Letters November/December 2016

Troubling finances 

In “Oxygen for ministry” (Gathering 2016 report, September/October 2016), a delegate is quoted as saying, “Here is a way to increase revenue: our churches investing in the conference.” It should be pointed out that churches have their own challenges meeting their local budgets.

Besides, look at how CCMBC handles our finances. The approved 2015 budget was $1,575,000, but actual receipts from the churches was $1,322,619. At the same time, the C2C Network received $1,250,000 from CCMBC. In other words, 94.5 percent of the churches’ donations went to C2C, an interdenominational church plant protocol that will use $30.2 million from 2012–2017, based on CCMBC reports! Many of us are still trying to find out what these funds were used for.

In addition, a $9.9 million writedown on CCMBC’s assets was called a “dust bunny.” CCMBC leadership allowed the reserve funds to be depleted: why should churches send more of their limited funds?

To make matters worse, a bylaw amendment now requires a quorum of only 30 people to approve the annual budget in years when there is no Gathering. In other words, the CCMBC head office staff can pass their own budget without consultation with the churches.

Until the CCMBC leadership can demonstrate transparency in their decisions and provide proper accounting of fund usage and regain our trust, it will be difficult for the local churches to be motivated to invest in the conference which isn’t doing much to support existing churches.

K. Sawatzky
Sherwood Park, Alta.

 

Re “Oxygen for Ministry” (Gathering 2016 report, September/October 2016).

As a professional accountant and someone who has a special interest in the Stewardship/RRSP department of our conference going back to 1980, I believe some clarification is needed.

The original intent was to make mortgage funds available to churches and pastors. Any earnings in excess of direct costs and interest paid were to be used to fund missions, not conference operations. At some point, missions were superseded by the funds needed by the conference operations budgets.

In light of the original intent, Len Penner’s comment that the need for reserves should not occur at the expense of ministry is somewhat off target. In fact, it is the annual transfer of all remaining funds from Stewardship to ministry that has caused the lack of reserves.

Arthur Block’s statement that “We have not been healthy in this entity for some time” is right on target. In the previous two years alone, in excess of $6 million was transferred out, leaving nothing for reserves, sucking the oxygen out of the stewardship division.

We need to bring health back to the program to which many have entrusted their savings and retirement. A sudden need to return funds to depositors could create problems; church properties and land are not great sources of liquidity. It would be good stewardship to have sufficient reserves.

Churches paying their dues would go a long way to improving the situation.

George Kroker
Kelowna, B.C.

 

CCMBC interim CFO Jim Davidson
responds to financial questions

The $1,575,000 is one component of a budgeted revenue pool of $16,212,125. Included is $3,065,971 that the C2C Network raised to support their expenditures of $4,268,790. C2C’s $30.2 million expenditures are significant, but only approximately 25 percent was CCMBC-supplied using approved budgeted funds. C2C raised the balance.

Currently, the primary use of the principal portion of the funds on deposit is to provide mortgages to pastors and churches. Excess principal is directed to low-risk investments for a competitive rate of return.

At no time have any of the principal amounts on deposit been spent on international mission or CCMBC ministry operations. The practice for many years has been to use excess revenue to support Stewardship and subsidize ministry. To the best of my knowledge, we have not transferred any portion of the investment reserve to support ministry.

The $9.9 million adjustment identified was proposed by KPMG, our auditors, to reflect the impact of a change in accounting treatment. The margin earned (amounts received from mortgages and investments, less interest paid and administration fees) was $2.75 million in 2015. All of these funds were used to support the four ministries of CCMBC. [C2C Network falls under Multiplying Churches.]

Legacy Fund Inc. has been implemented to segregate the previous Stewardship function from the ministry function. Legacy will manage deposits, the mortgage and investment portfolios, land and buildings and will provide administrative support services to CCMBC, provincial conferences and churches. Legacy includes all the support staff in Finance, HR, Communications and IT.

The Executive Board and the CCMBC Leadership Team will be providing a more detailed communication addressing many of these concerns.

 

Jim Davidson
Interim Chief Financial Officer,
Canadian Conference of MB Churches

 

Native spirituality: teacher or danger? 

Re “MB Church Transformation Survey 2016.” As pastor of my church, I filled out the church transformation survey. One question reads: “Please indicate if your church ministries will be focused on any of the following cultural, religious or other least-reached people groups: Aboriginal Peoples, Francophones, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists.”

