9 October 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
In Australia the leaders of the famous Hillsong church made front page news awhile back for issues with the Australian Tax office: it turns out their ministers were regularly traveling first class on church business, and using luxury accommodations.
How would high-ranking Adventist officials fare if investigated about their travel and accommodation when on church business?
Signed, Just Curious
Dear Just Curious
We want to believe that those who dedicate their lives to working for God are not susceptible to the same temptations and pitfalls as the rest of us. But human nature is weak. When we give people recognition, power, and the opportunity to make money (or spend the church’s money), it may be difficult to follow the path of self-denial that Jesus modeled. Aunty has seen enough to know that where there are ambitious and successful people—even in the church—some will find ways to enrich themselves.
Aunty believes that most pastors and church administrators are honest and try to serve people unselfishly. One of the advantages of our denominational system is that there is a modest but comfortable wage scale that applies to all clergy and church administrators. (It doesn’t apply to the Adventist healthcare system, or to some in our university system, or to self-supporting ministries.)
Also, in many fields in the church (not all) there is rigorous auditing to check that employees are using church money honestly.
So does that mean that no one in the Adventist ministry ever finds a way to get a bit extra? Unfortunately, no. When people receive acclaim, or when they’re invested with unquestioned authority, it’s easy for them to think that the rules that apply to others simply don’t apply to them—and that can even include the teachings of Jesus. This is especially true of some of the popular independent ministries that don’t fall under the denomination’s rules: they talk as though they’re needy, but their ministries are wealthy.
If you have read Adventist Today regularly, you’ve also seen reports from several world fields about top church administrators who figured out how to enrich themselves at donors’ expense.
Thankfully, they’re a minority. But we should be careful not to idealize spiritual leaders. And those who have achieved fame and money in the Adventist church should take care not to fall into the temptations that come with power and recognition.
As for travel, Aunty believes the problem isn’t that they travel first class, but that too many travel way too much: a large number of church employees are on the go constantly for unnecessary reasons—and that costs money.
Aunt Sevvy has collected her answers into a book! You can get it from Amazon by clicking here.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Your real identity will never be revealed.