September 21, 2016: Yesterday the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination held a special staff meeting during which Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the General Conference (GC), and Juan Prestol-Puesan, the chief financial officer, asked the staff to help find ways to reduce costs. It appeared to some observers that this was a way to warn employees that budget cut-backs will be necessary next year.
Prestol-Puesan said that expenses were actually below budget at the end of last month and the 19.5 million church members around the world continue to faithfully give to tithe and offerings. The problem is that the United States dollar has become stronger than the currencies where the largest number of members live and the GC operates with U.S. currency. The conversion of weaker currencies such as the Brazilian real and the Mexican peso into dollars has resulted in the church losing millions of dollars in the last twelve months.
The Adventist Review called his presentation “30 minutes … filled with sobering data.” A retired denominational executive told Adventist Today “this is the result of neglecting the needs of the denomination in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Our traditional methods of outreach and nurture are not working very well among the most affluent and educated populations, and this reduces the potential for financial support.”
Earlier in the year, Prestol-Puesan warned the denomination’s governing board, the GC executive committee, that this problem was developing. Adventist Today reported on his presentation at the time.
The GC is honoring its agreement with the denomination’s North American Division (NAD) to gradually recue the percentage of tithe that the NAD shares with the GC, Prestol-Puesan stated. And he said that when the NAD moves its offices out of the GC building next year, it will reduce income by about $1 million a year; the rent that the NAD has been paying the GC for office space.
He also stated that there is a real need for the space being vacated by the NAD, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International and Adventist World Radio will use the space. The funds necessary to renovate the space for the new tenants are available from money set aside over the past 15 years for this purpose.
“We are not doing business as usual anymore,” Prestol-Puesan told the assembled world headquarters staff. “When we leave this [meeting], I don’t want you to feel scared. … We are not handing out pink slips today. … I want you to think, What can I do to help?”
“Will mission stop?” said Wilson. “Absolutely not. … We simply need to recognize the times in which we are living and realize that we are nearing the Lord’s return.” He prayed for the group at the end of the meeting.
The photo with this article features the General Conference office building in Silver Spring, Maryland, where the meeting reported in this news story was held.