
3. Caarmel Education Trust, (Believer’s Church Trust) Represented by its Managing Trustee, Dr.K.P.Yohannan, Caarmel Engineering College, Perunadu,Pin – 689711 (R1 by Adv.K.Venugopalan Nair) (R2 & R3 by Adv.Anilkumar.A.S) APPEAL No.897/2012
In this publication by the state of Kerala in India, Yohannan is referred to as the “Managing Trustee” of the Believers’ Church.
G . O. (Rt.) No. 448/2011/LBR. Thiruvananthapuram, 17th March 2011. Whereas, the Government are of opinion that an industrial dispute exists between Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Managing Trustee, Believers Church India (B. C. I.),Thottabhagam P. O., Thiruvalla and the workman of the above referred establishment Shri Joseph Kizhakkedathu, Manipara P. O., via Uliyikkal, Kannur District-670 705 in respect of matters mentioned in the annexure to this order ; And whereas, in the opinion of Government it is necessary to refer the said industrial dispute for adjudication…(emphasis added)
Yohannan is listed as the patron of the Believers’ Church Medical Cente, theResidential School and the Mahatma School. Why would he be listed as patron if he has nothing to do with determining their funding?
It seems clear that the legal system in India believes that K.P. Yohannan is on the boards and has responsibility for these entities.
An alert reader posted a link in the comments that K.P. Yohannan is listed as the chairman of the Believers’ Church trust on a page of one of BC’s schools; and of course he is the Metropolitan Bishop of the church. He is president of GFA-US, a group which sent nearly $20 million to Believers’ Church in the FY ending in March 2014. In addition to K.P. Yohannan, Yohannan’s son Daniel sits on both boards (GFA-U.S. and Believers’ Church).
Thanks to another alert reader, we can see that Yohannan and his son are listed as board members of the Believers’ Church Seminary, with K.P. Yohannan being listed as president of the Governing Board. Yohannan is also listed on the Caarmel Engineering School as the chairman of the Believers’ Church trust.
All of these listings are current.
Since this post was first written, I have been given a copy of the Believers Church Constitution. Please click this link to see further evidence that Yohannan is the prime legal power over Believers Church and GFA in India.
- 2015Oct 07
Gospel For Asia Expelled from ECFA – Donors Should Cease Donations
The self-regulatory body for Christian ministries, the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA) late Friday announced Gospel for Asia (GFA) had been expelled from the group for violating most of its Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship all members commit to uphold. Clearly, there has been extensive problems uncovered at the ministry as a result of an audit/review of GFA’s operations starting in June 2015 and concluding on October 2, 2015. GFA had been a founding member of the ECFA and thus a member for the past 36 years. DONORS TO GOSPEL FOR ASIA SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CEASE MAKING DONATIONS TO THE MINISTRY. While the ECFA did not disclose the exact nature of the violations, it is clear they are very serious. We encourage the ECFA to change its policy of not revealing the specifics of its findings in cases like this as donors who gave their hard earned money to the ministry deserve to know what happened.
Blogger Warren Throckmorton has been writing extensively about suspect actions at GFA for some time and deserves full credit for causing the ECFA to investigate GFA more closely. How the wide range of problems at GFA had escaped the ECFA’s notice over the years remains an open question. While the ECFA announcement failed to address any specific problems at GFA, in line with their usual practice, Throckmorton’s blog had raised concerns about finances and governance among other potential problems. Interested donors should visit Throckmorton’s blog to read his many posts regarding GFA at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2015/10/04/what-termination-from-ecfa-means-for-gospel-for-asia/.
Here is the text of the ECFA’s brief announcement:
Statement from ECFA on Gospel for Asia
On June 10, 2015, ECFA began formally reviewing member organization Gospel for Asia for compliance issues. The review concluded on Oct. 2, 2015 when ECFA’s board voted to terminate the organization’s membership for violation of the following standards: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.1 and 7.2. This ends Gospel for Asia’s 36-yearlong status as an ECFA member.
ECFA enhances public trust in Christian churches and ministries by establishing and applying Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ to review and accredit organizations. These standards are biblical and are fundamental to operating with integrity. ECFA uses a pass or fail concept in applying the standards rather than a rating system.
Rusty Leonard, CFA
Founder & CEO