The Church's Financial Picture and Its Newly-Appointed Treasurer

The Church's Financial Picture and Its Newly-Appointed Treasurer

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Published:
July 4, 2015

On Friday, July 3, during the afternoon business meeting of the General Conference Session, Juan Prestol-Puesán, undertreasurer of the General Conference, was elected General Conference Treasurer to replace the retiring Bob E. Lemon.

Juan Prestol-Puesán’s name was brought forward by the nominating committee, interrupting the Treasurer’s report being given by Lemon (as is customary whenever the nominating committee has a name ready to be voted on). Among the delegates holding up their voting cards, all appeared to vote in favor of Prestol, with no apparent votes against.

“On behalf of my wife and myself, we will do our best, with the Lord’s blessing,” Prestol-Puesán said, in his very brief acceptance speech.

Prestol-Puesán, who was born in the Dominican Republic, has served as treasurer in many different church posts, including the Atlantic Union Conference in North America, the Euro-Asia Division, and the North American Division.

“In my view Lemon has been an exceptional treasurer and having worked with Prestol, he'll be the same,” NAD delegate Lawrence Geraty of La Sierra University, told Spectrum.  “They are uniters rather than dividers (unlike our newly-elected president).”

Delegates also gave a standing ovation for Lemon, initiated by NAD President Dan Jackson, in recognition of his significant contribution as treasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Lemon’s report on the finances of the Adventist Church over the last five years was comprehensive. The accompanying booklet, provided to delegates, was clear and straightforward. For those who didn’t have the booklet, however, keeping up was more difficult, as the graphics shown on the big screens were extremely difficult to read.

Lemon covered different types of income, including tithes, offering, planned giving and trust funds, and investments. He mentioned the challenge of the church’s worldwide footprint, which means dealing with currency fluctuations, exchange rates and stock market variations.

He also dealt with the way the church’s funds are dispersed, including direct operating subsidies sent from the GC to each of the divisions and institutions, missionary expenses, and GC headquarters operating costs.

WATCH: Delegates react to Adventist Church financial report.

Lemon noted the change in the tithe-sharing formula over the last 15 years. In 1999, the North American Division gave over 10% of its tithe income to the General Conference, while other divisions gave just 1%. Phased in over time, the formula is now 2% of the tithe from other divisions, and 7% from the NAD (which will go down to 5.85% by 2020). While there has been an overall increase in tithe, the change in formula has meant a slight decrease in tithe received by the GC of $183 million from 2000 to 2014.

Over the past five years the annual worldwide tithe has increased 30%, growing from $1.85 billion in 2009 to $2.4 billion in 2014.

Lemon showed that in 1930, 40% of the the church’s money went throughout the General Conference. Today it is just 5.6%, with the remainder staying in the areas where it is given.

Lemon also noted that this is the first quinquennium in over half a decade that mission offerings have increased faster than tithe. Before 2002, mission offerings were declining. Over the past five years, however, they increased 38% from $64.2 million to $88.9 million. 

One point that Lemon was careful to underline was the fact that while the worldwide church has more than doubled its membership over the past 20 years, the number of employees at the General Conference headquarters has increased by only six, from 282 to 288.

Lemon said that the cost of this 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio is just over $8 million, compared to a cost of $6.1 million for the Session in 2010. Lemon noted that even if we count about $30 million to pay for all the airline tickets, hotel rooms and so on, if we divide by our worldwide membership of $18 million, this is only a cost of about 40 cents per member per year.

When Lemon concluded his report, the floor was opened for questions. Several delegates expressed gratitude to Lemon for his report, and there was a unanimous vote to record this in the minutes. 

A delegate from inter America asked about problems with medical benefits since she is not classified as head of household, but the question was not answered because it was deemed to be off the topic.

Several delegates questioned the formula for allocating money to the divisions. Lemon said that allocation is difficult; every division could use more funds. He said that we can’t solve the problem by changing the percentages, but by deciding that we all need to do the work. We have to concentrate not on what we take out, but on what we put in. He said we all have more money in our pockets. And that is how we will finish the work.

Alita Byrd is Interviews Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org and a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas.

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