The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has suspended Harvest Bible Chapel‘s accreditation following my report last week about gross misappropriation of church funds to support James MacDonald‘s lavish lifestyle. Also last week, I confronted the ECFA for continuing to accredit Harvest despite my repeated appeals over several months to ECFA to investigate financial impropriety at the church.
On Friday, the ECFA released a statement announcing that Harvest may no longer represent that it is an ECFA member or display ECFA’s membership seal. The ECFA also said that because of new information, it has “concerns” that the church may be “in serious violation” of four of ECFA’s Seven Standards.
It’s stunning to me that it has taken this long for the ECFA to act. For example, in December, I reported that Harvest had used funds donated to Walk in the Word, MacDonald’s broadcast ministry, to pay for a deer herd at Camp Harvest in Michigan. This, despite the fact that MacDonald had claimed in a video formerly posted to the Walk in the Word website that “every dollar” donors give to Walk in the Word “goes directly into buying the airtime to get out the good news of Jesus Christ.” This was a blatant violation of ECFA Standard 7.2, which states: “Statements made about the use of gifts by an organization in its charitable gift appeals must be honored.”
“The fact that ECFA didn’t discover these violations itself is bad enough. But the fact that the group failed to act even after I reported these glaring violations is inexcusable.”
The fact that ECFA didn’t discover these violations itself is bad enough. But the fact that the group failed to act even after I reported these glaring violations is inexcusable. What it took to finally force the group’s hand was my report that MacDonald had funded African safaris, Florida vacations, and other luxury purchases with church funds. And even then, it took nearly a week for the group to act!
Given this stunning example of ECFA’s failure, I can’t imagine how anyone could put any trust in the group’s ability to hold any church or ministry “accountable” as it claims. ECFA President Dan Busby has a lot of explaining to do. I am still waiting for a response from Busby to my request for an interview.
Below is the ECFA’s complete statement about Harvest Bible Chapel, as well as its Seven Standards.
Statement From ECFA President Dan Busby
Regarding Harvest Bible Chapel Accreditation Status
“Based on information received March 11, ECFA’s board of directors has suspended Harvest Bible Chapel’s membership effective March 14, 2019.
“On November 28, 2018, ECFA opened a formal investigation of Harvest Bible Chapel to review their compliance of ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. During a site visit to the church in December, we thoroughly examined the information made available to us and believed the church was in compliance with our standards.
“Given the emergence of new information, we have concerns the church may be in serious violation of ECFA Standards 2, 3, 4, and 6. During the indefinite suspension, the church may not represent that they are an ECFA member or display ECFA’s membership seal. The investigation has been and will remain ongoing during the suspension as we work to determine whether Harvest Bible Chapel should be terminated, advised of the steps necessary to come into full compliance or whether they are in fact in compliance with our standards and should, therefore, be restored to full membership.”
ECFA’s Seven Standards
Standard 1 – Doctrinal Issues – Every organization shall subscribe to a written statement of faith clearly affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith or shall otherwise demonstrate such commitment, and shall operate in accordance with biblical truths and practices.
Standard 2 – Governance – Every organization shall be governed by a responsible board of not less than five individuals, a majority of whom shall be independent, who shall meet at least semiannually to establish policy and review its accomplishments.
Standard 3 – Financial Oversight – Every organization shall prepare complete and accurate financial statements. The board or a committee consisting of a majority of independent members shall approve the engagement of an independent certified public accountant, review the annual financial statements, and maintain appropriate communication with the independent certified public accountant. The board shall be apprised of any material weaknesses in internal control or other significant risks.
Standard 4 – Use of Resources and Compliance with Laws – Every organization shall exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the organization’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations, such conformity taking into account biblical mandates.
Standard 5 – Transparency – Every organization shall provide a copy of its current financial statements upon written request and shall provide other disclosures as the law may require. The financial statements required to comply with Standard 3 must be disclosed under this standard. An organization must provide a report, upon written request, including financial information on any specific project for which it has sought or is seeking gifts.
Standard 6 – Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions – Every organization shall set compensation of its top leader and address related-party transactions in a manner that demonstrates integrity and propriety in conformity with ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions.
Standard 7 – Stewardship of Charitable Gifts –
7.1 Truthfulness in Communications. In securing charitable gifts, all representations of fact, descriptions of the financial condition of the organization, or narratives about events must be current, complete, and accurate. References to past activities or events must be appropriately dated. There must be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact, use of misleading photographs, or any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.
7.2 Giver Expectations and Intent. Statements made about the use of gifts by an organization in its charitable gift appeals must be honored. A giver’s intent relates both to what was communicated in the appeal and to any instructions accompanying the gift, if accepted by the organization. Appeals for charitable gifts must not create unrealistic expectations of what a gift will actually accomplish.
7.3 Charitable Gift Communication. Every organization shall provide givers appropriate and timely gift acknowledgments.
7.4 Acting in the Best Interest of Givers. When dealing with persons regarding commitments on major gifts, an organization’s representatives must seek to guide
and advise givers to adequately consider their broad interests. An organization must make every effort to avoid knowingly accepting a gift from, or entering into a contract with, a giver that would place a hardship on the giver or place the giver’s future well-being in jeopardy.
7.5 Percentage Compensation for Securing Charitable Gifts. An organization may not base compensation of outside stewardship resource consultants or its own staff directly or indirectly on a percentage of charitable contributions raised.