February 10, 2016 – Gospel for Asia sued for fraud
December 10, 2015 – Gospel for Asia’s cash reserves under scrutiny
October 5, 2015 – ECFA strips Gospel for Asia’s membership
When I started at GFA on May 30, 2012, I felt like I knew the ministry well. I had visited the field for three weeks in 2005, interned at the office for a month in 2009, and I had been amazed and challenged by GFA’s ministry updates and books throughout. I was thrilled to be working with people I so deeply admired at a ministry that was so fruitful.
Pretty close to the beginning, I noticed some things that made me uncomfortable: Whenever we had a staff Q&A, KP almost inevitably dismissed questions by talking about how he had walked with God longer than most of us had been alive. A senior leader highly discouraged my new staff class from attending Bible studies. Elitist talk about staff was everywhere. And there were some unfounded teachings on biblical authority.
As someone who loved the ministry, who thought she had the greatest job in the world and was often overwhelmed by how lucky she was, I took it in stride. I didn’t speak up at Q&A meetings, I found a good Bible study, I praised my supporters, and I decided I could live with the authority teachings as long as they didn’t directly affect me.
Meanwhile, however, I began noticing some things I couldn’t ignore.
The First Two Years
Whenever we used a field report for a larger writing project, we had the option of asking for follow-up from the field. Sometimes it would be to clarify something; often it was just to get more detail. We generally weren’t asking because we doubted anything in the story, but over time, I started noting frequent discrepancies between the original reports and the follow-up.
In one instance, a dead mother had actually just run away. Another time, I asked about the symptoms a sick man had experienced, only to be told that he had never been sick. Sometimes there were cultural explanations (in the case of the mother, culturally, they would consider her as being dead), which comforted me. I never considered that if we were finding all these errors in the reports we did ask for follow-up on (the minority of reports used), there were probably similar errors in the reports we did not ask for follow-up on (the majority). I did, however, begin working farther ahead so I would have time to recover when projects had to be scrapped.
Another issue was the frequent dismissal of ellipses. When taking words out of a quote, standard journalistic ethics demand that one put an ellipsis (…) to show that something has been removed. Some writers, however, felt that readers would distrust the quotes if there were breaks in them. To the credit of my editors, whenever I insisted on ellipses, they told me I didn’t have to do anything I was uncomfortable with, but the practice continued around me.
June 19, 2014: A ministry partner wrote in, concerned that a missionary had said, “If you believe in Jesus and depend on Him, Jesus will heal you.” The partner was concerned because he didn’t believe we had any assurance of healing just because someone believes.
After speaking with a senior leader, the call center representative responded that he thought the quote was a paraphrase of what was said, not an actual quote. After just two years on staff, I knew the quote was a common thing missionaries said, so it is hard to believe that a senior leader would not also know this. (KP also confirmed to me, later, that missionaries frequently say this.) Nevertheless, a non-senior leader (NSL) asked the web team to change the quote to “can heal,” and said everyone should be on the lookout for these quotes and change them to “can heal.”
Date unknown: I wrote a description for a video about a girl who was abused and hated by both her mother and her father. When it reached my editor, she told me she had read the transcript from the interviews for the video. The transcript showed that the mother had actually been a protector of the girl, sneaking her food when her father wasn’t looking.
We rewrote the description to reflect only the father’s abuse, but we were told that it would be too much work to change the video. I was discouraged to hear that the slander of a woman was preferable to some extra work—however difficult that work might have been. This video continues to be reposted online.
Date unknown: I found out that some quotes from a School of Discipleship video had been tampered with. One student was quoted as saying something along the lines of, “I HAVE a devotional life that nothing can shake,” (emphasis mine) which was credited to her year at GFA. However, this former student says the quote was taken from the beginning of her year, when she said, “I WANT a devotional life that nothing can shake.”
Spring or Summer 2014: A frequent concern of mine was that students and interns learn to write engaging stories without embellishing. When I edited articles that speculated on events (without noting it as speculation), I marked it as such and asked students to rewrite it. Most students learned quickly, but one struggled with this throughout the year. Eventually, I was told, “You call it speculation, but” I needed to stop telling her “no,” because I was going to crush her creativity.
As all of these events added up I increasingly took comfort in the knowledge that, whatever anyone else’s standards, I could at least guarantee the integrity of my own work. On July 28, 2014, however, I began to realize that this was not true.
The Beginning of the End
July 28: I was writing a story based on a field report from 2010. I had received follow-up from the field (2014) and everything matched. When it reached my editor, however, she realized we had a transcript from an interview with the subject, taken in 2011. She noted several differences between the transcript and what I had written. Upon closer inspection, we realized that the transcript could not be reconciled with the report and follow-up.
Apart from a flood, a mom with five kids and the fact of Compassion Services teams, the two are completely different stories. A few examples: In the report, the father is gone and the family goes (with great detail) to a local shelter, where they stay for days. In the transcript, the father bails water out of the house, and the family stays at home because they don’t want to get separated while they go to a shelter. In the report, the mother watches her children sleeping without mats on the cold floor. In the transcript, she and her husband hold them in their laps because the water is covering the floor.
TO BE CLEAR: We are certain this transcript is an interview with the same woman from the report. Not only did the names match, but we also received pictures of the woman and her children in all three instances. There were also other identifying details that made it quite clear.
Our stateside field communications department was baffled as to how this happened, and the manager called the field. In the midst of this, I thought back to all the discrepancies I had seen in the past, and I began to wonder how I could do my work with the possibility of such great discrepancies as what we had seen in the Sri Lanka report and transcript. How did I really know which reports were solid and which were not?
