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Investigations Ministry News

Ankerberg Suspended From Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

Under review for questions regarding board governance, use of funds

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The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, which produces the popular John Ankerberg Show for Christian television, has been suspended from the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability (ECFA).

The ECFA suspended Ankerberg’s organization while the organization is under review for compliance with three of the ECFA’s Standards for Financial Accountability. Those standards are 2, 4, 7.1, and 7.2.

Standard 2 says: “Every organization shall be governed by a responsible board of not less than five individuals, a majority of whom shall be independent, who shall meet at least semiannually to establish policy and review its accomplishments.”

Standard 7.1 says: “In securing charitable gifts, all representations of fact, descriptions of the financial condition of the organization, or narratives about events must be current, complete, and accurate. References to past activities or events must be appropriately dated. There must be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact, use of misleading photographs, or any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.”

Standard 7.2 says: “Statements made about the use of gifts by an organization in its charitable gift appeals must be honored. A giver’s intent relates both to what was communicated in the appeal and to any instructions accompanying the gift, if accepted by the organization. Appeals for charitable gifts must not create unrealistic expectations of what a gift will actually accomplish.

The review of Ankerberg’s organization by the ECFA comes after a former fundraising executive at the organization went public with concerns about how Ankerberg used nearly $20-million raised to fund audio bibles. Those concerns were first reported by MinistryWatch and were later the subject of a lengthy front page story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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In his whistleblower complaint, Andrew Jaeger claimed Ankerberg has raised more than $16 million since 2016 for audio Bibles. On The John Ankerberg Show, Ankerberg promised to work with an Albuquerque-based ministry called Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH) to distribute the audio Bibles to unreached people groups and others all around the world.

Jaeger claimed that less than $3-million went to Faith Comes By Hearing during that time period. Jaeger says much of that money has stayed in the ministry to fund the Ankerbergs’ use of private jets, as well as to build the coffers of the organization.

The Ankerbergs dispute Jaeger’s story, but only in the details. In an interview with MinistryWatch, John and Darlene Ankerberg said the relationship with Faith Comes By Hearing actually began in 2013, not 2016. They say their ministry has taken in about $20 million for audio Bibles, not the $16-million asserted by Jaeger. They acknowledge that “about 20 percent” of the money ended up going to Faith Comes By Hearing, or about $4-million.

Jaeger also claimed the Ankerbergs have spent $1-million with the charter service NetJets, and that the organization failed to disclose the use of the jets on its 2021 Form 990. The Ankerbergs acknowledge they used NetJets. However, John Ankerberg said that Jaeger’s $1-million figure was false. He said the true cost was “about half that.” Darlene Ankerberg said the failure to disclose the use of charter aircraft was an administrative mistake made by the ministry’s outside accounting firm, and that mistake would be fixed.

Ankerberg’s organization subsequently sued Andrew Jaeger, claiming that he violated the terms of his severance agreement by keeping documents that supported his whistleblower claims, documents that ATRI says he was required to return when he left the organization.

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Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.