Concern over inadequate control by the boards of Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Mission has led to the suspension and subsequent resignations of the organizations from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Both are headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. At press time, the dispute between Graham and the ECFA had not been resolved, although both parties expressed hope that the situation was moving in a positive direction.
According to an ECFA statement, the council’s board of directors voted in March to suspend the membership of the relief ministry Samaritan’s Purse (SP) and its medical arm, World Medical Mission (WMM), after a January field review raised concerns about their conformity to ECFA’s standards. On April 15, the ECFA executive committee reaffirmed the suspensions.
A week later, the two groups resigned from membership. But on June 22, after a flurry of discussions, they reapplied for membership. That application is currently being reviewed by ECFA board members.
ECFA officials declined to release the specific standards with which SP and WMM were not in compliance. However, ECFA board chairman Tom McCabe told CHRISTIANITY TODAY they fell “under the general umbrella of board oversight.” McCabe confirmed that ECFA gave Graham 17 recommended changes that would help bring his organizations into compliance.
Founded in 1970, Samaritan’s Purse provides resources to Christians around the world “to care for hurting people.” World Medical Mission places Christian physicians for voluntary short-term mission projects. According to tax documents, SP took in nearly $7 million in public support last year, while WMM received nearly $900,000.
Last month, Graham remained adamant that the issue was differing interpretations of the situation, not non-compliance. “I have never broken, ever, any of the ECFA’s standards.”
Graham declined to discuss any changes he has made to meet ECFA’s concerns, but said he has included two new board members this year and has plans to bring on two others next year. “The board does give me a lot of freedom,” he told CT. “But do we have checks and balances on the important issues, the moral issues, the financial issues? Absolutely.”
Graham said he decided to quit ECFA because he saw no internal avenue to resolve the differences. ECFA bylaws do allow member organizations to “present any additional arguments” to the board upon notice of the suspension or termination recommendation or to request a review. However, Graham said from his point of view, “The only way to resolve it was to resign and step aside, and let the thing cool down.”
Ironically, Billy Graham was among the group of evangelical leaders who launched the financial monitoring agency in 1979. Franklin said his father was not directly involved in the dispute, although a representative from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was brought in “one time to be a witness to what was being said.” An association spokesman said Billy Graham had no comment on the situation. Franklin Graham said both his parents agreed his decision to resign “was the only right thing to do,” adding that they also advised him later to reapply.
In the midst of his controversy with ECFA, first reported in National and International Religion Report, Franklin Graham also was confronted with a series of allegations of mismanagement leveled in the secular press, including the Charlotte Observer and three tabloid newspapers. Interviews with former and current employees have raised concerns as well. Among the more serious allegations and Graham’s responses:
• Personal use of a ministry airplane. Graham denied reports that he used SP’s airplane for personal travel and family vacations. Graham is the only SP pilot of the plane, which he said enables him to travel from Boone, North Carolina, where SP and WMM are headquartered. Graham said extensive flight records show no personal use. He said his family does at times accompany him on ministry flights, but emphasized those trips are not vacations.
• Excessive salary. Graham also denied reports that he pays himself a salary of $200,000 with hefty benefits. Tax forms show that he was compensated a total of $103,561 from the two organizations in 1991, with an additional $48,185 in “expense account and other allowances,” and $7,480 in contributions to employee benefit plans.
Graham confirmed to CT that because of his travel to war-torn areas of the world, the ministry grants him a $1.3 million life-insurance policy with his wife as the beneficiary. He said his salary is set by a compensation review committee on his board of directors.
• Deposit of a $40,000 bequest to his personal bank account. Graham said the check, from the estate of a Texas woman he had never met, came with his name on it and was intended for him personally. Graham admitted that many checks regularly come to SP made out to him, but said this “had absolutely nothing to do with Samaritan’s Purse.” Both his law firm and the estate’s attorneys, he said, agreed it was appropriate for him to keep the money.
Graham told CT he believes the allegations were being spread by “jealous” staff members. He also alleged that much of the controversy has come because he is the son of the famous evangelist. “If my name wasn’t Graham, nobody would be sneezing at this stuff.” He added that his personal style also may have fueled the flames. “I don’t do things the sanitized way everybody else does them,” he said.
Still, Graham said, “I’m going to review the things that we do in life more carefully, because I don’t want to give even the perception [of wrongdoing] to my enemies.”
By Kim A. Lawton.
