Year: 2007

U.S. churches find financial transparency

DALLAS (Reuters) – The growth of megachurches in the United States has spawned mega revenues, leading many to find the financial light and embrace transparency to assure their congregations that their offerings are well spent.

A church is seen in San Diego, California, February 28, 2007. The growth of megachurches in the United States has spawned mega revenues, leading many to find the financial light and embrace transparency to assure their congregations that their offerings are well spent. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Many now have come to resemble corporations in their structure, with chief financial officers, lines of credit for expansion projects, and some very large income statements.

“The Bible speaks about money as much as any other topic and so we feel we need to communicate about money or anything financial on a regular basis,” said Tim Tracey, Executive Director of Operations at Northland, a megachurch with 12,000 regular worshipers in Longwood, Florida.

“The money that supports a church comes from the congregation and so they need to be informed completely. It’s not the leadership’s money, it’s ultimately God’s money,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Tracey’s church, which is headed by influential evangelical pastor Joel Hunter, publishes a weekly stewardship report on its Web site giving details of its finances, complete with pie charts showing how tithes are being utilized.

It is also in the process of signing up to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), which holds churches to stringent standards of accounting and transparency that are almost on a par with publicly listed companies.

“Any church that signs up with us as a member must commit to give their most recent audited financial report to anyone who asks, friend, foe or journalist. And they must commit to an independent audit,” said ECFA vice-president Dan Busby.

He said the ECFA started almost three decades ago and its need became increasingly apparent…

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