by Mark G. Holbrook
I’d like to add to Mark Jones’ last post on the importance of transparency in your ministry. If you dig a little deeper into the practicalities of transparency, you find an important discipline: Accountability. And accountability is what U.S. Senate Finance Committee member Charles Grassley is after.
After peering into the finances of some of the nation’s largest media-driven ministries, Senator Grassley has requested that a commission be formed to tackle the issues of concern. The cool part? Senator Grassley requested the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to spearhead this effort.
The senator could have asked for a number of organizations to form a commission and make recommendations to him. That he asked ECFA to take the lead is a tribute to ECFA’s long standing reputation as an organization representing the highest levels of integrity and accountability among evangelical ministries members. ECFA has also set the standard for financial accountability even for non-ECFA members and other religious groups.
In a January 5, 2011, letter to ECFA, Grassley asked ECFA for “input on how to address these issues and to help facilitate discussion on whether these issues can be addressed without legislation.” He said, “ECFA has a proven track record of accountability with its member organizations and is uniquely situated to work with representatives from the religious and broader nonprofit community.”
ECFA accepted the challenge and created the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (ECFA.org/commission) The commission will address some of the most challenging tax and policy issues involving religious organizations—issues that could potentially affect every house of worship and every member of the clergy in America. They include:
- Whether churches should file the same highly-detailed annual information return that other nonprofits must file (Form 990)
- Whether legislation is needed to curb reported abuses of the clergy housing allowance exclusion
- Whether the current prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits should be repealed or modified
I’m privileged to be one of several ECFA-appointed commission members and am grateful for the opportunity. Personal and professional accountability and integrity are essential in ministry. I hope and expect that the work of the commission will raise the accountability bar for all religious organizations and further demonstrate why Congress and government agencies do not need to seek additional legislation or regulation that could hinder the freedoms we now enjoy.
Are you an ECFA member? Post a comment and tell our readers how this relationship has bolstered your ministry’s accountability and integrity.