Monday, April 22, 2024

EDITORIAL – Preaching accountability

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IMPROPER USE OF SEX AND MONEY IS NOT a problem of the unchurched alone. Far from it.
Every now and again we hear whispers of wrongdoing within the church and so often it is to do with sexual misconduct and the lack of accountability when it comes to money.
It is more than interesting therefore that a group of pastors has decided to tackle the problem in Barbados. This group has formulated a Code of Conduct to which members of the newly-formed Pastors Prayer Fellowship Network (PPFN) will pledge commitment.
Making the announcement on Thursday, Rev. Dr David Durant, leader of the Restoration Ministries International (RMI) church, gave no indication of how many of the very many pastors and church leaders of Pentecostal persuasion had indicated assent or interest in the initiative.
Accepting that denominations in Barbados – and even elsewhere – are rather territorial, it is doubtful that the PPFN will attract members of the “established” churches (Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Moravian) which should have in place their own systems of discipline and accountability.
It is therefore left to be seen how impactful this new body will be among the shepherds and the sheep, which have been fleeced from time to time by preachers who were more interested in their pockets than in promoting the Kingdom of God.
Durant described it as “merchandising”, which, if not prevented from growing, could “discourage Christians, make them feel robbed and feel abused.”
It is not surprising then that one article of the Code of Conduct affirms:  “We will be honest in all our financial dealings and act with openness and accountability in relation to any matters of church finances. We will give account to our congregations for any monies for which we are responsible as leaders of the church. . . . We will settle all bills promptly and not incur debts which we have no reasonable prospect of repaying. . . . We will not merchandise the Gospel by extorting payments for the exercise of our God-given gifts.”
Another article says: “We will not engage in any immoral activity of any kind. We will be faithful to our spouse if married and celibate if we are unmarried. Discretion in dealing with members of the opposite sex will be observed always. We will avoid situations which give rise to gossip or innocent misunderstanding on the part of an observer.”
These promises say a lot about what is going on in churches today and Durant and his network should be encouraged.
They should know, too, that one of the major problems of our age is that people – including church people – don’t like being held accountable. And accountability cuts two ways – pastors holding people accountable to live their lives according to their belief; and people holding pastors accountable to conduct their lives like trustworthy, transparent leaders.
Evangelist Billy Graham is usually singled out as one such leader. It is said he would not allow himself to be alone with a woman, not even in an elevator; and he had no say in the finances of his campaigns.
Yet, in 1977 he was embarrassed when a newspaper discovered an undisclosed US$23-million fund in Texas, apparently not mentioned in the accountings of the Minneapolis headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
As a result Graham’s business manager led the formation of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability after Graham said on a national telecast, “ . . there are some charlatans coming along and the public ought to be informed about them and warned against them”.
Today however, the ECFA has some critics, who argue that it manages to conceal certain information.
If PPFN is to be taken seriously, it has to be open from the start, paying special attention to how its board of directors is constituted. 

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