Will the ECFA* have any credibility left after staunchly standing by Mars Hill Church?
What are open and transparent ministries that pay the ECFA for its stamp of approval thinking as they see the ECFA continue to declare to donors that Mars Hill Church meets the transparency and accountability standards that ECFA supposedly requires?
What sort of financial scandal has to become public before the ECFA decides that it will no longer give its once esteemed stamp of approval to Mars Hill Church?
How is it possible that the Mars Hill Global Fund deception has been clear and obvious to many church members, ex-members, news reporters and bloggers, yet not to the ECFA? This includes the hasty repackaging of the Global Fund by MH leadership stating that the Global Fund was never a fund that was intended to fund overseas mission work in places like Ethiopia and India, but rather a fund that could be used for any purpose that the top leadership at Mars Hill Church desires, including the general fund.
The recently leaked memo about the Global Fund confirms the intent to deceive and withhold information from donors. Subsequent supportive figures and statements from the church demonstrate that church leaders intended to raise monies using the sympathetic African backdrop implying where the money would go – yet spent it locally, not on overseas missions as implied. It begs the question: is this sort of blatant deception and “cooking of books” enough for the ECFA to realize that its stamp of approval should be removed?
The 2012 and 2013 financial statements and the open admission by church leadership confirm that a preponderance of the money raised was spent in the US for local expenditures. The memo confirms the blatant intent to deceive donors. The memo reveals a calculated scheme by church leadership to “pull the wool over the eyes” of donors, as well as other churches considering joining the Mars Hill franchise, by using a trifling percentage of funds raised to be spent on the appearance of supporting overseas mission work.
The memo proposed limiting the amount earmarked for overseas missions to about $10k per month to buy the silence of critics (which is a pittance, a mere five percent or less of what was raised), and then using the lion’s share of the funds for whatever domestic spending church leadership desires – in effect co-mingling the Global Fund with the general fund to pay for salaries, real estate acquisition, etc. Yet the ECFA stands by its approval of Mars Hill Church.
In the light of this latest revelation of financial shenanigans at Mars Hill Church, will the ECFA choose to keep its stamp of blessing on the church, like it did despite knowing of the deception by church leadership using $210,000 of church funds to hire a company to “game” the system and buy books in a manner intended to deceive the New York Times bestseller list? And, as that deception worked, deceive the public that Mark Driscoll was in fact an author that deserved to be listed among that elite number?
Add to that the plagiarism found in several of Mark Driscoll’s books, which of course is deceiving readers that the uncited work was the work of the author. And add to that the refusal to open up the books of the church to members, thus keeping hidden the allegedly exorbitant compensation packages of the Executive Elders or the exact amount of the overseas mission expenditures of the Global Fund.
The so-called Global Fund raised over $10million. Repeated pleas to donors were made via 20 or more videos utilizing backdrops of impoverished Ethiopian villages. Church members were repeatedly solicited both online and from the pulpit to give over and above their tithes to help build churches globally. When it was discovered that hardly any of the money actually was spent on overseas missions, Mars Hill leaders came back saying the fund was actually “international givers” as opposed to an international fund.
Then came the hasty removal of the Global Fund videos showing Mark Driscoll asking members in Seattle to give to the fund in addition to their normal giving, as well as videos showing executive elder, Sutton Turner, standing in front of a thatched hut in Ethiopia soliciting viewers for donations to the Global Fund.
Such blatant deception.
Such calculated exploitation of poor Africans.
Such intentional suckering of donors.
Yet the ECFA still creates the deceptive illusion that there is transparency and accountability of the finances at Mars Hill Church by putting the ECFA stamp of approval on the organization. If Mars Hill Church qualifies for ECFA approval, then ECFA approval is meaningless. Every church which bears the ECFA stamp of approval becomes suspect of financial shenanigans.
What does the ECFA stand for these days? Surely their approval is losing its value. Every organization that pays its annual dues to the ECFA should start wondering if those days are numbered. If Mars Hill Church is still being approved by the ECFA, what does this tell donors who have been trusting the ECFA as they ponder where and how to be good stewards of their giving?
9 thoughts on “Where is the credibility of ECFA?”
I have been wondering what the criteria is to get a “stamp of approval” from the ECFA? My former church would put a notice out every year that they had been given that stamp, yet, we as a congregation had no idea how money was being spent. They printed the weekly need and the previous weeks’ offering, as well as year-to-date totals and we were told by a lawyer in the church that the building loan had been paid off because the church “loaned itself the money” out of the general fund, but the congregation continued to be told and to believe that their weekly donation to the building fund was needed to pay off the loan. This went on for a few years – nearly the life of the original loan. Yet, the ECFA gave them that stamp of approval every year. Are they just a front for churches that don’t discos their financial information to their members? Do they collect a fee and give the green light and the congregations then have a false sense of security because, while they (the congregation) has no idea what’s going on with the money, if an organization like the ECFA has said everything is “okay” it must be? I’ve tried to find information on what the ECFA bases it’s criteria on and have not been able to find anything concrete. Do you have that information?
