October 17, 2007

Annual Council Update 4

[More AC Coverage]                  
capMembers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are giving more now than they gave last year, in ways large and small. An increase in ordinary tithes and offerings lifted the Adventist Church's financial bottom line by $10 million as of September 2007 compared to the same time last year.
Juan R. Prestol, undertreasurer for the world church, told delegates on October 15, that as of September 30, 2007, the church's financial statement reflects "a significant inflow of tithe received during the course of the year, and an increase in net assets." Tithe for the 2006 calendar year totaled more than $1.6 billion, ri.
"Annually God's faithful servants in small and large amounts return $1.6 to $1.7 billion a year and every dollar of that is as important as the millions that come in," said Robert E. Lemon, world church treasurer.
Conservative estimates of revenue through the end of 2007 will give the church enough resources to recommend additional funding for projects and programs around the world through a supplemental budget, normally voted at the executive committee's Spring Meeting.
2007 1528 36Returning tithe is a "sermon," Lemon said. "You don't give unless you believe God is the Creator."
Tithe is not the only place that the church is seeing increases. Lemon reported that local offerings increased from 23 percent of tithe in 1950 to 36 percent of tithe in 2005.
One of the church's biggest success stories is the turnaround in mission offerings, which, until recently, had declined by 36 percent since 1950. But for the past two years, mission offerings in North America have increased at a rate equal to or greater than an increase in tithe. Total mission offerings have increased from $51.2 million in 2005 to $55.4 million in 2006.
Lemon also presented a special report on an extraordinary amount of tithe the church’s world headquarters received earlier this year. Council delegates voted to receive it and have it used for the church's worldwide work.
Lemon referred to the contribution as an "extraordinary" blessing and also as a "unique opportunity for advancement of His work."
"The reality is, the way we intend to use these funds we will have a greater need than we've ever had," Lemon said. "I think to miss this opportunity to move a half a generation ahead of what we would have been able to do is something the Lord will hold us accountable for if we don't do.
"Tithe is for support of the ministry and evangelism; it's not for endowing and then just using the interest," Lemon said in answer to a question form a floor. "The Lord, when he rewarded the widow for having fed the prophet, he didn't fill up her flour barrel and oil every time she used it, but only replaced what she had used.
"We have consulted with many on this issue and we want it clearly understood that there is no change in our position that tithe ... should be turned into the local conference through the local church," Lemon said.
"It would have to be an extraordinary amount for us to consider this again."
The council decided that proposals on how to administer the tithe would be submitted by regional world leaders and administrators at the church's headquarters before being reviewed by the president's council in January 2008.
2007 1528 36Church leaders envision proposals will include funding for Internet and other mass media communication outreach, initiatives in large cities, and the church's work in the 10/40 Window -- a section of the globe in the eastern hemisphere between the 10 and 40 northern lines of latitude that is largely unreached by the gospel.
Church President Jan Paulsen urged leaders to use the funds for long-term projects. "These are not projects that should have a short-term life," Paulsen said. "They may, in your planning and thinking, have no end except the second coming of Christ."
Lemon praised church members for their faithfulness in returning tithe and urged continued commitment.
Delegates also unanimously approved the world church's 2008 budget of more than $142 million, including a 3 percent increase in across the board appropriations for its 13 world divisions and General Conference institutions.
The budget includes more than $35 million cost of operating the Adventist Church's world headquarters, fixed at 2 percent of world tithe.
The budget also reflects a new associate director and new part time assistant for the Biblical Research Institute, located at the church's headquarters. The General Conference added an Office of Assessment and Evaluation of Programs.
Paulsen said of the new office, "If we are spending many, many millions each year in developing initiatives, tools, and services for the world field it seems right to have something in place to say how well we are doing. We've never had in place a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness [of these programs] both in terms of if they meet the expected needs or if they are effectively delivered or if there are adjustments that can be made."
Delegates also approved the addition of a television studio at the church's headquarters at a cost of $3 million. It will also include a second floor for offices. The total cost for the extension is $5,264,000 which will be funded from already existing plant funds at the General Conference.