July 30: I met with David Carroll and shared about the Sri Lanka report and transcript and the conflict I now felt about my job. David prayed for me and said this issue needed to be fixed. He asked if it were possible to verify all the reports we used, and I responded that we would have to drastically decrease our communications.
David suggested the possibility of working in another department, but I told him that if I couldn’t bring myself to work in the writing department, I didn’t think it would be right to work somewhere else and simply pass off the problem to another writer.
David strongly advised me not to go against my conscience. We prayed again, and I asked if I could take some time out of the office to continue praying. He agreed, and I went home.
August 3: After several people mentioned the possibility that most of our reports were trustworthy, I decided to look through the reports with follow-up from the last 12 months. My hope was that I would discover a very small number of discrepancies in these reports, indicating a small number of discrepancies in the reports we didn’t request follow-up for.
We didn’t ask for follow-up for most of our stories, so the number of reports I had to work with was small. It was enough, however, to indicate a large problem.
Out of 29 reports, I found that 13 had discrepancies. Some were insignificant, but about a quarter of the studied stories had significant errors. In some cases, our involvement was exaggerated or a situation was not as drastic as the original report made it seem (Or perhaps it’s the follow-up that’s wrong. There’s really no way to tell). This suggested that a good number of our other reports (that we didn’t request follow-up for) would reflect a similar problem.
August 4: After two workdays and a weekend out of the office, I asked for more time to pray, which was granted to me. Everyone acted very understandingly. I was informed that something had been changed already so our field communications department could talk more directly to the field.
August 6: My supervisor informed me that someone was being moved to the writing department. I was told this person wasn’t replacing me, and I think my supervisor truly believed this.
August 7: After completing my study of the last 12 months’ reports, I sent my findings to three supervisors within communications. I suggested that we might be asking too much of our correspondents and should ask for fewer reports so they have more time to solidly report on the stories they do send in.
One person replied to thank me for my hard work and feedback. She said, “I believe that only good can come from this, and that we all can learn so much from it. Definitely some good material to help us keep on refining our procedures.”
August 11: I met with a NSL, reiterating my concerns about the reports. He responded by asking me how accurate things would need to be for me to be happy. My response was that I didn’t know, but we should at least be trying for 100 percent. (I was asked this question several more times over the next few weeks. People insisted that we would never achieve 100 percent accuracy, which is true, but I thought we would get much closer to it if we aimed for 100 percent rather than 75.)
This NSL did tell me that Daniel Punnose had also received my spreadsheet of discrepancies and had already called our main Indian office about it. This was encouraging.
Next, I met with Daniel, and went through the entire issue with him. He explained one of the discrepancies as a cultural issue and said others were cultural issues or translation issues as well.
During the meeting, he expressed concern over how much writers waste reports. (This struck me as unnecessary because the reason I found the disagreeing transcript and report from Sri Lanka was that I was going through old reports from the last five years, trying not to ask the field for more if we already had things we could use.)
Daniel proceeded to tell me that the waste of reports bothered him more than the inaccuracies in the reports. He told me that he often apologized to the field correspondents, saying, “I’m sorry. They didn’t like your story.”
Later, I realized how absurd this claim was, because even as a writer and editor, I wasn’t aware of every report that was used or not used. How would a field correspondent who doesn’t get any of our mailings know what was used? And how would the vice president of the ministry have time to read everything we sent out? Further, Daniel would later claim that he didn’t realize how many projects we sent out.
As we talked further, I told Daniel that I wished we could verify the reports we sent out. Daniel very quickly said we could do that. This surprised me because he had previously talked about how insulting it was to question the field correspondents, and the information department had at times expressed concern about not overloading the field.
I asked Daniel if these things would be problems. He responded that it would be a problem if we asked the field to triple-check everything for the rest of their lives—then they would be insulted—but everyone knew there was a problem right now, and we could verify reports for the next few months while we worked things out.
I told Daniel that if that was the case, I could happily return to work. He suggested I take a couple more days for prayer. Later, I received an email from our field communications department saying Daniel had requested that they work out a verification system.
August 13: I emailed my direct supervisors to share about Daniel’s reassurance that we could verify reports. I told them I was eager to come back soon. We decided I would return that Tuesday.
August 14: Someone from field communications emailed me to let me know that the field was aware of the discrepancies and working on them. People had been communicating with the field about this. She also said she envisioned a checklist in the future to help correspondents double check chronology, ages, relationships, etc. at the interview level. In a meeting, they also discussed having regular cultural awareness meetings with the writers. She reiterated that we would be verifying the reports in conjunction with follow-up requests.
August 19: I returned to the office, excited to catch up on emails and get writing. My editor told me I could get started on some blog posts. I asked her what the process would be for verifying the reports the blog posts were based on. She told me we were only verifying reports for the bigger projects.
Several minutes later, she emailed me, telling me that if we had a report for a blog post or prayer digest email that seemed fishy or unclear, we could ask for verification. She added, “All of us are doing and will do our best to make sure we have completely truthful stories. We’re already verifying some reports.”
I responded that often, when we find a discrepancy between a report and follow-up, there isn’t any sign of the problem in the original report. Everything looks normal until we get the follow up, which means we would likely never ask for extra verification on short reports and thus never find the discrepancies in them. I told her that I wondered if I had returned too soon.
She responded, “So you’d like for us to verify every single report we use?” To which I responded affirmative.
A NSL came to my desk and asked if he could talk to me. When we got to his office, he asked how I was doing and then began hemming and hawing, saying he wanted to be careful how he told me this, because he didn’t want it to look like I was being moved for asking too many questions. He said we had a need in the print room for someone who was organized, and he asked me how I would feel about moving.
