The financial report of the Inter-European Division (EUD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, presented by Norbert Zens, the region’s treasurer, to the Year-end Executive Meetings, offered a generally positive picture for 2020. However, he said, there are some areas of concern.
Zens opened his October 31 report by quoting King Solomon, who wrote: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9, 10, NIV).
Through this Bible passage, Zens shared with the 68 participants at the Year-end Meeting, connected via Zoom, his gratitude toward God and Adventist Church members for faithfulness despite the impact of COVID-19. In most countries during the most recent few months, the division has seen a good recovery from the tithe decreases in the months during the lockdown, Zens said. “Since the end of September, we are happy to report an overall tithe increase of 1.2 percent in EUD,” he said. Still, he added, “we have noted, with concern, that in some unions, we have very significant decreases in tithe. This is especially true in Italy and Spain.”
Tithe Solidarity Plan
To assist regions facing a significant decrease in tithe, a motion was presented to the Executive Committee to invite those regions that have had an increase in 2020 to share a portion of their increase with the regions that had suffered a decrease in tithe of more than 2 percent. Also, the EUD administration may top up the total amount received.
This gesture of solidarity recalls what happened at the time of the first Christian church, the treasurer said, when the church in Jerusalem collected funds to help churches in need. “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At present, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” The goal is equality, “as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little’” (2 Cor. 8:15, NIV).
The members of the EUD Executive Committee finally passed the motion, “EUD Tithe Solidarity Initiative,” unanimously.
Zens also presented the “use of tithe” report for the EUD. This report is given annually to disclose how tithe funds are used throughout the EUD. The report shows that about 58 percent of tithe is used for pastors, evangelists, and frontline workers, while 22 percent is used for the operations of the various administrative levels (conference, union, and division). The remainder is used for the support of educational institutions (9 percent), media outreach (4 percent), and direct evangelism (4 percent).
Impact of COVID-19 on Offerings
The second pillar on which the financial support for the mission of the Adventist Church stands is freewill offerings collected during church services. Zens reported that due to the lockdown, offerings in the EUD have decreased by almost 30 percent compared to 2019. While in most countries in the EUD the tithe remitted by church members has recovered very well after the lockdown, the division has not seen that so far regarding offerings, Zens said.
Zens pointed out that it is important to understand that the funding of the church’s missionary work — for instance in Africa and the Far and Near East — relies strongly on offerings.
Preparing for Economic Impact of COVID-19
In presenting the EUD budget for 2021, Zens once again highlighted uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on financial developments in 2021.
“An adaptation of the budget is necessary,” Zens said, presenting the budget’s strategic aspects for 2021. The budget presented has been reduced by about 8 percent in comparison to 2020. To maintain the budget’s alignment with the division’s strategic plan, Zens proposed a mixture of reduction of expenses and intentional use of reserves built up in past years.
“This has not been an easy budgeting process,” Zens said as he thanked departmental leaders and his colleagues in administration for their support and understanding. “We do not know yet how the financial situation will develop in 2021; therefore, it may be necessary to adapt the budget as we go through 2021.”
Zens concluded his report with strong encouragement, quoting Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White, who wrote, “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him.... His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice” (Steps to Christ, 100).