For the past nine months, I have been publishing stories suggesting that accreditation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is nothing more than a rubber stamp. Today, WORLD Magazine did similarly with a thorough cover story, documenting a decades-long pattern of the ECFA accrediting institutions that are grossly negligent, or even criminally fraudulent.
The article begins with the story I first reported in June about how the ECFA failed to flag National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), despite 13 years of deficit spending that brought NRB to the brink of bankruptcy. It then recounts how the ECFA continued to accredit Harvest Bible Chapel even after my article in WORLD revealed Harvest’s reckless spending and the church fired founding pastor James MacDonald.
One thing the article doesn’t mention, however, is that even then, the ECFA didn’t suspended Harvest. What finally prompted action was a series of articles I published within one week in March, showing how blatant the financial wrongdoing at Harvest was.
On March 9, I published an article revealing that Harvest gave MacDonald a massive spending account, which enabled him to do things like go on African safaris and take extended vacations in Naples on the church’s dime. That same evening, former chairman of Harvest’s executive committee, Steve Huston, resigned, admitting “ungodly spending.” On March 13, I published an article, confronting the ECFA for continuing to accredit Harvest, despite repeated, glaring violations. And then on March 16, the ECFA finally suspended Harvest’s accreditation, and a month later revoked it.
But even those articles don’t tell the complete story. About a month later, I published an article showing how the ECFA was warned by three former Harvest elders six years ago that the church lacked proper financial controls. But stunningly, ECFA President Dan Busby ignored the warning.
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As the WORLD article notes, this shameful pattern at the ECFA goes back decades. In fact, the criminally fraudulent spending involving the PTL Club and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1980s occurred while PTL was a member of the ECFA. More recently, Teen Mania, which is now defunct due to extravagant spending, was a member of the ECFA during the time it slid into multi-million-dollar debt.[pullquote]As the WORLD article notes, this shameful pattern at the ECFA goes back decades. In fact, the criminally fraudulent spending involving the PTL Club and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1980s occurred while PTL was a member of the ECFA.[/pullquote]There’s one other former ECFA member that’s been accused of massive financial misconduct that’s not named in the WORLD article. That would be Gospel for Asia, which recently paid $37 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for allegedly defrauding its donors. Though ECFA revoked Gospel for Asia’s accreditation in 2015, this action came only after former employees, donors, and others, like blogger Warren Throckmorton, had been publishing allegations of financial wrongdoing for months. As was the case with Harvest, ECFA acted only after the public pressure to do so became great.
However, the WORLD article does a great job of revealing why ECFA does such an abysmal job of holding organizations accountable. The group is paid by its member organizations, not donors. In fact, more than 75-percent of ECFA’s total revenue comes from fees charged to members. So there’s a clear financial incentive for ECFA to continue accrediting its members, regardless of performance.
Also, the ECFA isn’t absent of any wrongdoing itself. As I reported in March, ECFA President Dan Busby was fined $9,000 in 2016 for the unlicensed use of the CPA title on at least 38 publications, his personal website, and the ECFA’s website over a period, spanning 15 years. Sadly, instead of owning his error when confronted, Busby said through a PR firm that his CPA designation complies with the laws of Kansas “where he was originally and still is certified.” But that’s not true as I explain in my article.
Fortunately, groups are beginning to realize the truth about the ECFA and are dropping their membership. The WORLD article names several and is a very worthwhile read. To read the WORLD article, click here.