Saturday, July 22, 2017

Financial Ethos

Being “born a Congregationalist”, I have long absorbed the Congregational ethos with regard to Church finance. A Congregational Church is governed by the congregation, which is the members. The authority of the congregation is above all spiritual. Therefore all financial decision-making is subserviant to that. In fact, sometimes, Congregational decisions may seem completely counter-intuitive to a (general) treasurer. Elders and deacons then, as a body, typically do “forward work”, a term which in itself rules out much autonomy for them, if any autonomy at all. They are obliged to carry out only decisions of the members. In some cases, however, the elders and deacons (again, as a body) may be given some modest autonomy, usually less than 1% of the annual budget without authorisation of the members. I remember one Congregational minister chastising me for saying it was as much as 1%. Traditionally, a Congregational Church treasurer is said to be the “least among equals”. He or she voluntarily relinquishes all influence in financial decision-making when taking on the treasurership, yet has a single vote if desired. Often, the constitution specially limits his or her term of office, more so than is the case with anyone else. A possible exception is an Honorary Secretary. OBSERVATION: Old school Congregationalists react with shock if it happens any other way, chiefly on the basis of the spiritual principles involved.

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