As more than 23,000 Seventh-day Adventist churches across the Inter-American Division territory remain closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, church financial administrators worry about the challenges ahead.
“We know that the financial impact of COVID-19 will affect the finances of the church at every level, including IAD headquarters,” said Pastor Filiberto Verduzco during business meetings last week. “Until now, the IAD office is not able to calculate the depth of the impact of its financial operation nor can we determine the way in which we may be able to help the unions and division institutions.”
It’s as simple as not being able to measure how much the operating income has been affected so far, said Verduzco. With churches not being able to collect tithes and offerings every Sabbath, it’s difficult to know how deep the financial impact will be, he said.
Every local field affected
“There will not be a local field that will not be completely affected during these months,” explained Verduzco. “That means every single one of the 156 conferences and missions will feel it directly.” Conference and mission offices directly oversee and manage the operations of local churches in their territory.
Verduzco informed the committee that while his financial staff is working to determine the impact, a clearer picture should emerge by the end of June. He also reported that there will be great risks to church investments, risks that will be more serious than those of the 2008 recession.
The global economic slowdown which is impacting countries across the IAD, the stronger US dollar exchange rates against so many soft currencies, rising unemployment and the interruption of regular Sabbath activities have all impacted regular congregational giving, and the impacts will be felt well into the new quinquennium.
Church to forge ahead
“We have to do everything possible to prepare for the challenges ahead, but we must remember that victory belongs to God because He has said so through His promises,” said Verduzco. Just as God blessed the church during previous crises, so will He continue to bless the church as it forges ahead, he said.
Verduzco reported that the year 2019 closed a five-year period that highlighted once again that the church member in Inter-America is one of the most generous in the world. He publicly thanked church members for their commitment in giving throughout the years and emphasized that they are the most important part of the church’s financial system.
“The fulfillment of the mission of the church is solely accomplished thanks to the church members, the management in the local church and local field,” said Verduzco. “I believe they have recognized how God never ceases to bless His church.”
Verduzco reported that during 2015-2019, the Division was able to give additional appropriation funds to strengthen unions that have conference status and the union missions gaining more stability to upgrade to a higher status. “It’s incredible to see how God has blessed this church.”
Membership to be spiritually strengthened
Promoting a spirit of gratitude and praise for God’s goodness and blessings is key to surviving any challenges ahead. “We must continue strengthening our local fields financially and more so to spiritually strengthen our church members, and serve the local churches with the resources, materials and services they need so they can be cared for,” said Verduzco.
Verduzco thanked financial administrators and local church treasurers for their dedicated work and encouraged leaders to determine the minimum of funds needed to operate churches and institutions carefully. He encouraged the unions to finish enrolling all their churches on the Ecclesia7 – the electronic remittance system software that accurately accounts for tithes and offerings submitted at the local church and to higher organizations, and distributed accordingly. In addition, he outlined proposed measures for church operations as the weeks and months advance.
“We continue on the alert, monitoring on a monthly basis the behavior of the financial environment in Inter-America,” said Verduzco. “We remain confident that God will continue to help us through any challenges that lie ahead.”
Treasury staff went over the financial report for 2019, updates on on-going auditing being done remotely by General Conference Auditing Services since April, and financial information for the 442 voted Inter-American Division’s regular delegates to General Conference Session in Indianapolis, May 19-26, 2021.
As of April 30, 2020, IAD’s working capital was at 157 percent and liquidity at 145 percent.
May 11, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News