Silver Spring, USA [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN]. Spring Meeting delegates last week welcomed news that the Seventh-day Adventist Church reached a significant financial milestone last year.
Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings for the fourth quarter of 2013 exceeded US$1 million for the first time in the history of the offering. Thirteenth Sabbath Offering is collected on the last Saturday of every quarter in Adventist churches worldwide. The offering provides an opportunity for members to give to specific projects that grow the Adventist Church in tangible ways.
Last year’s record-breaking offering will establish new congregations and support innovative evangelism in Europe, including outreach centers in Greece and Macedonia, church finance officers said during the April 9 treasury report.
Tithes and offerings were another bright spot last year. Tithe returned in the North American Division for 2013 was up 1.7 percent from 2012 and totaled $949 million. Tithe from divisions outside North America increased 3.6 percent for a total of more than $1.4 billion.
Mission offerings from outside North America similarly grew, reaching approximately $64 million—a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, mission offerings returned in North America dipped just under 2 percent, totaling about $22 million.
“Despite the recession and slow economic recovery in the U.S., the economies of most of the countries around the world have remained stable,” said Adventist world church Treasurer Robert E. Lemon. That reality is reflected in the upward tick of tithes and offerings from outside North America, he added.
“We praise God for the increase in tithe worldwide and especially in world mission offerings that have helped cushion the reduction of tithe from North America,” Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson said.
Wilson was referring to a plan currently in place to scale down the portion of tithe from North America that stays at Adventist world church headquarters—from 8 percent in 2012 to 6 percent in 2020.
Adventist world church Undertreasurer Juan Prestol said the church would likely feel the blunt of the reduction this year. “This is going to be the test year,” he said, “but assuming the faithfulness of our members … we anticipate that as this year moves along, we should be able to get over the hump.”
Meanwhile, Adventist world church headquarters continues to operate significantly below its cap on spending, which is set by the Executive Committee. The building was almost $7 million under budget last year.
Delegates also agreed to several allocations recommended by the church’s Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee:
• $1.6 million for health and education initiatives in the Middle East North Africa Union (MENA).
• $600,000 to the church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division to cover the launch of Hope Channel Indonesia.
• $650,000 for theological education centers in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division.
• $8 million to Hope Channel to extend the official Adventist television network’s satellite and DirectTV contracts through 2020.
• $2.8 million to the church’s 13 world divisions and MENA.
The appropriation for Hope Channel comes from so-called “extraordinary tithe,” a one-time private donation of $102 million in tithe to the Adventist Church in 2007. Prestol said church financial officers anticipate that Hope Channel will absorb contract costs into its own budget by 2020.
More than $12 million of the extraordinary tithe is still being reserved to assist in the transition of projects that were launched under the extraordinary tithe as they are moved into operating budgets, Prestol said.
As for the $2.8 million allocation to the world divisions and MENA, Prestol said church regions are “encouraged” to spend the influx on Mission to the Cities projects, but that they can use the money “at their own discretion.”
Last week’s treasurer’s report also included an announcement on staff changes at Adventist world church headquarters. Verland Ernston, longtime controller for the Adventist world church, will retire in June. Current Associate Controller Eugene Korff was appointed to take the role, Lemon said. Meanwhile, investment portfolio manager Denise Greenough was appointed to the associate controller position and will start June 1. Also, the church has promoted Senior Accountant Raul Nestares into the role of associate treasurer, replacing Dean Rogers, who recently retired.
Wilson, making final remarks after the report, expressed deep appreciation for church financial officers and personnel.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to treasury for their very careful stewardship of church funds,” he added.