Ellen, as the ECFA states on its website, the requirements for ECFA accreditation are “as easy” as (1) filing a simple form; (2) paying a fee; and (3) submitting some VERY BASIC financial statements — audits are only required for organizations with more than $3 million in revenue. (See: http://www.ecfa.org/content/membership-requirements.) Theoretically, organizations also have to comply with the “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship” (http://www.ecfa.org/Content/Standards), but that is a self-certification (http://www.ecfa.org/PDF/Offline-Renew-Church.pdf). The ECFA claims it will investigate a failure to comply with the standards in response to donor complaints, but that apparently doesn’t mean very much.
My former church has a multi-million dollar budget and has a yearly audit. What they don’t do is disclose the details of the financial records of the church. No one knows how much the staff is paid, how much is spent on various ministries, utilities, etc. It sounds like the ECFA is a rubber stamp organization so that churches can assure their members that they don’t need to know because they have been approved by the ECFA. Essentially, it’s a cover up, yes?
Ellen: You may be interested to know (if you don’t already) that the information you seek is required by law to be made available to the public by all nonprofit organizations *except* churches. This information must be disclosed on the Form 990, an annual information return that other tax-exempt organizations file with the IRS and that is available to the public on sites such as guidestar.org. Unfortunately, the ECFA actually opposes making churches file this form. For more on the subject, please check out our website or this article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2349093.
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How is it possible that the Mars Hill Global Fund deception has been clear and obvious to many church members, ex-members, news reporters and bloggers, yet not to the ECFA?
Two words: MONEY TALKS.
And One Hand Washes the Other.
I went over to the EFCA using the link that you graciously provided and clicked on the “Standards Tab” where they give 11 different standards they use to judge a church on to get their “SEAL OF GOOD HOUSE KEEPING”.
The first standard is “Doctrinal Issues” which is a great place to start.
So I read it and it is good doctrine. And I come to the end and I read the summary on the Doctrinal Issues Standard which says:
——-_____—— Start of Summary ____——- ____
“Summary. A member’s commitment to the evangelical Christian faith is the cornerstone of ECFA membership. The word “evangelical” connotes more than mere subscription to a doctrinal statement. It includes commitment to an ethical and moral lifestyle that seeks to conform to a biblical norm. It is the lifestyle envisioned in ECFA’s own statement of faith: “We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life” (emphasis added).”
“Both Christians and secular society often do not distinguish between financial and non-financial issues. A moral scandal would be just as devastating as a financial scandal to the credibility of the organization.”
——____—– End of Summary ____——–____
Hmmm, I wonder if the EFCA believes that Institutional slander, Mockery of Orthodox Doctrine like Church Discipline, General Bullying, making himself a little pope / disregarding New Testament local church structure, deceit in financial affairs, and generally kicking the teeth in of the sheep (blood bought brothers and sisters in the faith) is what they call “an ethical and moral lifestyle that seeks to conform to a biblical norm”.
I wonder if the leadership of EFCA actually believes that the “Holy Spirit is indwelling” within an unrepentant corrupt arrogant leader like Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is both a moral and a doctrinal heretic.
This also demonstrates you can have a great doctrinal statement (like the EFCA) and it doesn’t mean squat if Jesus is not the focus of ministry.
2nd Timothy Chapter 3:1-7 comes to mind when discussing what is happening in the Evangelical movement in the United States, especially in my genre of it in the Charismatic side.
3 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, [a]haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of [b]godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who [c]enter into households and captivate [d]weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the [e]knowledge of the truth. (NASB)
Especially 2 Tim 3:5.
Even Dr. James White from Alpha and Omega, recently made remarks about to pray that the leadership will ignore the Mars Hill “Pope Driscoll” clause in their ByLaws and have the moral courage to make their decision solely on the basis of the Word of God.
God Bless you brother. (and you too Ellen from WhenChurchHurts)
Sheep and recovering Pentecostal
Well said. It is also worth nothing that of the approximately 330,000 churches in the United States, only about 150 are members of the ECFA. Unfortunately, many churches are not interested in meeting even the minimal standards established by the ECFA. Or perhaps they realize that the ECFA stamp of approval is not worth the value of the membership fee.