Following the Money: Annual Council Diary

With the strong US dollar affecting the exchange rate for the eight different currencies in which the Seventh-day Adventist Church receives funds, the General Conference showed a loss of just over $19 million as of Dec. 31, 2015, according to Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesan. In the first nine months of 2016, the value has stabilized, but at a much lower rate, he added.

In September, the Treasury Department met with the employees to discuss the need to cut expenses. The 2017 world budget brought to the Executive Meeting on Monday showed a $7.6 million reduction compared to the 2016 World Budget. The actions to shave that amount off spending include:

  • A funding reduction of the General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS) that will yield $4.8 million in savings.

  • A change in the long term practice of paying appropriations in US dollars. Instead local currencies will be used. They will be creating customized tools to accommodate local situations.

  • Office Operating expenses maintained within the Cap (2% of the world tithe is supposed to be the cap on GC operating expenses). With world tithe down in US dollars, the 2% cap has gone down. Expense reductions were made within the cap, but Prestol-Puesan said they may have to come back and request an exception in the spring. That hasn’t been done in the past 15 years.

  • Temporary delay in filling positions in 2017. New positions will be referred to the three executive officers for clarification and prioritization.

  • Not funding depreciation expense. The scheduled departure of the NAD from the building means there is one less entity to help care for the operating of the GC building.

  • Reducing travel budgets by 10%, special projects by half, cut to $275,000.

He reminded them of the April vote to draw $10 million from budget reserves to help balance the budget.

Where do we go from here he asked? In 2015, a stewardship ministry director position was created in each of the divisions to guide and show members the blessings of giving. He said that results from that are beginning to be seen. He reminded the audience to acknowledge how important our precious members are. “Never take for granted their giving. In their faithfulness in giving week in and week, they are sharing a portion of their lives. What we do is not possible without the faithfulness of local treasurers and the giving of our members.”

The recommended action voted was to put a freeze on working capital. Rather than accumulating to 50%, it will be held at 45% between now and 2020. The one question from the floor concerned what the ratio between the US dollar and the other currencies would be once a correction to the US dollar occurred. Prestol-Puesan answered that some currencies affect the situation more than others. He said he was praying for the Brazilian real, and that improvement in the Mexican peso would help, too.

What was not mentioned by either the treasurer or the committee members was the possible effect of the proposed action against the two North American unions that is scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday.

Photo: Juan R. Prestol-Puesán, treasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist church, presents the Treasurer's Report to delgates at Annual Council in Silver Spring, MD, USA (Credit: Brent Hardinge/ANN).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

From a financial point of view, it seems the G.C.'s insistence on bringing up the dissolution of the two NAD unions is not strategic in any sense. Such a move would undoubtedly result in reduced flow of funds from these two entities as people with conscience may redirect or withhold their tithes and offerings until women are fully included in church leadership. Massive losses in membership numbers show some disconnect is definitely taking place. Perhaps focusing funding on losses instead of traditional “evangelistic crusades” and engaging consultants who specialize in church growth and Millennials would be appropriate given these facts.

Where are data that explicitly show Millennial attitudes towards the preeminent church focus on keeping women from being treated equally? Giving rates of Millennials? Concerns of Millennials? Differing learning styles and preferred messaging by Millennials? This is NOT your father’s church.


The closing statement is quite telling! We are told that we are the fastest growing denomination and yet we are experiencing financial losses of very concerning magnitude. While the vast majority of church growth occurs outside of North America, the bulk of the financial support comes from within. Indeed, could it be that we are disconnecting with the young adult givers in North America by refusing to recognize their needs related to issues of practice? I am seeing a significant “disconnect” in that group.


Who knows…without getting any poll, review, feedback, survey from them?
Anyone can speculate.

I sense a great lack of communication between members as a whole. Sermons are usually one way lectures. Very few participate in Sabbath school classes. Most don’t care about spiritual matters anyway. The talk is usually about entertainment, news, politics and SDA infighting.

