God's Word for today

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Corporate governance and the Church - uneasy bedfellows, or part of our Christian witness?

Today is Day 2 of the new semester at SMMS, and my mind and body is slowly getting back into work mode after my recent break.

So it was with a burst of energy that I decided to finish that King III document I promised Anthony Tibbit (chief financial officer of the MCSA) about six months ago.  My initial deadline was two weeks, but that was before the first semester hit me like a ton of bricks and did not let up until the last exam was written on the 15th of June.

But it's now in - e-mailed about 10 minutes ago.  Admittedly, it is a draft document that needs to be fleshed out considerably, but at least I've had a solid go at outlining all the compliance requirements within the nine main areas, as well as their potential applicablility to the MCSA.

My biggest push is for us to consider establishing a formalised internal audit function within the MCSA, under the oversight of a properly-established audit committee.  Corporates have had this for years, but to my knowledge no church has ever looked at anything like this on a significant scale.  However, this proposal comes with a number of challenges:
  1. It's an idea that is sitting in my head.  I've done no cost/benefit analysis or anything concrete like that.  And some may argue that I'm trying to impose my former profession onto the ministry.  But there's just this nagging feeling that this is something we as a church need to look at.
  2. Audit committees and teams are not exactly "spiritual" functions, which may make garnering support difficult. 
  3. Also, doing it properly costs money.  And while I believe that there are benefits in terms of being good stewards of God's church and its resources, coupled with the confidence that it is likely to build amongst our members and the community at large, such benefits are difficult to quantify.
  4. It will tread on toes.  No-one likes having a team of nosey bean-counters poking around their patch (even bean-counters that wear dog collars) - especially if there are things the tenderers of said patch would rather not have anyone else find out about.
Still, despite the challenges, I believe that it's something we need to do.  While the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has one of the best reputations in the religious sector when it comes to governance and accountability, according to the Financial Mail's article published in December 2007, in the same article Ross Olivier (MCSA general secretary at the time, now SMMS president) admitted that there are "administrative callenges" inherent in a church of the MCSA's size and complexity.

And while instances of "flagrant disrespect" and "complete disregard for our Laws and Discipline" still occur (Ross' words, not mine, although I fully concur with his sentiment), the more we can do to keep the honest guys honest and root out the "bad eggs", the better it will be for our Christian witness.  I believe that frameworks such as King III give us the perfect opportunity to achieve such an ideal.

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