From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Agreement Sought as Financial Information Disputed
04 May 1996 20:51:51
96054 Agreement Sought as Financial Information Disputed
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--After a weekend in which members of three General Assembly
entities sharply disagreed about the financial management of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), General Assembly Council (GAC) chair the Rev.
William McIvor said he is seeking to restart talks between the Council and
the Presbyterian Foundation on a formal Memorandum of Understanding between
McIvor said those talks were suspended last spring when GAC and
Foundation representatives were unable to agree "on the use of restricted
income and who makes those decisions." He said the two entities agreed to
restart the talks "when the time seemed right." Now the time is right,
But Larry Carr, president of the Foundation, is not optimistic about
reaching an agreement. "That [a Memorandum of Understanding] will never
happen as long as the GAC wants to exert control over Presbyterian
Foundation policy and its trustees," he told the Presbyterian News Service
in an interview Jan. 30.
Carr said the answers to "all disagreements of which I am aware" can
be found in the legal documents that define the role and responsibilities
of the Foundation, which is a separately incorporated entity from the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
McIvor's suggestion was precipitated by a response from the
Foundation's executive committee to a draft report to the Committee on
Review by its Finance Work Group. In its report that group, chaired by the
Rev. William Stewart, recently retired executive of Memphis Presbytery,
roundly criticized the Corporate and Administrative Services office (CAS).
He cited three major problems in CAS's operations:
its furnishing incomplete or tardy information to entities such as
the Committee on Review and the Office of the General Assembly
its utilization of restricted funds
its lack of adequate internal controls.
On Jan. 26, McIvor, GAC executive director the Rev. James D. Brown,
CAS director G.A. "Pat" Goff and GAC associate director for administration
the Rev. Frank Diaz met in Atlanta with four members of the Committee on
Review -- Stewart, chair Jay Poppinga, Betty Jane Crago and the Rev.
Robert Nicholson -- to discuss the report. Goff wrote a response to the
report for that meeting "to provide additional information to insure [the
Review Committee] has the most up-to-date and accurate information from
which to work." McIvor told the Presbyterian News Service that the Finance
Work Group report "contained numerous inaccuracies."
On the same day as the Atlanta meeting, the Foundation's executive
committee met in Jeffersonville, Ind. According to a Jan. 29 letter from
Carr to Brown, "discussion of the report [and response] dominated the
After the meeting, the executive committee issued a statement saying
that "... in those areas where the Foundation has firsthand information
based on its day-to-day interaction with CAS, we believe there is substance
to the concerns raised [in the Finance Work Group report] ." The executive
committee also requested a meeting with the GAC executive committee to
discuss the issues raised in the report.
McIvor said he had expressed concern to the Foundation that its
executive committee had acted on Stewart's draft report "prematurely."
"Presbyterian Foundation trustees have a responsibility to draw their
own conclusions about to what and how they will respond," Carr replied.
McIvor said the processes of financial reporting, budgeting and
auditing are "fluid, and if you pick just one point in time you may not get
an accurate picture." Goff said his intent in going to the Atlanta meeting
was "to provide differing perspectives and information -- to help make
Stewart's report more useful to the Committee on Review."
Stewart told the Presbyterian News Service that Goff's response to
Stewart's report was that it was inaccurate. "So we asked Pat to document
the inaccuracies," he said, "but the material they furnished didn't do
Goff said, "Our [the GAC delegation's] purpose wasn't to rebut
Stewart's report, to get into a
my facts are better than your facts' situation, but to initiate a dialogue
that wasn't happening." He said his response has since been expanded with
more facts and less opinion, "but I'm bothered that the responsibility for
the thoroughness of [the Committee on Review's] examination has been
shifted from them to CAS."
Both McIvor and Goff insisted that the GAC is "trying to respond" to
every request for data that comes from the Committee on Review.
Stewart said the central issue for his work group is that "we have a
$100 million operation at the General Assembly and it just isn't running
very well. We have a very complex system that requires extremely high
competence and I just don't know if we can expect that."
Goff responded, "He's right -- the system is extremely complex, but it
has to be because of the multiplicity of income sources that have to be
tracked that don't match one-for-one the programmatic outlets."
Goff said he believes "questioning the adequacy and professionalism of
the work done by CAS is a smoke screen -- underneath are [some people's]
problems with the programs we're funding and how resources are allocated to
Stewart insisted that the criticism of CAS "is not a question of
anyone's competency or character -- we just have a system that I don't
believe can be operated very efficiently."
Goff replied, "We are always looking for ways to improve efficiency,
but the system here is not more complex than it has to be." He said CAS
staff meets annually with its internal and external auditors to study ways
to improve CAS operations. "The audits are clean," Goff said.
"Presbyterians out in the church shouldn't worry."
Stewart said he "is sorry the Finance Work Group report got blown up
as much as it has." The Committee on Review is meeting in Dallas Jan.
31-Feb. 5. "I don't know what will be done with the report," he continued.
"It contains no recommendations." The committee reviewed the report
briefly at its last meeting.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .