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SATURDAY, JULY 14, 2007
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Christian groups are 'policing' themselves

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

Former Sen. Mark Hatfield warned Christian leaders in the late 1970s to "police" themselves or face possible government intervention.

Shortly after Hatfield's challenge, a group of ministry leaders started the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The ECFA only accepts ministries that:

  • Conduct an annual audit by an independent CPA firm,

  • Disclose audited financial statements upon written request,

  • Spend funds in ways promised to donors,

  • Do not give royalties to ministry leaders from products it uses in fundraising, such as books,

  • Agree to other standards.

    According to the ECFA, its membership seal is "tangible evidence to donors that ECFA member organizations adhere to the highest standards of financial integrity and Christian ethics."

    The membership fee, depending on an organization's income, ranges from $410 to $8,000. ECFA posts members' financial information and more at www.ecfa.org.

    The ECFA has just announced a new affiliate status that does not require a CPA audit as needed for accredited membership.

    Such audits can be beyond what a small ministry can afford, said Kenneth Behr, president.

    Instead, affiliate members will submit a financial statement compiled or reviewed by a CPA. Affiliated members must meet all other standards.

    Allen Brown, founder of Lexi House, said he thought about ECFA membership when he was starting his rescue ministry for women and children.

    He said he'd like to know more about ECFA's affiliate plan because he appreciates credibility and accountability.

    Brown said his organization already has those qualities.

    The ministry has an eight-member board and a CPA who donates services, he said.

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