Monday, April 28, 2008

The General Conference Has A $100,000,000 Problem

As I note in my last review of the Pacific Union Recorder, there are 14 media channels carrying the Adventist message in this Union alone. Hundreds of evangelistic campaigns are sponsored, millions of dollars are invested in Adventist educational institutions, and we are struggling to stay even in terms of membership. What remains healthy is the bureaucracy. Rather than critiquing ineffectual proselytizing methods or the sectarian beliefs required for membership, Adventist bureaucrats consistently blame members for their failure to “let their lights shine”. Hence, the proliferation of “discipleship programs” and missionary handouts describing evangelistic techniques required to reach the “unchurched” and/or the “postmoderns” or “genXers”, etc. The good thing about this unbelievable waste of money is that eventually the “well” will run dry, and it will become bureaucratic reform or die.

However, it is important to remember Wes’ comments about change. He posits and I agree with him that only when the money begins to dry up will the administrative leadership of our church seriously consider organizational and doctrinal reform. Today, “loyal church members” are dying off and leaving lots of money to the organization. Currently the Adventist Church is awash in cash, and meaningful, intelligently considered reforms are decades away, given current political and social conditions.


Wish I could take you on for the reply you made to Bill and your evaluation of the status of the SDA church—but cannot since I agree with what you have said. A few years ago I had hoped that the money, i.e., tithe, would dry up. There were indications that led to this possibility. That did not happen, and you have identified one of the factors: matured trusts.

There is the interesting situation of the $100,000,000+ that the guy who owned the chain of retirement centers donated to the General Conference last year when he sold his properties. Payment direct to the GC created a bit of a flap when the local conferences discovered that they had been missed. Hasn't the GC said people should pay tithe to the "storehouse", the "storehouse" being the local conference? Then why a sudden change that would allow this hunk of cash to by-pass the "storehouse"?

The final distribution of these funds is still up for grabs. Local conferences in the Western US where the guy lived are negotiating how to divvy up the portion that the GC has agreed to pass down. Perhaps you read the Adventist Review when reference was made to "extraordinary tithe" or "out of budget tithe”. (This reference is to the $100,000,000+ gift without saying it.)

So where does all this leave us? Where the money ought to be left: with the local congregations. This is where the action must be if there is any future for the Adventist church. The church’s administrative levels will continue to soak up resources with negligible return and continue to promote a product that even they know are ineffective--such as mass and net evangelism. I've had people in the highest levels of the GC agree with these conclusions. They have told me they can do nothing. The decisions are made by people like Finley and others who are into the public evangelism model. And so the wheels continue to grind.


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