by Monte Sahlin

From ANN, April 21, 2014
A long-standing tradition in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, a collection for world missions taken on the last Sabbath of each quarter around the world. The offering exceeded a million dollars for the first time at the end of last year.
A portion of the offering goes to specific projects announced at the beginning of the quarter. Last year’s record-breaking offering will establish new congregations and support innovative evangelism in Europe, including outreach centers in Greece and Macedonia, the General Conference (GC) executive committee was reminded last week during a financial report.
Giving increased last year in a number of categories, the report told committee members. Tithe placed in the Tithe Fund in the denomination's North American Division during 2013 was up 1.7 percent from 2012 and totaled $949 million. Tithe Fund income in the rest of the world grew 3.6 percent for a total of more than $1.4 billion during the same year.
Mission offerings from outside North America similarly grew, reaching approximately $64 million, a six percent increase from the previous year. But in North America giving to the denomination's mission offerings dipped about two percent, totaling nearly $22 million. 
“Despite the recession and slow economic recovery in the U.S., the economies of most of the countries around the world have remained stable,” said GC treasurer Robert E. Lemon. That reality is reflected in the growth of tithes and offerings from outside North America, he added.
The GC is currently in a multi-year plan to scale down the percentage of the Tithe from the North American Division (NAD) that is used by the GC headquarters, and the increased giving overseas has helped this change to go smoothly without disrupting specific program budgets. The GC used eight percent of the NAD Tithe in 2012, and by 2020 this will be reduced to six percent, freeing up two percent to be used in the NAD.
GC undertreasurer Juan Prestol told the committee that problems with the reduction in Tithe given to the GC would most likely be felt this year. “This is going to be the test year,” he said, “but assuming the faithfulness of our members … we anticipate that as this year moves along, we should be able to get over the hump.”
The report also informed the committee that GC continues to operate significantly below its budget. It was almost $7 million under budget last year. The committee also voted to approve several allocations recommended by the GC strategic planning committee: (1) $1.6 million for health and education initiatives in the Middle East North Africa Union Mission; (2) $600,000 for the denomination’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division to fund the launch of Hope Channel television in Indonesia; (3) $650,000 for theological education centers in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division; (4) $8 million to Hope Channel to extend the official Adventist television network’s satellite and DirectTV contracts through 2020; and (5) $2.8 million to the church’s 13 world divisions for a variety of projects and programs. Prestol said the divisions are “encouraged” to spend their portion of the $2.8 million Mission to the Cities projects, but that they can use the money “at their own discretion.”
The appropriation for Hope Channel comes from so-called “extraordinary tithe,” a one-time private donation of $102 million in tithe to the Adventist Church in 2007. Prestol said church financial officers anticipate that Hope Channel will cover contract costs in its regular budget after 2020. More than $12 million of the extraordinary tithe is still being held in reserve to assist in the transition of projects that have been launched with these funds into regular operating budgets, Prestol told the committee.
The treasurer’s report also included an announcement about staff changes in the GC office. Verland Ernston, longtime controller for the GC, will retire in June. Current associate controller Eugene Korff will  take on the role, Lemon said. Denise Greenough, an investment portfolio manager at the GC, has been appointed to the associate controller position. Also, the GC has promoted senior accountant Raul Nestares to the role of associate treasurer, replacing Dean Rogers, who recently retired.
Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.