By Conrad Rocha
The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) provides that ruling elders serving in a church council have “responsibility for the leadership, guidance, and government of that portion of the church that is under their jurisdiction,” so that all things will result in “the peace, purity, unity, and progress of the church under the will of Christ” (G-3.0102). In pursuit of this charge, ruling elders, among other matters, are to ensure that the administration of the church and its mission are enabled and strengthened such that the church can “give effective witness in the world to God’s new creation in Jesus Christ and … the mission of the triune God” (G-3.0106).
In ensuring that mission is properly administered, each council must “prepare and adopt a budget” (G-3.0113) and, in the case of sessions, “determine the distribution of the congregation’s benevolences” (G-3.0205). The councils are further required to ensure that “[a] full financial review of all financial books and records shall be conducted every year by a public accountant or committee of members versed in accounting procedures” (G-3.0113).
Although the Book of Order does not mandate periodic reports of all financial activities to a council other than annually, it seems inconsistent with good stewardship and oversight for the council itself not to require such reports each time it gathers for regular stated meetings. Further, the mandate that “[f]inancial books and records adequate to reflect all financial transactions shall be kept” cannot be fulfilled if the council is not reviewing those books and records on a schedule that is aligned, at minimum, with its regular stated meetings (G-3.0205b). Likewise, decisions of the mission work necessary to carry out effective witness necessitate regular review of those books and records such that the council is able to adequately and wisely fund that work.