Four organizations appearing on a ministry monitor's list of groups who "failed to demonstrate transparency with regard to their finances" have since been removed.
Tony Campolo's EAPE/Kingdomworks was upgraded to an A rating after Wall Watchers realized it had wrongly received an F. "It was flat-out our mistake," says Rusty Leonard, founder and chairman of Wall Watchers. "They did everything they were supposed to do, and we had a human error on our side."
In addition, Wall Watchers says, Awana Clubs International, The Christian Research Institute (CRI), and Heaven and Home Hour submitted their financial information following the release of the report. Awana and CRI have been regraded with A's; Heaven and Home Hour was given a B.
Wall Watchers president Chris Hempe told Christianity Today that since the group's Transparency Watch list was released last week, several other ministries have contested that a request was made, or challenged the claim that the ministry did not send financial reports.
"We've been hearing quite a bit," Hempe said. "There's been several conversations between us and ministries in trying to work through various issues or showing them the basis for the grade assigned to them. As soon as a ministry does decide to send through the information, the Transparency Watch document is updated immediately to reflect that."
Forty-five ministries, rated with a grade of D or F in financial openness, appeared on the original list. Hempe said those groups on the list received a failing grade because they did not respond to multiple requests for financial statements. This list now includes 41 ministries, of which 13 are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which requires the disclosure of financial information. All four of the organizations removed are ECFA members.
ECFA president Paul Nelson told CT that he is contacting each of the members appearing on the list. He has not yet reached decision makers at all of them, but says, "The bottom line is that we will enforce our standard."
A number of the groups, he said, claim to have sent the requested information to Wall Watchers. Others explained why they hadn't sent the information. CRI, for instance, was waiting for a current audit report and said it had notified Wall Watchers that it was on its way.
"We have some too who said they didn't know a thing about the requests but will of course now send in the information," Nelson said. "We also have a number of them who have a bone to pick with Wall Watchers. They get rankled by the self-appointed nature of Wall Watchers, and they don't like the ratings."
"You can debate the merits of rating, but you must disclose," he said. "There are a few [ministries] that are going to do it even though they are not happy about it. Whether there is a sustainable appetite for the amount of data released and being flooded through the Internet will be determined by the public."
Additional reporting by Ted Olsen.
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