I told him I had come to GFA willing to be placed anywhere, so I would normally say, “OK.” However, I had just come to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready to come back after all because I had returned on the false pretense that we would be verifying every report we used.
As we began discussing the issue, Daniel walked into the office and sat down. He immediately began telling me that I wasn’t being punished, but that my name had come up a long time ago. (He would later tell me, indirectly, that it was about the same time when I first started questioning reports.) He repeated the need for an organized individual.
I repeated what I had told the NSL. Danny then told me:
1. It would be too much work to verify all the reports we used, and that I had a colonialist mindset to ask for such a thing. (Remember, I had already asked if verifying all the reports would be impossible or insulting and been told it would not be.)
2. A previous writer had had issues with the lack of accuracy in our reports. K.P. had talked to the writer and given him binders of proof that our reports were accurate (no such binders were offered to me), but Daniel told me the man had ultimately left because this all came down to a trust issue. He told me there was no policy they could put in place that would assure me of the reports’ accuracy. I, too, would never be convinced if I didn’t get over this “trust issue.”
3. I was under spiritual attack because Satan had me in a place where I couldn’t do anything for the ministry.
4. Pointing out that I had never worked for another ministry, he told me I would be surprised to know that there are ministries that make up 90 percent of the information they send out.
After Daniel left, I pointed out to the NSL that it didn’t matter if every ministry made up all their stories out of whole cloth—we should base our standards on God’s commands. The NSL agreed, but proceeded to tell me that the inaccuracies didn’t bother him because the main thrusts of the stories were true.
After the meeting, I packed up my desk, knowing I would not return to the office before we moved to the new campus.
Later that night: I told my parents about my job change, and how I had been told that it wasn’t because I was asking questions and it wasn’t a punishment. My mother said, “Lying doesn’t suit them,” to which I emphatically responded that I did not think they were lying. I told her, We disagree on the reports issue, but if I thought they would flat-out lie to me, I couldn’t work for them at all.
Date unknown (I believe either August 20 or 21): I met with Daniel again. I told him that since I had shared my perspective on the issue with the leaders, I thought it would be helpful for me to hear his perspective. I asked him to share with me how this saga had gone down in his eyes and what his thought process had been throughout. He gave me the history of GFA field communications.
He told me that GFA regularly does training with correspondents and that there would be more training in January. He told me that they weren’t doing this because of me but because it was the right thing to do. This was encouraging, and made me think that he understood the problem. (When I asked, in January, about the training, I was told that it had not yet been scheduled and they would see what the new year looked like. It did take place in April.)
I also asked Danny why he had originally said we could verify our reports, reminding him that, in our first conversation, I had pointed out the problems he had mentioned about verification. He told me he hadn’t realized how many reports we use for various projects. He told me he wasn’t as worried about the shorter reports because there were fewer opportunities for mistakes. He said we would watch the accuracy of the larger ones to gauge the accuracy of the shorter ones.
It was either in this meeting or our prior one-on-one that he told me people generally don’t leave the ministry over big issues; they leave over small issues, the implication being that my issue was a small one.
In this meeting, he also told me that my name had come up for the print room job “a long time ago,” which he clarified to be about three weeks prior.
We talked more about how some of the discrepancies were cultural issues. I asked him if he would be willing to go through my spreadsheet of discrepancies and explain the issues at hand for each report. He agreed.
The next day: An NSL said Daniel had told him we had an encouraging meeting. He said he didn’t want to bother me, but people were asking, and he wanted to know if I knew when I would be back. I told him I didn’t.
The first week of September, after much prayer and counsel from others outside the ministry, I decided to trust Daniel’s word that the shorter reports were more accurate. For that, I have to apologize to our donors. At that point, I still highly doubted our field reports’ accuracy. I had no business printing the stories based on them.
September 1: I began working in the print room. When my co-workers were out of the room, my coordinator asked me how I was doing and if there was anything in particular that had caused my move. I told him what I had been told: that there was a need for someone organized and they had sent me.
He told me he had asked many times about why I was being moved. He was confused as to why they would move a writer to the print room, and he had told ministry leaders that everything was running perfectly fine with two staff members and a student. He said people kept refusing to answer until they finally told him “something about ‘enhancing the print room.'”
With this new information, I met with the NSL who arranged my move and asked him why, if there was such a great need, my coordinator was confused about my even being there. He told me he had intended for me to take over as print room manager, but they weren’t telling people in case I didn’t stay.
I then asked the NSL why he did select me for the job. He told me that after I went home the first time, he started thinking about how he could give me a break from writing. He thought of the print room manager role and asked my supervisor questions about how I would do in it. Considering her answers and what he already knew of me, he decided I would be good for the job.
I asked him about what he had said in our first meeting, that I hadn’t been moved because of my questions, and he told me he hadn’t wanted me to think the role was being made up just so I would be out of the way. He wanted me to know I was filling an actual need.
I then asked him about Daniel’s claim that my name had come up before the issue with the reports. He told me, “I can’t think of any reason why your name would have come up.”
September 23: I decided to meet with Daniel and ask him why his and the above NSL’s stories about my job placement differed. To my surprise, he was prepared to meet about some follow-up we had received from the field about some of the report discrepancies.
In parts, this meeting was encouraging. Some of the stories had cultural explanations, and if these things were explained to the writers, it would eliminate some of the errors in our stories. (It eventually was passed on, in February.) Other parts of the meeting were deeply discouraging and disturbing.
