The financial report of the Inter-European Region of the Seventh-day Adventist church (EUD) presented by the CFO, Norbert Zens, to the Year-end Executive Meeting from October 30-November 2, 2020, offered a generally positive picture for 2020, although there are some areas of concern.
Zens opened the report with a reference to a thought by King Solomon: “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (see in the Bible: Proverbs 3:9.10).
Through this Bible verse, Zens shared with the 68 participants at the Year-end Meeting, connected via Zoom, his gratitude toward God and the faithfulness of the members of the Adventist Church in spite of the impact of COVID-19. In most countries, during the last months, we have seen a good recovery of the tithe decreases in the months during the lockdown. As a matter of fact, since the end of September, we are happy to report an overall tithe increase of 1.2 percent in EUD. Still, we have noted, with concern, that in some Unions we have very significant decreases in tithe. This is especially in Italy and Spain.
EUD tithe solidarity plan
In order to assist Unions that have been facing a significant decrease in tithe, a motion was presented to the Executive Committee to invite Unions that have had an increase in 2020 to share a portion of their increase with the Unions that had suffered a decrease in tithe of more than two percent. In addition, EUD administration may top up the total amount received.
This gesture of solidarity recalls what happened at the time of the first Christian church, highlighted the Treasurer, where the church in Jerusalem collected funds to help the churches in need. “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, 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.” (see in the Bible: 2 Corinthians 8).
The members of the Executive, finally, voted unanimously the motion “EUD TitheSolidarityInitiative.”
Zens also presented the “use of tithe” report for the EUD. This report is given annually in order 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 are used for the operations of the various administrative levels (Conference, Union and Division). The remainder is used for the support of educational institutions (9%), media outreach (4%) and direct evangelism (4%).
The impact of COVID-19 on offerings
The second pillar on which the financial support for the mission of the Adventist Church stands are freewill offerings collected during church services. Zens reported that due to the lockdown, the 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, we have not seen that so far regarding the offerings. Zens pointed out that it is important to understand that the funding of the missionary work of the church—for instance in Africa, the far and near east—strongly relies on offerings.
Planning for 2021:Preparing for economic impact of Covid19
In presenting the budget of the EUD for 2021, Zens once again highlighted the uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on the financial development in 2021.
“An adaptation of the budget is necessary,” affirmed Zens, presenting the strategic aspects of the budget for 2021. The budget presented has been reduced by about 8 percent in comparison to 2020. In order to maintain the alignment of the budget with the strategic plan of the Division, Zens proposed a mixture of reduction of expenses and an intentional use of reserves built in past years.
“This has not been an easy budgeting process,” affirmed Zens, the EUD Treasurer, thanking all departmental leaders and his colleagues in administration for their support and understanding. “We do not know yet how the financial situation will actually develop in 2021, therefore it may be necessary to adapt the budget as we go through 2021.”
Norbert Zens concluded his report with a strong encouragement, quoting Ellen G. White, an American writer and pioneer of the Adventist Movement: “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”.