Crunching the Numbers from Pawleys Island

 

Crunching the Numbers from Pawleys Island

Author: 

George Conger

The AMiA press office appears to have shot itself in the foot once more.  On Dec 9, 2011 – some eleven months after Bishop Alexis Bilindibagabo requested Bishop Chuck Murphy provide an explanation for the discrepancy between the amount of money the AMiA reported as sending to Rwanda as a tithe, and the amount of money received by Rwanda (approximately $1.2 million one bishop claimed) – the AMiA released data on the tithe to Rwanda for the years 2004 to 2010.

During this period, a total of $1.9 million was made in tithe gifts.  The funds were distributed in three categories: direct payments to the central fund of the Province of Rwanda totaling $1.11 million; $487,000 in travel expenses; and $312,000 in designated gifts.

The $312,000 is further divided in a third chart provided by the press office.  And here things become rather interesting.  Eleven line items are listed, and of these the names of four individuals are appended to the amounts.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the four names listed are of three Rwandan bishops who have called for an accounting – and me.  I am listed as having received $6692 for a "White Paper" written for the province. 

As a reporter I recount what other people tell me.  I have indirect knowledge of events for the most part.  People tell me things.  I read things.  I observe things.  In this case I don’t have to ask anyone about the veracity of a claim, I can check my own bank statements.

And what do I find?  That between 2004 and 2010 the AMiA gave me $400.  Check number 5752 drawn upon the First Federal - General Fund account.  This was a grant in aid to travel costs related to flying to Ireland to cover the 2005 primates meeting.  Though 175 years old, the venerable Church of England Newspaper is not flush with cash.  When I need to fly about the Anglican world I pass round the hat.  Most of the funds I raise are gifts of support from clergy and lay members of the Diocese of Central Florida as well as friends and colleagues I have made in the course of my work.  The AMiA pitched in $400 for the Dromantine primates’ meeting in 2005 – and nothing in 2004, nothing from 2006 to 2010. 

(Note: the photo accompanying this report is of Dromantine Abbey. The swan you see in the foreground savaged me shortly after this shot was taken.)

I now know how the Rwandan House of Bishops feel.  They thought they were receiving a tithe from the AMiA, and learned today that the AMiA was not obligated to give a tithe to the Church of Rwanda, but out of the goodness of its heart it did tithe (10 per cent plus 2 per cent on top of that).  However, the AMiA was the one who chose to interpret what tithing to Rwanda meant.  The missing cash was only missing from the church’s central funds and had been redirected to other projects. 

The AMiA did commission me to write a paper on the history of parish – diocese – national church relations in the Episcopal Church and a number of other historical studies.  I also wrote a briefing paper on the 2003 Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong for the AMiA.  In 2001 I received $4000, in 2002 $3000, in 2003 $13,856.98, and in 2005 $400 in compensation and in reimbursement of expenses.

What does all this tell me?  From a review of my own records I know the AMiA has made a misstatement of fact in their explanation of the dispersal of the Rwandan tithe.  It may be a question of fiscal year versus calendar year -- of accruing and booking expenses for different reporting periods.  The AMiA notes do speak to one fiscal/calendar year shift -- but I received nothing from the AMiA in that year -- 2008.  What else is suspect in these numbers?

And, how did the AMiA come to decide to expense $6692 of my work under the category of a tithe to Rwanda?  The papers I wrote were not about Rwanda. I am not Rwandan.  I was not travelling to Rwanda.  Where is the Rwandan hook that allows them to expense me in this category in the years 2004-2010?

If I look at the AMiA Property, Financial and Administrative Polices manual I am not helped in my quest for my Rwandan identity.

Section 2.3 Principle of Stewardship describes the 10-10-10 plan.  It reads:

“…we strongly urge all congregations and churches to prayerfully consider fully participating in the 10%-10%10% Principle of Giving as a tithe formula through which (i) each individual member is called to contribute 10% of his/her/their income to the Anglican Mission church, (ii) each Anglican Mission parish, then is asked to contribute 10% of its income to the Anglican Mission through its National Mission Resource Center, and (iii) the Anglican Mission does contribute 10% of its income to the Anglican Provinces/Primates providing oversight.”

Notice the progression of the verbs in this paragraph.  Individuals are “called” to give ten per cent of their income to their congregation.  Congregations are “asked” to give ten per cent of their income to the AMiA home office in Pawleys Island.  Pawleys Island “does contribute” ten per cent of its income.

“Called” then “asked” then “does contribute”.  I am not a South Carolina nor an Illinois lawyer (the AMiA is an Illinois corporation licensed to do business in South Carolina), but I would think that “does” contribute means “shall” contribute.  How can the policy manual be squared with the statements made today?

And what do they contribute? Answer: ten per cent of their income.  To whom do they contribute? Answer: to the Anglican Provinces/Primates providing oversight.

I am not an Anglican province.  Nor am I a primate.  Why then are they expensing my work as part of the Rwandan tithe?

This leads to many more questions.  Apart from the $6600 expensed for my work from the tithe, did the remaining $1.2 million make it to Rwanda?  Is any of it sitting around in US corporations or bank accounts, waiting to be dispersed?  Is the money resting in someone’s account? Who selected the programs that were funded by the tithe?  Did this process of selection conform to the Rwandan canons?  Why was this information not provided to the Rwandans when requested?

When I was interviewed by Bobby Ross Jr from Christianity Today and asked my views of this situation, I said this was a very very sad day for the church.  There are a great number of people who are bewildered by the speed in which the AMiA seems to have come apart.  The issues are confusing and statements of no friction between the AMiA leadership and Rwanda and that all is well are followed by the call that God is "doing a new thing" and the AMiA is being led out of the Eygpt of Rwanda into the promised land by its Moses -- Bishop Murphy. 

I do hope this ends quickly and that there can be a reconciliation of the parties concerned.  This is a sad, sad story and its telling gives me no joy.  However, I will continue to do my job and seek out and report the truth mindful that the pursuit of truth is the highest calling of us all.