1. One of our reports described a man who took the train to work every day and later expressed distress over his business. The follow-up, however, said that he was unemployed during this time. It seemed both of these could not be true. However, when we received the most recent round of follow-up, we found that the man had lost his job but his past employer still sometimes called him in for temp jobs.
Finding that each reporter had at least the partial truth was encouraging, but I asked Daniel, “You can see, though, how the first two reports seem to completely disagree with each other?”
Daniel responded that no, he couldn’t see that, because he would think that after two years in the writing department, he would know enough about the culture to understand that the man was being called in for random work at his old job.
2. One of our reports stated that a certain missionary’s bicycle was the only way he could reach a certain village. In our follow-up, however, we learned that before he received the bicycle, he had regularly taken the bus to the village. In the latest follow-up, we were further told that in the rainy season, the missionary continues to take the bus.
I pointed out that, deliberate or not, it was clearly a falsehood that the bicycle was the only way the missionary could reach the village. Further, had we not received the enlightening follow-up, we would have used that line and milked it for all it was worth, making sure people understood that an entire village wouldn’t have the Gospel without that bicycle.
Daniel insisted that people wouldn’t read it that way, however. He told me that I was reading into the line because I’m so analytical. He claimed that most people would assume that we were just saying it was the only way the missionary does go, not that it’s the only way he could go.
Even that interpretation wouldn’t be true, because we have two reports saying the missionary took the bus. Setting that aside, however, no one I have shared this anecdote with thought for a second that it could possibly mean anything other than that the missionary had only one way available to reach the village. This is the plain meaning of the text to anyone who is not trying to defend a ministry’s mistakes.
3. As we continued reviewing discrepancies, it seemed that Daniel saw me not as someone concerned about the ministry, but as someone trying to attack the ministry. At times, Daniel seemed willfully blind to what the discrepancies were, and I could only think that it was because he saw it as an attack on GFA.
4. At the end of the meeting, I finally got to ask Daniel why his story and the NSL’s story disagreed with each other. He repeated his claim that my name had come up before and said that the NSL must not have been in on those meetings.
Date unknown: At some point in October, the writing department began their cultural awareness training. During my time at GFA, it consisted of reading and discussing the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood, teaching the writers to be humble as they work with other cultures. It does not, however, teach them about the specific cultures they work with.
October 1: Confused by the conflicting stories I had heard about my job change, I asked to meet with David Carroll. Back in June, we had had a staff meeting about the Diaspora’s letter (even though staff didn’t receive it). While touching on the various points, David had actually tried to apologize for one of them. He was interrupted by another leader, who went on to defend the point, but that willingness to admit fault stood out to me. I trusted him.
Without giving any details of what I had heard, I told David that I had heard multiple stories of why I was placed in the print room and asked him the real reason.
He told me my name had been mentioned about two months ago (which would have been around the time I started asking questions), but that when I began struggling with the validity of our reports, it clinched the idea that I should be put in the print room. He said they were fixing things with the reports, but they had decided that, if for some reason I still wasn’t comfortable being in the writing department, I should be somewhere else. He told me he knew I was over-qualified for the job, and that he and other leaders didn’t see me there forever.
Couched as it was, it really didn’t sink in at that point that leaders had lied when they said I wasn’t moved because of the reports issue. It sounded like I was on the short list already and that the questions had been a minor thing.
October 31: In a meeting with several field leaders, K.P. Yohannan talked about the need for them to understand the needs of American culture. As an example, he said that they had recently moved one of the writers because she didn’t understand cultural things in the reports. When I heard about this later, the deception finally clicked. I had told my mom that I couldn’t stay if I thought GFA’s leadership would flat-out lie to me—because how can you trust someone capable of that kind of deliberate deceit? Now I knew, unless God performed a miracle, I would have to leave.
Christmas Weekend: I wrote a letter to KP, addressing deceit in communications, untrustworthy reports and the dishonest way my move had been handled. I laid out three suggestions: 1) Stop sending so many reports, so we can send more time ensuring accuracy (included in this was the idea of using each report for more projects); 2) verify every report we used until the new training had time to take effect; 3) take a strong stand on the issue of integrity. KP emailed me back, saying we would talk when he got back from India, and that we would do whatever we needed to do to fix the problem.
January 22, 2015: I met with KP. He told me, “We would die” before GFA would be dishonest. He said that if anyone in his family was purposely dishonest, “I would have no part with them.” He asked me what I suggested, and I repeated the recommendations from my letter. From that point on, I can’t remember the order of things, so I’ll just give some key points:
On this note, KP explained to me that sometimes supporters will let smaller things distract them from the mission, so it was reasonable to change the quote. This is a common excuse at GFA: Donors won’t understand this or that thing, so we need to protect them or they’ll stop giving.
At this point, I almost thought I could stay. But I had to ask: What will we do to guarantee the accuracy of our reports in the meantime? The response was similar to what I had heard before: There are bound to be inaccuracies. There’s nothing else we can do.
With that answer, I almost resigned on the spot, but I wanted to see this problem fixed, so I went back to the start of the conversation, and we talked through everything a second time.
At the end of the meeting, I still didn’t resign. Full disclosure, I had a job interview the next day, and I didn’t know if I would be immediately kicked off the campus if I resigned (I wasn’t), so I decided to give KP a long weekend to think things through. It couldn’t hurt, right? I decided to wait until the following Tuesday, just in case he would have any news for me on Monday.
January 27: No news. I gave my two weeks’ notice. I was asked to keep things quiet until leadership had a chance to talk with me. I got permission to tell the co-worker who would be taking over for me. My close friends already knew the situation.
