WORLD Magazine Cover Story Suggests ECFA Accreditation is a Rubber Stamp

By Julie Roys
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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.

James MacDonald

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.

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.

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.

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.

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6 thoughts on “WORLD Magazine Cover Story Suggests ECFA Accreditation is a Rubber Stamp”

  1. Ministry leaders big and small have known for years that ECFA was a paper tiger. But those leaders worried that big and small donors might not know that so they maintained their certification.

  2. Human nature strikes yet again. Just who is watching the watchers and policing the police? Seems accountability at ECFA was nudged out the window.

  3. The ECFA was the American Church attempt to get the US Government from investigative inquiries to there operations. The Church said that it could self govern and regulate itself. It is time “Caesar” step in, because the Church is down to one shoe-string of credibility.

  4. You cannot serve both God and Mammon, for you will hold closely to the one and despise the other. Jesus words are true. The ECFA has always about making mammon in order to sell a false lie stamp that really means less than nothing. The leader of the org. is corrupt as is the entire institution. There is way too much money in big money “Christian” orgs. This leads to those with the money really despising the real Jesus Christ. Always has been like this and it always will.

    1. “There is way too much money in big money “Christian” orgs.”

      Amen. Those were my exact thoughts when reading this article. There is too much money in what I’ve started to view as “commercial” Christianity for there not to be widespread corruption.

      It’s time for the government to force 501(c) 3 religious entities to be subjected to the same level of financial reporting and disclosure requirements as other non-profits. It’s the only way to force accountability.

  5. This is the same setup as the Better Business Bureau. People don’t understand companies pay lots of money to stay in good standing. In the digital age it’s hard to understand the need for any of these types of accrediting organizations.

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