April 15, 2020

Adventist Church Finances End Quinquennium on Positive Note Despite Current Economic Uncertainty, Treasurer Says

Adventist Review and Adventist News Network

Juan Prestol-Puesán, treasurer for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC), opened his 2020 Spring Meeting financial report by addressing current challenging economic realities. At the same time, he reiterated the Church’s continued dependence upon God for guidance and sustaining power in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis. In the face of uncertainty, Church leaders “choose to remain positive, hopeful, and resilient,” Prestol-Puesán said.

Results of Operations for the Year 2019

Prestol-Puesán said he was happy to share that the 2019 fiscal year ended positively. As was previously reported during last year’s Annual Council, GC Treasury projected a “breakeven or better” outcome as long as three variables stayed constant: (1) level of gross tithe and offerings reported to stay as budgeted or better; (2) exchange fluctuation of relevant currencies to remain within specific limits; and (3) holding expenditures and allocations down.

Church investment earnings fared better than expected and resulted in a net asset increase through the end of the year. “Net Assets increase was $2,599,228.39; Working Capital and Liquidity showed slight increases; and depreciation funding entries were recorded for the years 2018 and 2019. We are pleased to inform that the reserve funds that had been set aside to balance the budget for 2019 if needed, remained untouched,” Prestol-Puesán shared.

Recommendations From Strategic Planning and Budgeting

The agenda then moved to the 2019 Operating Cap report. As undertreasurer Ray Wahlen delineated, “The Operating Cap report covers two major elements — the operating cap itself, 2 percent of gross world tithe, and GC headquarters operating expenses that need to remain under this limitation.” According to GC Working Policy, the world church headquarters is authorized to spend up to 2 percent of world tithe to run its operations.

Although the worldwide church saw a decrease in tithe to the amount of US$120 million in 2019, through careful work and the Lord’s blessing, Church operations remained under budget, he said. “The actual operating expense was approximately $44.1 million — almost $4 million under the Operating Cap that was calculated at year end,” Wahlen stated. “We praise the Lord and thank Him for allowing us to function within this constraint. With normal restraint, it is not too difficult to stay under cap in the years when tithe increases, but this can be very challenging when tithe goes down.”

Recommended Action on Selected Positions

In reference to the tithe parity action voted at Annual Council in 2019, a recommendation was presented to the General Conference Executive Committee for the reduction of three elected positions at the GC headquarters that are currently filled and will end on August 1, 2020.

This action is an exception to the vote taken by the GC Executive Committee on March 19, 2020, that extends current position terms until the General Conference Session in 2021. The General Conference Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee received a full disclosure of the package of proposed personnel reductions effective August 1, 2020. The committee had also voted to eliminate three other elected positions that had been budgeted but not yet filled.  The overall recommendation to reduce the six elected positions was accepted unanimously by Executive Committee members.

In closing, Prestol-Puesán expressed gratitude to God for His provision throughout the past five years and thanked local church treasurers, treasury personnel who serve Church entities around the world, GC treasury and accounting staff, and faithful members who made the financial report possible. He reiterated, in words paraphrased from Psalm 121, “Our help comes from the Lord. He does not slumber. He is our keeper; He is our shade and shall preserve our going out and our coming in, now and forever more.”