January 28: I asked if I could tell people about my leaving, and I was asked to maintain my silence. I did break the rules to tell a leader’s wife.
January 29: We had a staff meeting, during which KP told us never to trust a negative report, even if it comes from your closest friend. You should go to leadership and ask them if it’s true.
Shortly after I returned to my desk, I was cc’d on an email to the finance department, saying that January 29 would be my last day in the office and detailing my severance plan. When I asked my coordinator about this, he said the email wasn’t supposed to go out so soon. They had meant to talk to me first and offer to let me leave early but be paid through my two weeks. Given the gag order, and GFA’s history of sudden dismissals, I find the incident suspicious, but it is possible that it was a genuine mistake.
That afternoon: I met with my coordinator and David Carroll for my exit interview. We went over the reasons for my resignation. The first half was, admittedly, tense on both sides: I said I didn’t understand how we could call ourselves a people of integrity when we didn’t have any. David responded that we weren’t like other ministries who 1) ask a crowd of people how many of them want to go to America, 2) snap a photo, and 3) tell donors it’s people raising their hands to receive Christ.
We discussed the fact that I had been talking to other staff about the situation. We discussed whether I had to leave because I couldn’t be around other sinners or if it was that I felt like I would have to sin by being there (it was the latter).
David told me my last newsletter would have to be approved by my coordinator. I asked if I would be expected to just say that God had “called me on,” explaining that I would need to be honest with my supporters. David said I could be honest, and he thought they would be honest about why I was leaving. (In the end, he was outvoted, and the staff was told that I thought it was time to move on.)
We prayed, and then David asked if there was any way I would stay. I told him that, apart from my suggestions, I would have to have either a job completely divorced from the reports or a job actively working toward a solution. He asked about me working in field communications, to find the issues with reports and help make accurate stories. I said if that were a possibility, maybe I could stay. After the meeting, he went to talk to people about that.
I spent the rest of the day and evening praying about it. At that point, I was pretty sure it was time for me to just leave, but I wanted to be open to whatever God asked.
January 30: David told me he had talked with two other leaders. Those leaders didn’t think they could “shut down” everything like I wanted. For the record, I never asked anyone to shut down our communications, only to slow them down so we could guarantee our work. However, I didn’t argue the point. I had asked for clarity from God, and I had it.
The next week: I wrote my final newsletter, giving limited detail to my supporters about why I was leaving. I tried to stay upbeat about the ministry as I explained the conflict about the reports, but I did have to clarify something. In my previous newsletter (sent in October), I had told my supporters about my move to the print room and explained that I had been picked for the job because of the great need and my fitting skills. At that point, David had told me that the reports issue had clinched the job choice, but I still believed that my skills had put me on some kind of short list. Now that I knew that wasn’t true, I told my supporters the real reason, and said that I had originally given a different reason for the move because I had originally been told differently.
David wanted that explanation removed, saying he thought I knew the real reason. I told him that people had worked very hard to make me believe it was not related and that if I didn’t explain it now, it was like I was lying.
David told me he hadn’t realized that. He said I should keep it as it was, then, “because you never would have been moved” apart from the reports issue. “You were too valuable” to the writing department. He told me my name only came up for the print job because they were listing everyone in the office who could possibly do the job.
February 13 (after I had moved off the campus): Daniel Punnose told a room full of people that they had been seriously talking about moving me for the last year and a half, but I could never get the idea out my head that I was moved because of my issues with the reports.
July 2, 2015
The short answer is: Yes.
However, we doubt there continues to be a reason to meet.
Diaspora had hoped from the beginning to meet with GFA leadership to address the concerns voiced in our first letter. As we moved forward through this process, we even chose a date with KP for such a meeting (October 2, 2014 and then October 13, 2014), but GFA’s leadership never followed through in actually sitting down to meet. Instead, we were told that Gayle Erwin was heading an investigation into our concerns and, as such, it was now out of KP’s hands and up to the board as to what to do next.
Please see the Communications History for the emails and phone calls between JD and KP concerning setting up a meeting.
Several months passed until Gayle Erwin sent his final report in March stating that our claims were dismissed and that they would no longer be communicating with us. We took that to mean an end of any opportunity for a meeting to take place.
Our original purpose for meeting was to clearly define our concerns and plead for repentance. We desired to see GFA leadership make changes reflective of a rejection of their false teachings on authority, a renewed respect of staff’s personal lives, and full transparency to donors of the nature of Believer’s Church. Our primary concern was not for individual personal hurts to be reconciled (most of us had already forgiven GFA for those things); but those personal incidents simply reflected the larger problems within the culture of GFA.
Because GFA leadership never admitted to the validity of our concerns in the March 26, 2015 Board Response, we progressively widened the circle of our communications from just the leadership and board initially, to the staff and finally to supporters, both current and potential (see June 1, 2015 post).
We broadened the audience carefully and progressively for two reasons: First, for the sake of GFA to give them a progressive chance to repent (per Matthew 18), and, second, for the sake of the donors who need such information to make informed stewardship choices.
Now that all our information is public, the original reason for meeting with GFA’s leadership seems to be nullified. They have not responded to our calls for repentance thus far, and now the current staff, the public itself and possibly the law continues the call to repentance and change. We’re not sure what a meeting would accomplish, unless the purpose of a meeting is to ask our advice in how to make changes. However, from GFA’s responses to us thus far, we doubt they would desire our help.
We have been told that GFA is telling supporters that the only reason the meeting has not happened is because “Diaspora would not meet without it being videotaped” and GFA has been counseled against doing so by the ECFA. Therefore, they have accused us of not being willing to meet.
