Evangelical Leaders Choose Fox to Watch the Henhouse

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was founded in 1979 after several scams by evangelical leaders upset their evangelical flock. It was designed to calm them; they called it a ‘watchdog.’ In 2012, after Senator Grassley’s lengthy financial inquiry into leading televangelists, the EFCA created a special commission to study the problem. (Pope Francis didn’t invent the cover-up by ‘special commission.’) Now, RNS reports “Evangelical financial watchdog faces scrutiny over backing of errant megachurch.”

Harvest Bible Church was guilty of financial misconduct for some time, though RNS says nothing about their alleged crimes. Journalist Julie Roys covered them for some time. Her investigations proved sufficiently embarrassing that Harvest sued her – and subsequently settled the case after the judge ruled that financial records submitted in the case could be made public. The church board fired the founder and senior pastor, James MacDonald, several months ago.

Last December the ECFA again said that Harvest Bible Church passed their tests of financial integrity: “Harvest Bible Chapel is in full compliance with each of ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship and remains a member in good standing in ECFA.” However, the facts told a different story. Julie Roys said the ECFA ignored “glaring improprieties” in the church’s finances.

Big-time evangelicalism has virtually always been involved in fleecing its flock. They have been getting better at covering it up, and the government – especially under Republicans – has aided them by reducing financial transparency requirements. This is big business. The member churches of ECFA collect $29 billion in annual charitable donations from 20 million donors. But such misconduct is basically business as usual. My guess is their flock will soon forgive and forget. They have faith.

 

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