The Master’s University & Seminary Withdraws from Financial Accountability Group

By Sarah Einselen
John MacArthur TMUS Master's
In February 2021, school chancellor John MacArthur preaches to students at The Master's University and Seminary in Santa Clarita, California. (Photo via Facebook / TMUS)

The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS), where John MacArthur is chancellor, has withdrawn its membership from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

According to the ECFA’s website, TMUS voluntarily resigned its membership more than seven weeks ago.

As of this morning, TMUS’ website still stated it’s an ECFA member “to ensure our financial accountability.” That message was removed shortly after The Roys Report sent an email to TMUS and ECFA asking about issue.

It’s unclear why TMUS ended its ECFA membership.

TMUS Interim President Abner Chou did not respond to a list of questions The Roys Report emailed earlier today. A voicemail left for TMUS’s communications manager, Mason Nesbitt, was not immediately returned.

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We also emailed ECFA’s vice president for member accountability, Jake Lapp, who confirmed that TMUS’ resignation on December 13, 2021, was voluntary.

Master's University and Seminary TMUS
As of the morning of January 31, 2022, The Master’s University and Seminary in Santa Clarita, California still promoted its affiliation with ECFA. It has since been removed. (Screenshot)

TMUS received more than $53 million in total revenue in fiscal year 2020 and spent nearly $50 million, according to the organization’s latest IRS form 990. The school enrolled 2,400 students in fall 2021, according to its website, with just over 1,000 of them attending on campus in Santa Clarita.

The school’s decision to leave ECFA comes about two years after MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) similarly left ECFA. GCC’s decision to leave ECFA came shortly after The Roys Report asked the church for its financial statements. (The ECFA requires members to make current financial statements available upon written request.)

The move by TMUS also comes after several years of turmoil at the school.

In June 2018, the accrediting body for TMUS—the WASC Senior College and University Commission—placed the school on probation for fostering a “climate of fear, intimidation, and bullying.”

WASC mentioned several issues with MacArthur, who at the time was TMUS president. WASC noted that almost everyone on TMUS’ board were employed by TMUS or another organization headed by MacArthur.

WASC also noted the “appearance of conflicts of interest with the President’s son-in-law supervising a contract from which he benefits.”

MacArthur’s son-in-law, Kory Welch, and companies Welch owns, have received millions over the years from TMUS and MacArthur’s broadcast ministry, Grace To You.

According to TMUS’ latest 990, Welch’s company, WeKreative Design Group, was one of the five highest-paid contractors for Master’s in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. WeKreative received just over $190,000 for marketing services, the filing shows.

John MacArthur Grace Community Church
John MacArthur

At the end of June 2019, MacArthur stepped down as president at TMUS and became chancellor of the school. After about a year, Dr. Sam Horn was named as MacArthur’s successor.

However, Horn’s tenure was very short-lived. Last March, Horn resigned suddenly from TMUS. The school did not give a reason for Horn’s resignation. But in a chapel announcement, incoming President Abner Chou accused Horn of being “pugnacious” and therefore, disqualified from service as an elder.

A little over a year ago, WASC reaffirmed TMUS’ accreditation, commending Master’s for several improvements and requiring the university to maintain momentum toward accountability and transparency. The WASC’s November 2020 correspondence didn’t say whether the apparent conflict of interesthad been resolved.

TMUS has also found itself embroiled in a similar controversy as Grace Community Church over its handling of COVID-19.

Grace Community Church made headlines the past two years for defying local COVID-19 restrictions and for failing to report a COVID outbreak at the church. MacArthur has since admitted the COVID outbreak and the church has settled its legal battle with county and state authorities.

Similarly, last January, a Master’s seminary student accused the school of flagrantly violating COVID-19 guidelines in the wake of a classmate’s death.

One ministry of MacArthur’s—Grace To You—remains a member of the ECFA.

ECFA’s website shows 54 organizations, including TMUS, have voluntarily resigned in the last year. Also during the last year, one organization resigned while under a compliance review, and 13 had their memberships terminated.

The ECFA has more than 2,600 members. More than 160 have joined the organization in the last year.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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discussion

11 thoughts on “The Master’s University & Seminary Withdraws from Financial Accountability Group”

  1. More and more churches and organizations are realizing that the rubber stamp of the ECFA is worthless. Our church left a couple of years ago, specifically citing the Harvest incident, and I hope others continue to follow suit. Only then will the ECFA change their ways to actually provide assurance to donors.

    1. Sure, but the proper way to respond to a failed financial accountability oversight organization is to reform it or replace it. I agree the ECFA is a worthless rubber stamp and likely always has been, only taking action long after horses has bolted, but odds are those who now feel empowered to drop them after the ECFA’s recent failures have are the ones who need to be held to account the most.

  2. I agree with Gus. ECFA membership is expensive and provides no benefit. It’s probably redundant for an accredited institution that gets audited anyway.

    1. Jana, redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing! Also, accredited institutions whether they are Christian or not need full transparency and accountability to keep them on the up and up, given the cracks we have in our character as human beings.

  3. Given the lack of oversight that the ECFA has provided for other scandal-ridden churches and para-church organizations in the past, I don’t even care.

  4. Consider this. Sounds to me like a two-sided issue. On the one hand the ECFA is a rubberstamp and has steadily been losing its credibility over the last several years. The Harvest Bible Chapel mess/disaster is one glaring example. However, on the other hand, seems to me that MacArthur and those of like mind don’t want accountability with their finances (and possibly anything else for that matter) and therefore would gladly remove any oversight. It’s sort of the best of both worlds, don’t you think? Or maybe I’m just a crusty, cynical, old buzzard, who has seen the evangelical church at large in America steadily slide down a slippery slope from which there may not be (God help us) any recovery, not only regarding its use of finances but in every other aspect of its existence. Again and again thank you Julie Roys for your commitment to truth in Christian journalism and superb ministry in reporting on these issues. May I be so bold as to say that if there wasn’t a Julie Roys and several others like her, there would not be any commentary of the sinful and abusive behaviors taking place in our churches.

    1. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

      GCC exists halfway between a modern Calvinist church and an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. Therefore they will staunchly defend their lack of openness with conviction, and attack anyone outside of them who disagrees with them.

  5. The best accountability churches can use is transparency. Give the records to anyone who inquires. What is there to hide? If you call my church you can get a copy of our financials as well as the current independent accounting audit.

    1. Brendan Bossard

      Keith, this has been my experience. I have attended several churches where every member was involved and had a voting interest in church budgets. Our elders would distribute financial statements at our quarterly meetings. Nothing was hidden, including pastoral salaries and perks! They never even hinted that the statements were in-house only. Anyone could have given any outsider a copy. There is absolutely no reason for any church to hide its financial matters.

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