We think this is disingenuous, as it gives the impression that GFA did all they could to arrange a meeting and the only thing that led to failed negotiations was our demand that it be videotaped (see Aug 22, 2014). This is simply false. Again, see our Communications History for the whole truth.
The only meeting negotiations between GFA and ourselves were the emails and calls between JD and KP. If one reads, s/he will find that JD asked one time about it being videotaped and KP never even responded to that. Then KP announced the investigation. After that, the negotiations about meeting times simply stopped and KP never spoke directly to JD after that. We would not call that a failure on our part.
Since then there has been one person—a brother named Greg—who has tried to negotiate his own meeting between Diaspora and GFA (see April 16, 2015). Our communications with him can also be seen in the Communications History. We were unable to work with him because we had no indication from GFA or its board that Greg had any authority to carry out such negotiations. GFA’s board has never retracted their statement that they are finished communicating with us (see March 26, 2015), so until the GFA board or leaders acknowledge directly to us that they would like to resume communications, we don’t see any point in working with a third party, like Greg.
In conclusion, we invite all to review our Communications History to decide personally the whole truth of our attempts and willingness to meet with GFA. Because of the lack of response from GFA over the process, we have incrementally broadened the audience to voice our concerns; thus, at this point in time, a meeting may no longer be appropriate. Nonetheless, we remain open should it be requested.
After nearly a year of attempting to privately address our concerns as a group with GFA leaders and staff, Diaspora removed the password from this website.
We believe the public—current and potential supporters—have a right to discern for themselves whether or not our concerns are valid as they make decisions regarding how to invest the Lord’s money.
Since several independent articles have been written about our concerns on the Internet, we felt the public should now have access to the primary information on which we base our concerns.
Note: GFA never informed us of, or invited us to, a May 2015 meeting. Nor has GFA introduced us to Greg. We have not received any communication from GFA (except for some individual apologies) or the Board since their final report on March 26, 2015.
Though Greg’s emailed invitation to meet was sent to many individuals in the Diaspora (excluding JD), we responded to him as a unified group.
As of April 22, 2015, we have not heard any response from Greg to our group, nor have we ever received any communication directly from GFA leadership regarding this meeting.
“We have had no communication at all from GFA leadership stating your official role as their representative, so once again we ask that if GFA leadership really does want to meet with representatives of the Diaspora to discuss the five areas of sin that we outlined in our initial letter to them, then GFA leadership needs to contact us at email@example.com.”
From: GFA Diaspora <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 11:28 PM
Subject: Re: re: GFA Diaspora and Reconciliation
Cc: [GFA leaders]
Thank you for your heart to bring healing and reconciliation between members of the Diaspora and Gospel for Asia. Unfortunately, both you and GFA leadership seem to still be missing the main point that we have attempted to drive home over and over again. That point being that the goal of the Diaspora is not about obtaining healing and reconciliation regarding the numerous individual hurts that have occurred over the years. Those hurts are but symptoms of much deeper, systemic sin that has permeated the very core of how GFA operates. The personal testimonies that were provided were but examples of the hurt caused by that sin, and are evidence of a much deeper and more serious issue.
In our initial letter to the leadership and boards of GFA, we very clearly outlined five specific areas of sin that we believe must be addressed through brokenness and true repentance (not just apologies) on the part of GFA leadership. It is those five areas of sin that we had wanted to meet with GFA’s leadership and board of directors to discuss, not individual hurts and grievances.
Most of us in the Diaspora who were hurt have already forgiven GFA leadership. For some of us who were hurt very deeply it is still a struggle, but there are others in the Diaspora who were not hurt at all. We are all part of the Diaspora simply because we want to see the systemic sin at GFA addressed and the ministry brought back into the light where the Lord can use it for His glory and the furtherance of His kingdom.
Please understand this clearly: As the Diaspora, we are not looking for the kind of meeting where we can have a “safe environment” to share our “heart and … hurts and receive needed closure”. What we had desired was a meeting with GFA senior leadership, which would have also included members of the board of directors (specifically those who are not related to KP), a neutral third-party mediator, and a small representative group of the Diaspora.
In your conversations with JD and M. you were very defensive and supportive of many of GFA’s actions, and in your email to us you also misrepresented the facts regarding your discussions with JD and GFA relative to scheduling such a meeting. Your actions have shown that you have a strong bias toward GFA which disqualifies you from serving as an impartial mediator.
If you will recall, JD made it very clear that any requests for a meeting should come directly from a member of GFA’s senior leadership or the board, not a third party. We have had no communication at all from GFA leadership stating your official role as their representative, so once again we ask that if GFA leadership really does want to meet with representatives of the Diaspora to discuss the five areas of sin that we outlined in our initial letter to them, then GFA leadership needs to contact us at email@example.com.
Just to be clear, we have been more than willing to meet with GFA leadership and the board in the past, and at no time have we ever said no to meeting with them to discuss our concerns as outlined in our letter to them. The US board of directors have already done an “investigation” and have communicated to us that they consider the matter closed, so we are confused as to why a big push for a meeting is occurring now. Because the board considers the matter closed, we are willing to consider a meeting even at this late stage, but do not consider ourselves under any obligation to do so. If GFA leadership and the board truly want to meet (and this is not just a PR stunt) then these requirements are all that we are requesting:
1. The request for a meeting would come directly from GFA leadership only. (Preferably the board of directors since they’ve previously communicated that they consider this matter closed. It would be ideal if they were the ones to open the dialogue again since they are ultimately responsible for the oversight of GFA.)
2. The meeting would consist of:
-GFA senior leadership (including KP, Daniel P[xxxx], Pat E[xxxx], John B[xxxx] and David C[xxxx]) as well as members of the US and Canada boards.
