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.
Several years ago, Gospel for Asia found itself embroiled in a class-action lawsuit accusing the non-profit of betraying its mission to help the world's poor and needy. The lawsuit claims GFA covertly diverted donations in order to build a "reprehensible … multimillion-dollar personal empire."
The plaintiffs, Dr. Garland Murphy III and his wife Phyllis, accused Gospel of Asia founder K.P. Yohannan of "using a Christian organization as a front to attract and exploit the goodwill and generosity of devout Christians," noting that as little as 13 percent of the donated money actually made it to the field.
GFA, which has been adamant about its innocence, feared the class-action suit would mean the end of the ministry. However, on Thursday, the non-profit announced a settlement had been reached and that it would be able to "continue to serve those in need."
"For three long years, our ministry wondered more often than I'd like to admit if we would survive this ordeal," said Yohannan. "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," he added.
Meanwhile, Johnnie Moore, acting as the ministry's spokesperson, notes that the settlement should not be taken as an admission of guilt, contending that the allegations of racketeering, fraud and financial mismanagement are bogus.
Indeed, section 9.2.2 of the agreement states, "The parties... mutually stipulate that all donations designated for use in the field were ultimately sent to the field."
Moreover, section 1.6 asserts the following:
(Gospel for Asia's) position is that the evidence demonstrates (i) all funds designated to the field were sent to the field and
used for ministry purposes; and (ii) no Individual Defendant, as defined herein, received any improper personal gain or enrichment from or related to donated funds. Without admitting any liability or wrongdoing whatsoever and expressly denying any such liability or wrongdoing and while maintaining they have substantial factual and legal defenses to all claims and class allegations in the Murphy Litigation and DicksonLitigation..."
"The fact of the matter is that Gospel for Asia did not act fraudulently, and all the donations they received made it to the field," Moore said.
"The agreement to settle was, in part, precipitated by a concern that the ministry could continue to bear the weight of defending itself," he explained. "Class action lawsuits are enormous burdens for large, for-profit companies. So, one needs just to imagine the weight of an action like this against a not-for-profit organization."
Moore notes that some 200,000 GFA donors will be eligible to receive a portion of the settlement payment.
"Gospel for Asia is essentially refunding donations," said Moore. "The ministry hopes that those who receive these funds will simply turn around and donate the same amount of money to another worthwhile ministry. Their desire is only for the Lord's work to be done."
"The good news is that the lessons learned from this burdensome series of events will make the ministry stronger," he concluded.