It was a relieved General Conference Treasurer Juan Puesan-Prestol who told the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee that God had turned around the dire financial situation in which the church found itself last fall. Thanks also to a shift in financial markets, there was a $21 million swing in the church’s fortune. It went from a negative $20,180,003 in net assets at the end of 2015 to a positive $1,011,538 at the end of 2016.
North American Division tithe topped a billion dollars in 2016, the first time any single division had passed that level. Total world tithe was $2,270,076,919.
That good news was tempered by the chart showing the growth of expenses at the General Conference headquarters operation in Silver Spring where it has seen a 12% increase in the last two years, in spite of extreme efforts to cut costs. The budget for the GC is “capped” at 2% of the gross world tithe (in U.S. dollars without respect to the division in which it was received) and, thus, referred to as the Operating Expense Cap. In 2016, operating expenses hit 99.20% of the cap, up from 98.04% in 2015.
The Executive Committee was asked to increase the cap for 2017 to 2.12% and to 2.13% in 2018. The request was approved. Prestol said projections for 2017 look just as challenging as they were in 2016. Part of that challenge comes from the fact that the tithe going to the GC from the North America Division will continue to decline for the next four years. He reminded committee members that they had voted for this decrease because NAD pays the highest proportion of its tithe to the GC of any of the Divisions (approximately 6% vs. 2%). “We are going to have to do more with less,” he said.
In other financial news, the Treasury Department unveiled a new report: “Accountability for the Use of Tithe” that shows the breakdown of how tithe is being spent. Such reports are going to be required of conferences and unions, too. A pie chart of how the General Conference uses tithe dollars accompanied the financial documents. It lumped together in a category called "Other" the appropriations to the Divisions, other appropriations, ISE funding, GCAS funding, spending on the 10/40 window, major meetings, Adventist Mission, and $5,778,709 million in other expenditures. That accounted for the largest portion of the pie—58%. Headquarters operating expenditures made up 28%, education got 3%, media outreach 9%, and the retirement fund contributions 2%.
Prestol closed his presentation by reciting the Psalm, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” On the screen at the front, a slide carried the reminder that $45 million is needed every week in tithes and offerings to operate the world-wide church.
Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum.
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