-A representative sample of the Diaspora
-A truly neutral third-party mediator (e.g. local pastor, someone from a Christian mediation service, etc.)
3. It would be held at a neutral location (not the GFA campus) and mediated by a neutral third-party as stated above.
4. A clearly defined purpose and agenda would be pre-determined. The primary purpose would be to address the five areas of sin we outlined in our original letter to GFA. While we welcome the opportunity to discuss past hurts and seek reconciliation for those wronged, that should not and cannot be the primary focus of the meeting.
Again, we appreciate your heart in this matter, but it is clear that the kind of meeting you are desiring to bring together does not address the true issues at hand, and that you are not the right person to be acting as mediator. That being said, we are asking that you please no longer contact members of the Diaspora directly, and that you remove from your contacts our email addresses that were given to you by GFA.
BCC: [US and Canada Board Members]
Date: April 16, 2015 at 11:14:21 PM CDT
To: [individually, to most Diaspora members, excluding JD]
Subject: re: GFA Diaspora and Reconciliation
[read entire post here]
Note: GFA never informed us of, or invited us to, a May 2015 meeting. Nor has GFA introduced us to Greg. We have not received any communication from GFA (except for some individual apologies) or the Board since their final report on March 26, 2015.
Greg, a third party friend of GFA, attempts to negotiate a meeting between Diaspora members and GFA by emailing members of Diaspora, excluding JD.
“…this meeting will be a safe environment for you to share your heart and your hurts and receive needed closure on this chapter of your life.”
Note: Greg had contacted JD multiple times over the previous weeks via emails and phone calls, attempting to reconcile the Diaspora and GFA. It is clear from Greg’s email here that JD’s numerous efforts to help Greg comprehend the true problem at hand—that the issue is not personal relationship restoration but addressing systemic unbiblical ministry practices—were misunderstood or ignored.
The Diaspora’s last communication from the GFA Board stated our concerns are nullified and the matter is closed. Additionally, since then, no GFA leader has attempted communication with Diaspora stating anything otherwise. Until the Diaspora is contacted directly by GFA’s board stating they reverse their decision, we have no alternative except to assume that GFA leadership is now operating outside of their Board’s explicit direction.
Date: April 16, 2015 at 11:14:21 PM CDT
To: [individually, to most Diaspora members, excluding JD]
Subject: re: GFA Diaspora and Reconciliation
Greetings in the Name of Jesus our Lord,
My name is Greg [xxxx], and I am the founder of [xxxx]. For 12 years I have run this web based ministry by the grace of God. If you have run across the website and know of it yourself, then you know that the resources offered on [xxxx] represent a very wide spectrum of Christian leadership in the body of Christ, many churches and ministries.
The reason for my writing is that, being a supporter of GFA for many years, I was recently given the GFA Diaspora website. I then contacted the website and have spoken with J.D. Smith extensively through emails and on the phone over the past few weeks. I took the time to contact GFA staff personally with many questions and ended up also discussing things with K.P. Yohannan directly. Here are some of my general observations and what transpired:
From an outside perspective it seems clear to me some of the problems listed on the Diaspora website have been a result of inference and that both sides are being misunderstood to a certain extent. Having said that, this still does not nullify the valid concerns or problems listed.
I am confident, and have been assured, that even now changes have been and are being made on the GFA level to prevent similar hurts from happening to people in the future.
In talking with the GFA staff personally I have advised that the Biblical way forward in this situation would be a meeting in person so that apologies and even reconciliation can be made face-to-face, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
I offered myself as a mediator between GFA and Diaspora for a meeting like this to take place in person. J.D. stated he would be willing, as a meeting like this was requested before. The GFA staff also were willing, but in the final preparation for the meeting it was denied by J.D.
I then contacted GFA and asked if there was a way for them to get this letter to you, the other Diaspora members, to make sure you are aware fully of what is transpiring and given a chance to pray about this yourself and consider it before the Lord, and in light of eternity.
The proposed date of this meeting is May 9th, 2015 at the GFA Campus: Wills Point, TX. I will be present also as a mediator (where needed). I will ensure this meeting will be a safe environment for you to share your heart and your hurts and receive needed closure on this chapter of your life. I know many of the staff are heavy hearted and desire to express in person their apology and reconciliation.
After speaking with K.P. Yohannan they are willing to fly-in anyone who need this, also boarding and food would be taken care of as well as transportation (if needed).
We are all human and doing the best we can and “we all stumble in many ways,” even as it is written. But between brothers and sisters in Christ, may the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself be present whenever there is repentance over a grievance, for we are all members of one another and of His very Body, even as it also is written. “Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
God’s grace and peace be with you today,
I can be emailed directly at: [xxxx] and my direct USA number is: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
Please feel free to contact myself or [David] with questions, or to share that you are planning to come to the meeting.
Multiple GFA leaders sent emails to many Diaspora individuals today, asking forgiveness. Some members received confession of specific personal wrongs referenced from their personal testimony. Others received a more generic, form-like apology, indicating that the leader was not aware of any specific actions. The majority of these emails were sent at the same time.
These emails were clearly intended as a way for the leaders to formally apologize for individual, personal offenses, hurts, and errors in judgement. While their personal apologies—as limited as they are—have been accepted by many, there was neither acknowledgement by any of the leaders of the systemic abuse arising from unbiblical doctrines and practices of the ministry as a whole, nor indication of genuine repentance.
