The Story So Far

* The value of some insider real estate recorded by BFA in documents is wildly inflated when compared to actual property-tax records. BFA denies inflating the value of real estate--a technique that could camouflage BFA's true losses on financial statements handed to potential investors.

Charities get little
* Despite claims of frugality and pious statements about helping the less fortunate, BFA's administrative costs are staggering. About half of the $69 million BFA spent in 1996 paid for salaries and administrative expenses. BFA's financial statements don't say how many people it employs.

* Charities can get money from two BFA sources--income from profits BFA earns and money dedicated from charitable trusts BFA manages.

In 50 years, BFA itself has given only about $1.3 million to Southern Baptist causes. This may be because its expenses are so high. In 1995 alone, BFA spent about $329,000 on staff automobiles. It spent $16 million on staff salaries in 1996.

High-profile causes such as Arizona Baptist Children's Services, which cares for children in crises, and Rio Vista Mission, which helps feed the hungry, have struggled financially and suffered cutbacks in services. BFA has not provided either any direct aid, although it has loaned about $150,000 to the children's agency.

BFA boasts that charitable trust funds it manages returned $1.7 to Southern Baptist causes in 1997. However, BFA will not disclose how much of that $1.7 million it returned to itself, since BFA designates itself as a charitable cause.

--Terry Greene Sterling

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