When It Comes To Churches and Money, Trust But Verify

Here and here are article about what happened to Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC, (and all that money donated by well-wishers) after the shooting.

I was listening to an interview this morning by some of the parishioners at the church on this sad anniversary of the shooting. They mentioned how helpful their new minister has been in helping them heal. The rat part of my brain shouts “new money and now new minister-this is no coincidence.” And guess what. Nope. Not a coincidence.

Privacy in church accounting practices and keeping Pastors’ hands in the till just isn’t cool. In my 40+ years of ministry I never knew what a parishioner gave and never wrote a church check. I didn’t even send the year end thank you letter to those who made donations. I didn’t want to know who got those letters. I have never thanked a donor for a financial gift nor asked for one.

The things I have seen on the inside of churches where I have served that had to do with the temptation to misuse funds would curl your hair. Thankfully we met them all. And though there is much about my ministry that falls short, one thing I have never done is get a church in financial trouble, leave it in debt or compromised its finances.

In this Charleston situation, my response to all the free money being poured into the church was, at the time, “ok, here we go.” And sure enough, there they went. Truly shameful.

I am wondering why the press did not more directly hold this church accountable for its manner of handling money, much less how the Pastor handled it. The whole escapade seems to be shushed.

When it comes to churches, follow the money, sad to say. Never assume church leaders just do the right thing naturally with donations. Don’t. Trust but verify.

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