Mission Giving, Extraordinary Tithe
Grows Adventist Church’s Budget
US$1.78 billion in tithe received last fiscal year; church taking “cautious, conservative” approach amid economic jitters.
By Elizabeth Lechleitner, editorial assistant, Adventist News Network, reporting from Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States
“Not only have tithes and offerings increased,” Lemon said, “but the church was blessed to receive a multimillion dollar ‘extraordinary tithe.’” Lemon’s April 6 financial report at the church’s spring business meeting reflected about half of that extraordinary tithe, which was first announced at the church’s fall 2007 business meeting. This tithe, which came from a single family on the proceeds from the sale of its business, was given to the world church because it was determined that processing through a local conference would grossly distort the gift’s best potential use.
World church president Jan Paulsen described the extraordinary tithe as a “privilege” to handle and said it would allow the church to work in ways not otherwise possible.
FINANCIAL UPDATE: Adventist world church treasurer Robert E. Lemon delivers the church’s financial report to church leaders April 6 at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. Lemon said tithing and other giving amounts are up this year despite fluctuating global economies.Some of the extraordinary tithe is currently allocated to specific areas of ministry, world church undertreasurer Juan Prestol reported. To help them allocate the additional tithe, delegates agreed on a list of guidelines for evaluating potential initiatives. Paulsen said the church would await revised proposals from each church region, and then move “briskly” to distribute funds.
“The church is making careful and expeditious plans to use these funds for mission, particularly in unentered areas,” Paulsen said.
For the global church, tithe received climbed 9 percent during 2007 to reach US$1.78 billion, compared to US$1.6 billion in 2006, Lemon reported. For the first time, tithe returned in the church’s world regions nearly matched sums received in its North American region.
While currency exchange rates coupled with the weakened U.S. dollar account for part of the upswing, Lemon said the church did post unequivocal increases in local currency tithe returns.
Even though the weakened U.S. dollar seemingly bolsters the church’s financial statements, it stymies what can actually be accomplished with funds in mission territories, Lemon said.
Lemon also mentioned the “very encouraging” 12 percent growth of mission offerings in the church’s North American region for the past four years. For the fiscal year, amounts totaled US$24 million in North America and US$38 million in the church’s other regions. Total mission offerings have increased 199 percent in regions outside North America in the past 20 years.
Paulsen called the increases a “testament” to the church’s emphasis on outreach. “If our members see that we stay focused on mission, they will want to support us,” he said.
Lemon said the growth of mission offerings and tithe along with frugality at church headquarters near Washington, D.C., United States, mean the church ends the fiscal year with a US$23 million increase in total net assets—not counting the extraordinary tithe. Some of these funds are restricted or allocated funds designated for special purposes, but the balance will not be kept at world church headquarters.
Finance officers also addressed the church’s investments in light of the fluctuating market. Commenting specifically on the church’s retirement funds, General Conference associate treasurer Roy Ryan said because the church’s holdings are long-term, diversified, and conservative, risks are “manageable.”
Given the volatile markets, “no one is expecting a robust financial year in 2008,” Ryan added, “but the strength of international and emerging markets is encouraging to United States-based investors.”
Wrapping up the financial reports, church external auditor Jim Nyquist, a partner from the firm Maner, Costerisan & Ellis, gave a “clean and unqualified” opinion on the church’s financial records. He did recommend some minor adjustments needed to keep the church’s statements in line with recently tightened auditing standards in the United States.
The church’s Spring Meeting this year was held for the first time at church-owned Andrews University. Business meetings are periodically held at sites other than the church’s world headquarters. In October it is anticipated that world church leaders will meet for the Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee in Manila, Philippines.