In 1899, the fledgling Seventh-day Adventist Church had only $55.33 in a bank account here in Battle Creek. Two years later, the financial landscape had worsened. The church was some $40,000 in debt. The fiscal crisis would spur early Adventists to reorganize the church’s priorities at the turn of the century.
Yesterday, Spring Meeting delegates heard a considerably more optimistic report about their church’s financial standing—a testament to the faithfulness of membership worldwide and the prudent handling of funds at the various levels of the church, church financial officers said.
Tithe returned in the North American Division for 2012 was up about 1 percent from 2011 and totaled US$933 million. Tithe from divisions outside North America increased 4.4 percent for a total of close to $1.4 billion.
Mission offerings from outside North America similarly rose, reaching about $60 million, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, mission offerings returned in North America dipped 2.6 percent, totaling nearly $23 million.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in mission giving by divisions outside of North America,” Adventist world church Treasurer Robert E. Lemon told ANN. “But I want to point out that in North America, local churches often give to many projects directly, or their members go on mission trips. These acts of mission giving go uncounted.”
Spring Meeting delegates yesterday also heard initial recommendations to appropriate the church’s supplemental budget of nearly $14 million.
“The blessing of the Lord has been evident in the giving and administration of our church,” said Adventist world church Undertreasurer Juan Prestol. “We praise the Lord for that.”
Delegates voted to approve one of the appropriations today—$300,000 to South Sudan. Since Sudan’s split in 2011, most of the Adventist population has shifted to Christian-majority South Sudan. The appropriation from Adventist world church headquarters will fund much-needed infrastructure for the church there and pay off some existing facilities in the cities of Juba and Malakal.
Delegates also approved a $7 million supplemental budget appropriation for the church’s General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS) as it phases in a new funding structure. Starting in January, a portion of audits will be funded by the audited organizations. After four years, funding for GCAS audits will be paid 80 percent by institutions, and 20 percent by conferences, unions and divisions, Lemon said.
Delegates also heard an item regarding Hope Channel – the Adventist Church’s official television network. Prestol noted that Hope Channel would require approximately $8 million more than is currently budgeted for the network to continue providing current satellite coverage through 2020. The matter is expected to undergo further study later this year before delegates are asked to act, Prestol added. If approved, funding would come from the so-called “extraordinary tithe,” which was a one-time payment of $102 million in tithe to the Adventist Church in 2007.
Following the report from church treasury officials, External Auditor Jim Nyquist, a partner from the firm Maner Costerisan & Ellis, commended the Adventist Church on the quality of its accounting records. He noted that audited financial statements presented to Spring Meeting cover the operations and appropriations handled through the world headquarters.
It has been agreed by the Executive Committee that it would be impractical to try to consolidate financial information from all the world divisions and institutions directly affiliated with the world church headquarters. One delegate, while acknowledging that it would not be practical to present an audited consolidated statement, wondered why financial information from the separate audited statements of the church’s 13 world divisions wasn’t available.
Lemon agreed that a more comprehensive look would be helpful.
Indeed, Lemon indicated that treasury is already planning to present a 10-year comprehensive report of the church’s 13 world divisions and its institutions at Annual Council in October.