Census Canada suggests that two out of three Canadian Aboriginal people are Christians. Inuit and First Nations in Canada have been one of the most reached cultures in terms of Christian evangelism with tragic results.

Beginning in the 1600s and continuing till today (to this very survey question), most evangelists assume that First Nations know nothing about God. Is God so powerless and uncaring as to be unable to reach or communicate with a whole continent of people for thousands of years?

In 2016, why are we still referring to Aboriginal Peoples as “the least reached”? Have we learned nothing from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meetings?

Can we share about Jesus? Absolutely! And with joy! But can we do this with humility, trusting that God has been active in every culture? Maybe God is trying to reach us through the medium of First Nations spiritualities. White people have a lot to learn. We are the least reached.

Carol Penner
Edmonton

 

In “How to Wear Moccasins” (Viewpoint, September/October 2016). we appreciated the writer sensitizing us to how we may thoughtlessly impose our culture on people of other backgrounds.

We were concerned about “sweet grass and stained glass.” Contextualizing the gospel is vital; however, there is need to differentiate between what is cultural and what is spiritual. Eating faspa or having bannock and tea are both cultural experiences that we enjoy. For seven years, we have lived in Aboriginal communities. We have an Aboriginal brother and sister-in-law in our family.

Many First Nations people do not distinguish between culture and religion. But before Christ followers incorporate Indigenous practices, there is a need to discern whether those rituals (or objects) have spiritual significance in the Aboriginal context. We should be aware of the spiritual worldview being expressed.

Sweet grass is considered sacred, used ceremonially to bring calmness, remove negative forces, bring refreshment and cleanse mind, body and spirit.

Smudging is a ritual of using smouldering sweet grass for a spiritual purpose. But that spirituality does not acknowledge that it is Jesus Christ who cleanses from sin or the Holy Spirit who brings peace and joy. A smudge is contrary to what the Bible teaches about cleansing and peace.

We may say that Christians can use sweet grass differently, without the traditional spiritual intent; however, the Aboriginal community may assume that we affirm the spiritual beliefs they attach to sweet grass and smudging.

Ken and Carolee Neufeld
Winnipeg


Letters to the editor

Mennonite Brethren Herald welcomes your letters of 150–200 words on issues relevant to the Mennonite Brethren church, especially in response to material published in the Herald. Please include name, address and phone number, and keep your letters courteous and about one subject only. We will edit letters for length and clarity. We will not publish letters sent anonymously, although we may withhold names from publication at the request of the letter writer and at our discretion. Publication is subject to space limitations. Letters also appear online. Because the Letters column is a free forum for discussion, it should be understood that letters represent the position of the letter writer, not necessarily the position of the Herald or the Mennonite Brethren church. Send letters to mbherald@mbchurches.ca.

3 Comments on “Letters November/December 2016

  1. I cannot believe that Jim has written this reply to Ken S. When were we informed that C2C network raised $3,065,971 for an expenditure of $4,268,790, and what about the $30.2 million C2C expenditures in which CCMBC only provided 25 % and ” the rest was raised by C2C” ,; the Auditors some how missed that. This is why we need and Auditor to give the owners a report on C2C. In defense of Jim he has said very clearly that the only way we can achieve a blanced budget for the Church Ministry is by increased revenue or reduced expenditures. SO FAR WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED A REVISED 2017 BUDGET FROM THE EXECUTIVE.
    ARTHUR BLOCK

  2. Further comment on the EB report
    When I opined that EB has not given us a revised 2017 Budget I should have stated that the revised 2017 budget in the EB report only shifts $1,250,000 and $2,300,000 of expenses to the Legacy Fund. This is why I suggest that there is no response in the EB report to the Amendment, past by the 2016 Convention to make every effort to bring Church Ministry expenditures in balance with revenue in accordance with the Auditors Report, page 21.
    +

  3. Reading through the Nov/Dec issue of the Herald left me troubled by the questions of trust. The questions of funds allocated to C2C in several letters and responses combined with the statement in the article concerning the new missions task force in which it is stated that “C2C is owned and operationally accountable to the CMBC” left me wondering how an organization that has an overall budget of over 30 million, of which a small percentage comes from our conference can be accountable to CMBC when the majority of funds do not come from this source. The resignation of Harold Froese for ‘personal reasons related to governance and operational issues between CCMBC senior staff and Board leadership’ added to my concern over trust. Is there a way forward in addressing the question of transparency?

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