NASHVILLE, Tenn. July 10, 2013 /Discipleship Ministries/ – A forensic audit related to misuse of the Discipleship Ministries’s (Discipleship Ministries) Racial Ethnic Local Church Concerns grant funds found that a former staff person, the Rev. Sungnam Choi, diverted monies for personal gain from Board-approved grants meant to support various ministry projects within the Korean American United Methodist community. Choi has subsequently surrendered his credentials and returned some of the funds.
Choi was employed by the agency from November 3, 2003, to June 30, 2010, as Director of Korean American and Asian Ministries at Discipleship Ministries. As a part of his work, Choi provided staff support to the Board’s Committee on Racial Ethnic Local Church Concerns charged with distribution of funds to support racial ethnic ministry programs.
Misuse of funds was suspected when Discipleship Ministries replied to a group applying for a new Racial Ethnic Local Church Concerns grant that their application would not be considered because they had not filed a report for a previously funded ministry project grant. The group applying for the grant replied that they knew nothing about the previously funded project.
Discipleship Ministries took immediate action to investigate the situation, and engaged in a nearly year-long intensive forensic audit to determine whether the suspected misuse of funds could be substantiated.
“Discipleship Ministries takes its stewardship of church funds very seriously,” says Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, President of Discipleship Ministries's Board of Directors. She further states, “The established processes of the Board worked to uncover this misuse of funds, and the Board has initiated a review of grant procedures to make them even more secure going forward.”
The forensic audit found irregularities in grant applications involving proposed ministry projects designed to benefit Korean American United Methodist churches and communities. Four grants were identified for which the monies were not used for the purposes outlined in the grant applications and were directed to Sungnam Choi personally. Several additional grants had irregularities that raise further questions related to Choi's personal involvement in and usage of the distributed funds.
Upon recommendation by the Board’s Audit Committee, the Discipleship Ministries’s Executive Committee has instructed the Board’s legal counsel to transfer the results of the findings of the forensic investigation to the appropriate law enforcement bodies.
Discipleship Ministries's mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. Visit www.umcdiscipleship.org for more information or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.