By Dennis Hokama, July 5, 2015 [Updated July 10]:   I would like to make some observations regarding the Treasurer’s Report at the General Conference Session (GC) in San Antonio.

Part 1: Adventist World Membership, Tithing Per Capita

We often see world membership data broken down by region as well as gross regional tithing data at General Conferences, but seldom, if ever, do the twain appear to meet. The present analysis represents a synthesis of data from “Delegate Information” which contains world membership data used to justify delegate representation and the “Treasurer’s Report.” I entered the relevant numbers from both reports into a spreadsheet. Here are two tables of these figures: one ranks the regions by membership. The other ranks them by per capita tithing. Some observations will then be made.

graph 1graph 2Some Observations

  • The North American Division (NAD) is not even the top region when it comes to per capita annual tithing. That honor technically goes to the seldom mentioned MENA region that includes Israel, though it amounts to a nearly insignificant drop in the bucket from the perspective of world membership.
  • There seems to be an inverse relationship between regional membership totals and per capita tithing. The top three per capita tithing regions (MENA, NAD, TED and EUD) have a weighted mean of $809.25 in per capita annual tithing and pay 48% of world tithing, despite making up only 8% of world church membership.
  • The bottom six regions (SUD, ECD, WAD, SID, SSD, and IAD) have a weighted mean of $35.72 per capita tithing, pay 19% of world tithe, but make up 73.03% of SDA membership. This is highly unlikely to be a mere coincidence. We seem to intuitively know that being desperately poor and in need of outside help apparently makes people open to evangelism, but nobody seems willing to admit this. The unwelcome parsimonious implication is that evangelistic success depends more on poverty and misery, rather than on mystical causes.
  • One has to wonder how a division such as the SUD whose annual per capita tithing is only $3.95 per year could ever escape mission status, since division status supposedly means financial independence.
  • The world membership totals in the Delegate Information report do not add up. Total world membership is given as 18,143,719. Excel tells us that it is 18,180,721, making the former number an under-count by 37,002. (In the Secretary’s report, a figure of 18.5 million was reported. That makes sense because it is presumably a more recent figure than that used in the Delegate Information report.)

Part 2, SDA World Regions, GC Regular Subsidies, and Budgets

This second analysis attempts to get an overview of the financial picture of the various world divisions and their financial dependence on GC regular subsidies, or what the Treasurer’s Report calls “appropriations.” It is based upon financial data provided on p. 20 of that report, as well as “Delegate Information.” In order to fit all the data on one page, the full regional names were omitted (Please see Treasurer’ report I for that). This time the various world regions have been ranked in their inverse order of dependence on the GC. The division budgets were algebraically inferred from the Treasure’s report. Here is the data, and observations follow.

graph 3Observations:

  • Not even the NAD is completely independent of GC subsidies, although $750,000 is only a token amount. This does not include subsides to GC institutions such as the GRI, ADRA, Loma Linda, etc, because the subsidies to those 10 institutions add up to $27.5 million. In the case of Loma Linda, 3% of their budget comes from the GC (figures not shown here). The question is, why does the GC subsidize the NAD and institutions like LLU? One plausible hypothesis is that the GC wants to control NAD and LLU, which are effectively actually cash cows for the GC. This control will be even more critical for the GC which just passed FB#6 and squashed Women’s Ordination, whereas both LLU and NAD were on losing side, and are quite frustrated and disappointed.
  • MENA does not have the numbers of members needed to be economically viable despite their incredibly high per capita tithing rate.
  • As expected, those world divisions with low per capita tithing require massive financial GC subsidies, but in return provide the Wilson administration with a formidable conservative voting block that is based on sheer numbers of members.