If the Holy Spirit is the One prompting true repentance for personal offenses, it seems He would have prompted that leader to ask forgiveness sooner and in a more personal, individual manner. Although our names and testimonies have been available to GFA leaders for many months, we find it odd that it took so long to recognize the hurts of former staff—and leadership’s offenses that caused them. In fact, leadership has spent previous communications denying our claims.
While it seems that the email apologies are a coordinated PR campaign, we hope that these limited apologies are genuinely sincere. Some of us have emailed back with forgiveness and love for these confessions.
We hope this brings closure to individual sins, and allow the leadership to focus on the root of these sins—the false beliefs and unbiblical practices outlined in our initial letter.
We have always been hopeful for real change at GFA resulting from an admission of wrong that leads to accountability and safeguards being implemented for the future.
Policy changes are effective when they result from uncovering the root of the problem and fixing it. We sincerely hope that any policy changes reflect a genuine desire to truly address concerns we brought to light.
However, because these policy changes are being implemented without any acknowledgment of our concerns, we have doubts they are born out of genuine repentance and desire to change the direction of the ministry.
It is difficult to not perceive changes announced to staff as a way to control damage to GFA’s reputation both internally and externally. GFA leaders’ responses clearly denied any wrongdoing and (board member) Gayle’s final report stated that all of our concerns are “neutralized” and that the case is closed. This does not evidence true repentance.
True repentance is evidenced by a willingness to admit specific wrongs and to discuss—not dismiss—the points so many witnesses have raised.
Many of us have watched this same reaction over the years by leadership each time there was a staff crisis—yet the systemic problems emerged again, prompting mass staff exoduses in 1993, 2004, and perhaps now. Why? Because the root of the problems never changed.
Staff policy changes may be good, but they alone will not fix all of the ministry’s systemic errors.
It is good to avoid an evil report once you know it is indeed evil. Scripture admonishes us not to answer a matter before we hear it (Proverbs 18:13). We are to test all things and hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). Even the New Testament Bereans were counted more noble because they tested the Apostle Paul’s words to the scriptures (Acts 17:11). Testing is a way to help avoid deception. It is not wrong to test what even our leaders have to say to determine if it is true.
None of us is beyond rebuke. We invite you to also test us! Test what we have to say to the Word of God. We invite you to evaluate for yourself our concerns and our dealing with leadership before coming to a conclusion.
There are many examples of godly rebuke in the Bible. It was to the Jewish religious leaders, whom the people were following, that Jesus Himself had His strongest words of rebuke. Paul rebuked even Peter at one time. He also warns us about others: “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). This does not mean we should simply avoid anything divisive. It means we should find out if it is contrary to the scriptures first. A person cannot discern if they do not take time to evaluate. We are showing that GFA practices some doctrines that are contrary to the doctrine we have learned from the scriptures.
It is sad to us that staff have been programmed to unquestioningly trust leadership and reject any alarming message from outside without testing it themselves.
We wonder if discerning an issue is difficult for some because of many years without being taught the whole counsel of God. Instead, many may have been taught things pertaining only to selected passages that have to do with submitting to authority, reaching the lost, and extreme discipleship—without the rest of the Bible’s balance.
Actually, after careful consideration, we have gone about this biblically, according to Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.
You see, over the years, many of us individually shared our concerns directly with leadership. In some cases a leader seemed to be open to our concerns and even agree with them—but no changes ever resulted. In other cases, leadership immediately fired the staff member and told them to clear out their desk that day.
This failure of adequate response from GFA when we approached individually according to Mat 18:15 prompted us to move to the next step of taking multiple witnesses, per Mat 18:16. We did this through our initial group letter. GFA leadership had already proven they had no intention of acting on our individual concerns, so we felt we must dialogue only as a group to hold GFA leadership to a higher level of accountability. This is why we chose to not dialogue further individually with GFA leaders when they tried contacting each of the initial letter signers.
The scope of GFA’s problems goes beyond restoring personal offenses in Matthew 18:15-17. It is now apparent that 1 Timothy 5:19-20 is also appropriate here to address doctrinal errors that are hurting people.
“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
Additionally, we sought out pastoral counsel to ensure we had not violated scripture’s guidance but had handled this process in a godly manner. We invite you to read our notes from the counsel of Pastor Bruce Morrison.
For further clarity on the issue, we invite you to read When a Pastor Sins, written by Pastor Bruce. The following are a few quotes we thought were helpful in clarifying this issue:
“If a pastor wrongs a person and the wrong done does not affect the whole church, the pastor is in a position to resolve the matter privately. Once the same type of behaviour is experienced by two or three people it becomes a public matter. In this case the whole church is to be told what the sin was and the pastor needs to publicly take responsibility….”
“Depending on the nature of the sin, and the contriteness of the pastor, a determination of future ministry needs to be decided. If the sin is habitual, meaning there is an obvious need to mature in one of the character requirements for ministry, the pastor needs to take time to mature in that area before returning to ministry.”
“When any of us sin, including a pastor, a restored conscience only comes through confession of the sin, acknowledging the damage done to others, and true repentance. A pastor who meets the qualifications for ministry, but then sins, will, by the very virtues he has developed that qualifies him for ministry, be the first to want to stand before a congregation, acknowledge the sin, and ask forgiveness.”
“Through a public rebuke the church is taught a healthy fear of the Lord. A good example is thereby set before the congregation, that when any one of them sins they should take responsibility for it. The public rebuke of a pastor is not punitive, but restorative. It is not about vengeance, it is about correction.”
“…elders…who are in a position to correct a pastor who sins, but fail to do so, “share” in the sin. They…become party to the sin. The same applies to church members who know that a minister has sinned but do nothing to address the sin by not taking the matter to other leaders.”