North American Scene
Wimber Parts With Two Associates
Former Dallas Theological Seminary professor Jack Deere has left John Wimber’s pastoral staff at Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim to pursue speaking and writing. Wimber told CHRISTIANITY TODAY, “[Deere’s] interests in writing and having a traveling ministry have grown. We felt we couldn’t support that” with Vineyard finances. Wimber said the departure “was very amiable.” Deere said he is currently working informally with James Robison’s Dallas-based ministry.
Another key figure, “prophet” Paul Cain, also has moved on from the Vineyard, where he previously was affiliated. Cain joined Westminster Chapel in London, where Martin Lloyd-Jones once was pastor. Wimber said he and Cain realized their ministries were taking on different emphases. “We are disengaging,” said Wimber. “I felt like we’ve done our job together.… He feels strongly called to preaching an end-times, last-days ministry.… That’s not what my call is. My call is equipping the saints.”
Wimber added that his eschatology has undergone marked revisions from his dispensational roots. He says he now views the last-days church as “victorious” as opposed to simply hanging on until the Rapture.
Linscott Cleared Of Murder
Murder charges against former Bible student Steven Linscott have been dropped after 12 years of trials, prison time, and appeals. Updated DNA testing techniques allowed the state’s attorney’s office to test semen samples used as evidence more than a decade before. Lab analysis found that the semen from the crime could not have been Linscott’s, and the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Linscott’s ordeal began in 1980, when Oak Park, Illinois, police were investigating the rape and murder of 24-year-old nursing student Karen Anne Phillips, Linscott’s neighbor. The Emmaus Bible College student told police about a dream he had had the night of the crime about a woman being beaten to death. Soon after, police arrested Linscott; prosecutors said the dream was his way of confessing the crime.
Linscott was convicted and served three years in a state prison, while a succession of appeals went to the Illinois Appellate and Supreme courts. He was released on bond in 1985 and moved to downstate Illinois with his wife and four children. In 1990, the Illinois Supreme Court said Linscott was entitled to a second trial, due to the prosecutor’s misrepresentation of key evidence used to convict him.
“I have learned to take the spiritual battle very seriously,” Linscott told CHRISTIANITY TODAY after the charges were dropped. “I have learned that, although victory has the final say, all Christians experience losses and gains.…
“There has been this cloud hanging over us for 12 years,” Linscott said. “It will take us a while to get used to the idea that it’s over with.”
Sexuality Battles Continue
Several denominations continued to struggle with the issue of homosexuality during summer conventions.
The American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.’s (ABC) top policy-making board voted 91 to 88—with two abstentions—against a resolution condemning homosexuality. The resolution said homosexual practice was outside the “Christian lifestyle” and a violation of God’s plan for sexual union in monogamous, lifelong marriage. It also called for proper teaching about marriage and loving ministry “to those caught up in sexual activities which grieve the heart of God.”
The resolution was proposed last year by the West Virginia Baptist Convention and noted “pressure by some” within the denomination to “gain acceptance … of both the practice of homosexuality as a Christian lifestyle and the ordination to the Christian ministry of avowed practicing homosexuals.”
While ABC general secretary Daniel Weiss said that the failure of the resolution did not imply an endorsement of homosexuality, a number of ABC executives at the June 22 meeting in Green Lake, Wisconsin, expressed concern about fallout among ABC conservatives.
In contrast, a regional body of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted 90 to 8 to approve a resolution acknowledging the “plurality of interpretations” about homosexuality but concluding that homosexual practice “is in conflict with our biblical and theological understanding.” The resolution refuses ordination to any person who “openly communicates” a homosexual lifestyle.
The vote was taken at the denomination’s Northeastern Assembly held June 12–14 in Oswego, New York. The assembly was led by a coalition of Hispanic, black, and Haitian congregations.
William Nichols, president and general minister of the one million-member denomination, said he was “disappointed that this action was taken.” However, Linda Ray, a leader of the conservative group Disciple Renewal, said she hopes the vote will encourage similar resolutions in other areas.
The question of divorce and remarriage topped the agenda at the 1992 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Marriage is for life and divorce is a biblical option only in the extreme cases of sexual immorality or desertion, said a PCA report that delegates approved.
The report says “desertion” can include some circumstances of ongoing physical abuse or neglect.
Two female firsts Beth Marcus is the first woman president in the Reformed Church in America’s (RCA) 364-year history. Marcus, a retired RCA executive, was elected at the church’s week-long synod in Albany, New York. Though RCA’s 203,000 membership is 66 percent female, Marcus is the only woman elected to an office of the RCA’s governing body.
