Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has not hurt the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s finances in the short term, but it may cause harm if currency markets remain volatile, the church’s chief financial officer said.
Juan Prestol-Puesán, who serves as treasurer of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said he was keeping a close eye on fluctuations of the British pound and the euro after Britain voted on June 23 to exit the European Union.
“We will see in the next few weeks and months what the real meaning of the British vote will be on the giving and the finances of the church,” Prestol-Puesán told the Adventist Review.
But he said currency fluctuations in other parts of the world were also posing a challenge to the church. He encouraged Adventist believers to raise the church in prayer and to keep supporting its mission to share the gospel to all the world.
Here are Prestol-Puesán’s answers to four questions from the Adventist Review:
Q. What impact has Britain’s decision to leave the European Union had on the financial health of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
A: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union had an initial negative impact on financial markets, bringing back the volatility that we had seen in earlier months and reviving financial fears and concerns. However, an investment decline that we experienced in the hours and days that followed the vote has since been made up.
Our remaining concerns are for the longer lasting consequences of the decision on international business and on the currency value of the euro and the British pound. The final impact on tithes and offerings from the Adventist Church’s Trans-European Division and Inter-European Division will be seen in the next few weeks and months.
Q: Are you worried? Should church members be worried?
A: Yes, I am, but I am not overly anxious. We will see real meaning of the British vote in the next few weeks and months.
Q: How are the church’s finances in general?
A: Our financial statement for June 2016 indicates that we remain at the same level of liquidity and working capital that we were back in December 2015. This means we are currently holding our position by not overspending.
The situation in Brazil still gives us concern because the country has the largest economy and largest concentration of church members in South America. Its currency decline has improved a bit since December 2015. However, the improvement is not enough to give us enough income to make our budget by December 2016.
The situation in Mexico is one of banking limitations — international currency transactions are blocked. That affects the church’s Inter-American Division and the General Conference because the membership in Mexico is the largest in that division, and the tithe and offerings are critical to its finances as well as to the finances of the General Conference. We are working toward normalizing the process to comply with the new banking regulations.
We anticipate making the necessary budgetary adjustments and provisions for 2017, taking into consideration the new set of variables we face, when we evaluate our finances at the end of the third quarter in September 2016.
The year 2017 will also bring a decline in tithe income from the territory of the North American Division. Funds remitted to the General Conference are declining by one-fourth of 1 percent per year until a full 1 percent is reached in 2020.
Also, the General Conference will absorb about $1 million more in expenses because of additional overhead expenses that will not be distributed as the North American Division leaves the General Conference building by the middle of 2017.
Although these matters give us reason for concern, we are not overly anxious. The Lord will provide us with funds to meet the needs of the church.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: We solicit our church members’ prayers and support as we continue facing the mission challenges of a changing financial landscape.