A new method of sharing expenses for the operation of the world Church was voted by the Seventh-day Adventist leaders from around the world. The Executive Committee of the world Church met on April 19-20 for its annual Spring meeting.
Robert Rawson, treasurer of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, termed the change as a “landmark decision.” He said that this new “financial arrangement will produce a more uniform method of funding the year-to-year expenses of the General Conference and its international programs.”
“The leadership voted a revised funding formula for sharing the expenses of the worldwide Church. The new plan, to phase in over a five year period, provides for each regional division of the World Church to share equally in the funding of the General Conference and its international programs,” Rawson said.
“Under the new plan, all 12 divisions will each contribute 2% of tithe in support of the General Conference Headquarters operation. The North American Division will contribute an additional 6% of tithe as it continues a long tradition of support for mission outside North America and in recognition of the benefits of having the General Conference Headquarters Office and several General Conference institutions located in North America,” he explained.
The new approach to the so-called “tithe sharing” is the result of over two years of consultation. In March, 1998, the Church set up The Study of Tithe Sharing Concepts Committee (TSCC), and the Spring Meeting decision was based on the committee’s recommendations.
Rawson said that this new tithe sharing approach is the latest in a long series of actions that have adjusted how the Church has funded missions from its earliest days. Until now, mission and operation of the General Conference had been funded by the 12 world divisions with the North American Division contributing 10.72% of tithe, and the remaining 11 world divisions each contributing 1% of tithe to the World Church and its international programs.
The way the Church financed its programs until now is the result of significant historical forces, says Pastor Larry Colburn, associate secretary of the General Conference and secretary of the TSCC.
“The concept of the Adventist Church’s world mission, the passion to spread the Word of God to everyone everywhere, largely originated in North America in the early days of our Church,” says Colburn. “For this reason, North America has traditionally shouldered more of the burden of funding this program.”
This strong and traditional commitment to the mission program of the world church by the North American church was emphasized in a comment made by Juan Prestol, treasurer of the North American Division. “We will continue to do so,” he said. “The Church growth is significant today and we welcome a greater participation of world divisions toward financing operations of the world headquarters and its international programs. This represents a measure of growth for world divisions.”
“This new, landmark decision is a result of careful discussion and study by world leaders of the principles that guide the use of tithe and its distribution. The plan is a reflection of the belief that the tithe is to be used for the support of the worldwide ministry of the Church,” Rawson explained.
But the tithe represents only one component of the overall and ever-increasing mission activity of the world Church. Other significant financial support comes from voluntary donations and freewill offerings for the mission of the Church.
Rawson listed several principles that underlie the Church’s approach to financing the mission of the Church. “Under the new plan, tithe sharing continues to be based on a foundation of biblical principles-that fairness is valued, as is the concept of the strong helping the weak; that self support continues to be a goal to which the Church is committed; that immeasurable blessing comes from sacrifice for sustaining mission with a world view; and that it is desirable for each area of the world Church to assume greater responsibility for their own finances.”
The impact on the General Conference and the overseas divisions is significant even though it will be spread over the next few years. It is anticipated that increases in tithe and offerings over the period will help mitigate its impact. The impact on the General Conference Headquarters operating budget percentage-wise, is approximately twice that of the impact on the portion of the world budget which provides appropriations to the overseas divisions.
It is envisioned that this new plan will increase resources where the Church does mission by reducing operating expenditures at the General Conference and its overseas world divisions.