The first female Lutheran bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was elected June 12 at the general assembly in La Crescent, Minnesota. April Ulring Larson was elected as bishop of the LaCrosse, Wisconsin, synod.
Robertson Launches Secular News Service
Broadcaster Pat Robertson has created Standard News, a “mainstream” radio news service, which Robertson officials say will compete for markets with the likes of CBS and UPI radio.
The service will absorb Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) radio news and the estimated 300 religious stations it works with, while also branching out into the secular market to offer reporting on financial markets, sports, entertainment, and religion, said Chuck Wagner, manager of network development.
Wagner said that the effort is the result of thorough studies of listeners’ likes and dislikes that were gleaned while Robertson was considering a $6 million buyout of UPI. He declined to speculate on how many new stations Standard News will service, but he said several “mainstream” stations have expressed interest. “They want an alternative.” The new organization has hired Christian radio broadcaster Forrest Boyd to do a daily four-minute radio segment.
Willow Creek Creates New, Bigger Stream
With more and more churches modeling themselves after Willow Creek Community Church, the suburban Chicago megachurch has formed Willow Creek Association (WCA), an official, international network of 96 like-minded churches.
The WCA will operate independently of the Barrington, Illinois, church and will provide special conferences, resources, and consultation to its constituents. Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels says his staff cannot keep up with the increasing number of requests for help from other churches.
Hybels’s church continues to provide an estimated 15,000 people attending Saturday evening and Sunday morning “seeker services” with contemporary music, multimedia displays, dramatic sketches, and messages geared to those investigating Christianity.
Willow Creek Resources, a joint-publishing venture between the new association and Zondervan Publishing House, is also being created to publish books, audios, and videos produced by staffers from within Willow Creek Community Church and the rest of the WCA.
The July 20, 1992, North American Scene article “IRS Eyes Church-tax Expert” incorrectly stated that H. Michael Chitwood is currently under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to Chitwood’s attorney, Philip Haney, Chitwood is not under investigation. IRS officials in Atlanta would not comment on the matter.
The story also incorrectly stated that Chitwood lectured at Abundant Living Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. He did not speak there, but members of that congregation did attend a Chitwood lecture elsewhere. Attorney David Epstein told CT he is planning to file suit against Chitwood on behalf of the church. CT regrets the errors.
Baptist Author Fired For Book
Author and missionary Randy Dodd was asked to resign last April from the Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI), an independent Baptist mission board, after revealing he wrote the controversial novel Wisdom Hunter.
Published under the pseudonym Randall Arthur, the novel attacks “legalistic Christianity” via the story of a high-profile, fundamentalist pastor who eventually questions his faith and convictions. Wisdom Hunter was released in April 1991 by the Oregon-based Questar Publishers, which recently purchased Multnomah Press. The book has sold over 40,000 copies.
A letter sent by BIMI to Dodd’s supporters said, “BIMI feels [Wisdom Hunter] to be very much out of character for the Christian standards and values of the mission.… A further consideration was … that the book was written, published, and circulated without the mission’s knowledge or consent while [Dodd] was still a missionary.”
In a promotional letter to church pastors across the country, Dodd defended the importance of his book’s message to struggling pastors and lay leaders, saying “Legalism … is doing much to destroy churches, homes, and individuals all across America, but especially in the Bible belt.” Dodd and his wife, Sherri, worked for BIMI 17 years.
People And Events
Appointed: Robert Vetter as president of WorldTeam USA, replacing Edwin Walker, who is resigning after seven years. Vetter has been pastor of Maranatha Bible Church in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Donated: $117 million in cash and marketable securities to Regent University, by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. The endowment is one of the largest ever given a private university in the history of American higher education.
Removed: Michael Corcoris, pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Glendora, California, and featured speaker on the “Biola Hour” radio program, after confessing to “sexual impropriety, short of intercourse.”
Named: David Summey, as the executive director of Helps International Ministries, based in Harlem, Georgia, replacing David De Jong, who will become president emeritus.
Curtis Martin, as the new president of Seattle Pacific University, as of May 15, 1992. Martin has been the school’s CEO/provost.
Selected: Charlotte, North Carolina, as the site of a new graduate school of theology, Southern Evangelical Seminary, whose dean and CEO will be Norman Geisler. The school will be housed at Calvary Church and will offer master of divinity and master of theological studies degrees.
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