We live in a world of spin. But nowhere could this spin be more pronounced than in news reports released yesterday about Gospel for Asia’s (GFA) massive settlement with donors who alleged that the ministry conned them and stole their money.
According to a CBN News report, which quoted spin-doctor Johnnie Moore at length, the settlement is reason to rejoice for a ministry that finally can put ugly allegations of wrongdoing behind it. The lead reads:
“One of the world’s largest international ministries is thanking God as a more than three-year legal battle against allegations of financial fraud is finally coming to an end.”
The report mentions that GFA “found itself embroiled in a class-action lawsuit accusing the non-profit of betraying its mission to help the poor and needy.” And it included one sentence quoting the plaintiffs, Dr. Garland Murphy III and his wife Phyllis, who accused GFA founder K.P. Yohannan of using GFA as a “front” to build “a reprehensible . . . multimillion-dollar personal empire.” (Only 13 percent of GFA donations ever made it to the mission field.)
However, nowhere in the entire article does it mention the massive amount of the settlement—$37 million dollars. This is a staggering payout and speaks to the legitimacy of the plaintiffs’ case. Fortunately, this fact was reported in a blog post by Warren Throckmorton. His lead reads:
“In court documents filed today, Gospel for Asia settled with plaintiffs Garland and Phyllis Murphy by agreeing to set aside $37 million in a Settlement Fund to provide relief for donors as well as cover court costs and attorney’s fees.”
Throckmorton’s account also mentioned that GFA agreed to have the plaintiff, Dr. Murphy, join the GFA board. In addition, the settlement stipulates that the wife of Yohannan, must step off the board and that no other relative of Yohannan will be allowed to serve on the GFA board.
Throckmorton’s report also notes that GFA agreed to create a board subcommittee that would provide oversight for the organization’s compliance with the settlement, and this subcommittee will not include K.P. Yohannan.
Stunningly, none of these important facts were included in CBN’s report. Instead, of the 578 words in the article, 425 of them are either quotes or paraphrases of GFA’s hired PR man, Johnnie Moore, or Yohannan, or verbatim parts of the settlement where GFA alleges its innocence.
Sickeningly, the article gives Yohannan a platform to make his cause seem somehow noble and spiritual.
“We are so incredibly thankful for the prayers and the ongoing support of our many faithful friends and partners. We look today toward the future with optimism in our hearts ‘being confident of this one thing: that He who began a good work in (us) will continue to perfect it. I’m most proud of the fact that we managed to continue to serve those in need even as we fought every day to survive ourselves.”
The article also gives Moore a platform to spin and mislead, asserting “that the settlement should not be taken as an admission of guilt, contending that the allegations of racketeering, fraud and financial mismanagement are bogus.”
This is absolutely laughable. Who pays $37 million to settle “bogus” allegations? And if the allegations are so baseless, how does GFA explain that only 13-percent of donations actually made it to the field? Watchdog groups suggest that at least 65-percent of a charity’s expenses should go toward their mission.
Repeatedly, we hear allegations that bloggers are somehow perverting the purity of the press. And I’ll concede that many bloggers are not trained journalists. And they often publish information that isn’t properly sourced.
Yet as this example shows, the press isn’t so pure. And bloggers are providing a much-needed service. Though I think CBN does some good reporting, Christian media tend to give Christian groups more of a pass than they deserve. And if it weren’t for bloggers, many important truths would never come to light.
Bloggers often expose the facts that no one else will. Throckmorton, for example, was key to exposing now-disgraced, former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll. The Elephant’s Debt played a crucial role in exposing the corruption of Harvest Bible Chapel and its founder, James MacDonald. And similarly, The Broken Twig, which has since been taken down, published crucial letters by alumni and professors asserting mission-drift and heavy-handed management at the Moody Bible Institute. This was a big help to me when I was blowing the whistle on wrongdoing at the institute, which led to the president, provost, and COO of MBI stepping down.
Moving forward, I hope Christian media become less accommodating in their coverage of Christian groups and more willing to investigate and report the inconvenient facts. But in the meantime, I encourage Christians to read blogs with discerning eyes, but by all means, read them! If you don’t, you likely will be less informed and less able to discern truth from error. And in this particular case, you may falsely believe that Gospel for Asia is a victim instead of a perpetrator.