1 Like

"We are the fastest growing denomination…"
We are fastest growing in the many impoverished countries. Where most people and families have only a few “mites” – Pennies US – to place in the offering. Venezuela is in AWFUL shape. The ruling party is even refusing to allow Food AND Medicine to come in from other countries to help the situation.
Other SA countries are not better off in the rural areas.
Africa is similar in the Rural Areas. Many dont even have enough money to travel to the City to register their Marriages and/or their land titles to show up in their wife’s name.
So we get 100,000 African members. This IS GOOD. But they may have only “pennies U.S.” to give as an offering and doing well at that.
I recall very long time mission stories where tithe and offerings brought was like in Israelite days — produce from their gardens. NO COIN. These allowed the Pastor to EAT. But NO Coin went to the Conference Office for their expenses.
What would happen in the U.S. if we went with the BARTER SYSTEM with God? Instead of coins?

The GC has been used to spending a LOT of money. Look at what they did with TOSC, the South African event on “Shall we include ALL Genders, ALL Persons in the Church as FULL Members for ALL the Positions in the Church”? Look how many were given Free Vacations to South Africa on Tithe Money.
Look at how MUCH money was Wasted on Great Controversy Printing and Mailings. All that was was a “feel good” event. But look how much money it took for a FEW PEOPLE to FEEL GOOD!
People have to meet a “higher power”, God as we call the name. And this event before they can meet Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And BEFORE one can talk about the 10 Commandments. One has to begin with Love the Creator, Love one’s neighbor FIRST.
Love God, Love Others, Love Self, SERVE.
Looks like the General Conference in Silver Springs, MD needs a Re-Organization, a Re-Viveal, a Re-Formation itself.!


If someone is going to call me a rebel, I’m not giving them my bank account.

No way I’m contributing to the GC so long as it is led by misogynists. My local church can have it. Money (unfortunately) speaks louder than words.


“This is NOT your father’s church.”

No…it certainly is not.

I am still of the opinion that they should be moving the GC to the “fastest growing” part of the SDA world- the Second and the Third. They will save lots and lots of money and be there to experience the “growth” and the drying up of funding from the First Worlds (perhaps the move and drying up of funds will cancel each other out).


Can we have some additional information to put this in perspective? What was total tithe for 2015? What is the total tithe projection for 2016? What is the total of other money received? What is the total budget reserve?

The GC’s Official Statistics lists the 2012 tithe at $2.3 billion, with $900 million in offerings for a total of $3.2 billion. If the current receipts are the same, a $19 million loss is about 8/10 of 1 percent. This could be all tithe received, before amounts retained by conferences, unions, etc. So its to know what the loss really means.

Any loss needs attention, but some perspective will help understand the significance.


Liturgical context for this afternoon’s discussion:

We are in the High Holy Days, the Days of Repentance, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Sundown tonight begins the Sabbath of Sabbaths, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

​Adventist Review: Why Does Yom Kippur Matter?
A practical guide to the Day of Atonement

To Seventh-day Adventists, the Day of Atonement has always held special significance—and with good reason. The very inception of this church is firmly linked to this event, providing its theological identity.

Ellen White called the sanctuary doctrine one of our “landmarks,” and the church lists it among its 28 Fundamental Beliefs.

How can Yom Kippur enrich my daily walk with Jesus to a degree beyond what even faithful martyrs of old experienced?

There is at least one major difference between the Yom Kippur at the time of Moses and its antitypical fulfillment: whereas, back then, the time of its completion was always specifically known to be at the end of the tenth day of Tishri, it seems open today.

We are living in the great antitypical day of atonement. Is it possible that our reaction to God’s long-suffering grace and patience is indifference?

What would happen if each of us accepted Jesus’ command (and invitation) to “deny himself, and take up his cross?"


If what we have in mind are the Pacific and North Pacific union conferences, my guess is a good portion of their respective faithful tithe-payers consist of first-generation immigrants from third class divisions. Millennials? Whatever that means, I really don’t know how much they contribute to the local church budget. That being said, if some of us really believe money is the most important commodity in running a successful church program as far as God is concerned, please think again! BTW, I firmly believe in equality and fairness all around regardless of gender, class, division or church entity one came from and to which one is presently attached. Let’s face it. Ordination of a special class of clergy finds no biblical support.


I agree. I give to my local church and christian charities as well.


