Ministry fails to meet watchdog's guidelines

Note: "Together in the Harvest Ministries" (Steve Hill) and "Partners in Revival" (John Kilpatrick) ministries are now both members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The Pensacola News Journal/November 16, 1997
By Amie K. Streater

Pensacola -- Doctors, lawyers, teachers -- all have to pass tests to do their work. Colleges, hospitals, restaurants -- all have to undergo scrutiny by accrediting or inspecting agencies.

But who reviews religious organizations and evangelists? Who determines whether they deserve the public's trust?

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a nationwide watchdog group formed in 1979 by Billy Graham and several other evangelists, exists specifically to oversee religious organizations' financial dealings.

The ECFA coaches its 860 organization members into earning that trust by requiring that they follow a strict set of guidelines for handling donors' money ethically.

Organizations voluntarily participate in ECFA and must abide by strict rules. Nine organizations in the Pensacola area are in the ECFA: Globe Missionary Evangelism, Waterfront Rescue Mission, Arise and Shine Evangelistic Association, Globe Europe, Living Water Adopt-a-Child, Living Water Ministries, Manna Bible Institute, New Hope Home of Waterfront Rescue Mission, and Rhema Bible Institute.

None of the organizations involved in Pensacola's Brownsville Revival are members.

Brownsville Revival evangelist Steve Hill's organization, Together in the Harvest Ministries Inc., has a membership application pending.

Paul Nelson, president of ECFA, said that to be accepted, a religious organization must meet these requirements:

Adopt a written statement affirming its commitment to the Christian faith and operate in a manner that reflects Biblical practices.

The statement Hill filed in Texas when he incorporated Together in the Harvest states that the organization was formed "to promote and perpetuate the doctrines of Christianity as a religion by going into all the world and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Set up a board of directors, the majority of which cannot be staff members or relatives.

Hill's organization has four directors: Hill, who is president. Jeff Gardner, who works in the Together in the Harvest office at Hill's home and handles Awake America, one of Hill's joint ventures. Gary Brady, former pastor of Faith Assembly of God in Tallahassee, where Hill also used to work. Ronald Ardt, a friend of Hill's who lives in Dallas.

Submit to an annual audit from an independent certified public accountant.

Hill said his friend, Jody Fauss of Lindale, Texas, handles his ministry's finances. Fauss, however, told the News Journal that he is not a certified public accountant, and that he does not do the audit for Together in the Harvest.

Exercise financial control to ensure resources are used as intended.

An informal financial statement Hill released to the News Journal listed 32.15 percent of the Together in the Harvest money goes to "other" and "uncategorized" expenditures. Hill did not provide details about those expenditures.

Provide copies of audited financial statements on request.

Hill's attorney, Walter Chandler, refused to provide those.

The ECFA would not tolerate that, according to Nelson. "If they were a member, that wouldn't fly," he said.

Conflicts of interest should be avoided by fully disclosing on audited financial statements any transactions between members.

Hill has not provided a list of Together in the Harvest staff. He has not provided an audited statement. He has not specified what role his wife, Jeri Hill, plays in the organization or how much she is paid. Her name appears with Steve Hill's on the Together in the Harvest letterhead.

Comply with ECFA's 12 standards of fund-raising, which include accurately describing the group's activities, avoiding giving potential donors any unrealistic expectations of what their gifts will accomplish, truthfulness in communication and providing, on request, detailed reports of a project for which it is soliciting gifts.

Hill provided an informal financial statement that said $900,000, or 75 percent, of his share of the Brownsville Revival offering goes to missions. Elsewhere in the statement, he indicates $789,000 goes for such giving. His lawyer's figure was $639,000 and Hill's IRS return indicates his ministry gave $102,212.

Despite repeated requests from the News Journal, neither Hill nor his lawyer identified specific missions and addresses, other than lists of countries and general identifications such as "Misc. - Central and South America and various countries."

Neither Hill nor his lawyer would provide copies of the IRS returns for the nonprofit organization, even though they are, by law, public information. The News Journal had to obtain copies through the IRS.

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