In the letter released today by nine current Mars Hill pastors (actually one former pastor, and 8 current; one was let go today – more on that later today), the pastors referenced concerns about the handling of the Mars Hill Global Fund, among several other issues of transparency.
…there is no dearth of examples in the last two years of very questionable transparency and truth-telling, including the Mars Hill Global Fund, Result-Source, Strange Fire, ghost-writing/plagiarism, explanations for staff transition, the resignations of BOAA members, etc.
Knowing that current pastors question the church’s handling of the fund and the transparency surrounding several issues raises anew questions about the value of accreditation by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. The ECFA’s Guideline 5 states:
Every organization shall provide a copy of its current financial statements upon written request and shall provide other disclosures as the law may require. The financial statements required to comply with Standard 3 must be disclosed under this standard.
An organization must provide a report, upon written request, including financial information on any specific project for which it sought or is seeking gifts.
There is also Guideline 7.1, Truthfulness in Communications:
Current. An appeal for charitable gifts should only contain information that is specifically relevant to the purpose of the appeal. Using pictures, videos, descriptions, narratives, or other information from prior projects or events—which suggests a misleading relationship with the current appeal—is a violation of this standard. The prospective giver will assume that all of the information presented relates to the specific appeal. It is inappropriate to use “old” information in a current appeal simply because it might bring a “better” response from a giver.
Summary. Questions about truthfulness in communication can best be answered by asking these questions:
“Will all of the text, photographs, videos, or other information included in this appeal lead the prospective donor to a current, complete, and accurate understanding of the facts surrounding the appeal?”
“Does this appeal communicate all of the information I would want to know if I were a prospective donor deciding whether or not to respond to the appeal?”
“Does this communication bear witness that we are trusting God to move in the hearts of our supporters, and we are not trying to manipulate their feelings by the way we portray our work or report its outcomes?”
The current pastors are not specific but include the Global Fund in their list of not very transparent, not very candid items. Clearly, people watching the Global videos in late 2012 through 2014 would have thought the money was going to Ethiopia and India since 22 of 25 pertained to mission work.
At least one former staffer has gone on record with questions about adherence to the guidelines, now we have current pastors expressing their lack of confidence in the public presentation of a variety of issues which are relevant to the ECFA guidelines. Perhaps the call for transparency should extend beyond Mars Hill Church.