From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Agreement Sought as Financial Information Disputed

Date 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, 
McIvor added. 
     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 
those programs." 
     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   Web page: 


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