Yesterday I listened to the ECFA webinar on the new commission they have formed to provide input to the US Senate on accountability and policy issues affecting churches. Press release is here.
I will have several posts on the issue. First some background.
In case you have been focused on other things the last couple of years, like trying to keep your ministry solvent, there is a lot of pressure building in the Congress for additional regulation of churches. Sen. Charles Grassley and his staff of the Senate Finance Committee have been looking at six high-profile mega-churches that also have large media ministries.
The danger starts when many people in Washington look at those churches and see some things that concern them, such as salaries higher than they would expect, travel costs that seem high, and senior staff living in houses bigger than what some people think a pastor should live in. Whether there are abuses involved or not, I do not know. That is an issue for another day and another post.
The danger for all churches grows rapidly when those with power think that every church in the country operates the same way as those under scrutiny at the moment. If every church in the country had a corporate plane to move the senior pastor around for his widespread and extensive speaking schedule then that perception might have some reality behind it. Reality or not, the result is growing interest in Congress for additional legislation and regulation of churches. Therein lies the danger.
In an effort to address some of these perceived issues, Sen. Grassley has asked ECFA to take the lead in a private sector initiative to give ideas on how to address some of the perceived issues and see if there are some self-regulatory steps that could be taken.
When you stop to think about the perceptions and opinions behind the discussions and the implications, it slowly becomes apparent that there is a major issue developing. We need to pay attention.