Along with Brent Stanyer’s excellent questions, it would be nice to see what was contributed by way of tithe and offerings by currency. If, indeed, North America is the largest contributor, then a strong dollar should have resulted in a much more positive end result…any way of getting clarification?


My thoughts:

  1. I would like to have access to review the full, audited financials. They should be placed as a link on the denominational website. If Spectrum has access to more financial detail that would be appreciated.

I have no idea how much a 19 million dollar loss is. If it is a one-time event in relation to a 3 billion dollar annual budget, that’s a minor issue. If tithe to the GC has been dropping by 10% per year for the last 5 years (I don’t have any info this is the case), then this would be a big issue.

  1. The GC could do a much better job in North America of working with the local churches to explain to membership as to why tithing to the GC versus just giving to the local church is important, both explaining why it’s important for the church at large AND important for those members in their home churches (for example, here in Southern California, few members understand that a substantial portion of their tithe to the Conference is what pays for the salary of their pastor). New members have little connection to Adventism at large and don’t understand why it might be important to do so. At best, they just get told that this is what they are required to do. Give them reasons to do so and you’ll improve giving.

  2. From a North American perspective, fighting with your biggest tithe-generating division and forcing an unpopular issue is probably not a good a way to increase giving to the GC. The reality is that good SDA Christians have different, morally-based viewpoints on the issue of Women’s Ordination and other issues. Forcing your viewpoint down their throat by calling those with different perspectives as sinners and tools of Satan probably isn’t a good way to get support for the GC’s worldwide mission.


The Sda church is not unique. Our world faces the choice of fostering inclusion, equality and consensus or falling into another authoritarian horror.

We have been called to be ministers of reconciliation in contrast to the ministry of coersion.

Those who stand in the place of God and coerce religious behavior are the folks we are called to lovingly and self sacrificially confront. This is THE issue to which Adventists are prophetically called.

This current WO issue is warm up for the big issues coming globally.

Lets not drop the ball.

To take up your cross means to confront those who misrepresent God and accept that this will bring peril to yourself.

Don’t loose hope! At the end of this storm a great rainbow of peace will shine forth.




It doesn’t take a weather specialist to know which way the winds of strife are blowing.


How can the current “threats” to the Pacific Union and Columbia Union cause an even greater decrease in giving? In a way, they are “major donors” to the SDA organization. But I believe they are being treated shabbily. It should not come as a surprise if a very, very significant drop in giving has occurred as a result of the GC’s effort to control the legal rights of unions to determine who they will ordain.


I hope this was not accurately reported. The fluctuations of currencies are a null-sum phenomena. When the value of a currency in a country goes up, some real people lose money (exporters get less money for their sale) and some people gain (importers get lower costs). If the value of the Brazilian real should increase, as the GC Treasurer is praying to the God in Heaven for, it would be good for the GC treasury, but bad for every small and big company in Brazil that are producing and selling goods on the world market. They will get a less currency for their products.

I think it is better that we keep God out of the currency fluctuations. None of us know whether my pocket book is worthy of improving at the cost of someone else’s.

Hopefully, though, it was just a figure of speech and not a reflection of actual prayers by the Treasurer.


I agree. I hope our leader is not actually so stupid as to think that 1) praying to God for a currency value change that will benefit the church at the expense of others is a decent thing to pray for, that 2) God would actually comply with such a self-centered request, and that 3) it is a good idea to announce this in public before the church.

This is worse than thinking God will interceded for you and cause your football team to win.

This is not the type of Christian I can look up to as some sort of example to be followed.


Now this is worrying. Did someone in the audit division do something that annoyed someone in the treasury. What crime is being concealed? What pressure is being brought to bear?

Well this is a non-cash item, and is just playing with numbers.

Another non-cash item. Used by the church to typically explain why they cannot spend any of the loot that is in the storehouse. What they are saying here, is that instead of having enough cash on hand to pay for 182 days of expenses, they will settle for enough to pay for 164 days. It is a demonstration that the leaders do not have confidence that the required revenues will continue to be generated. Although reducing to 164 days does suggest that they are not as nervous about this eventually as they have been previously. Some of these guys need faith and courage.