Internal control, 5th century version

(cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

Here is an illustration of internal control, a specific mention of “checks and balance”, and the goal of internal control from the 5th century:

From the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 449 A.D.: “As we have learned, in some churches, the bishops administer the material goods of the church without a treasurer; it has seemed right and proper that every church with a bishop should also have a treasurer taken from the clergy who will administer the church’s goods with advice of his own bishop. In this way the administration of the church will not be without checks and balances, the goods of the church will not be dissipated, and the priesthood will be free from all suspicion.”

The quote was listed at LinkedIn by a former colleague, Jennifer Perez, CPA.

That’s too good of an explanation of internal control to let pass without quoting it and making some comments.

You can verify the quote on page 38 of this book: American Orthodoxy and Parish Congregationalism. If needed, do an internet search on a part of the above quote. You can find the specific page that way.

The comment makes several points.

  • A treasurer, someone with special financial skills, is needed to keep track of funds.
  • Responsibility of funds should be separated from the senior executive. My occasional comment to clients is the senior pastor should never, ever touch the money.
  • We call the listed control segregation of duties.
  • Proper “checks and balances” is a term that has been around a long time.
  • The goal of internal control is to keep the priesthood “free from all suspicion.” We could call that “living above reproach.” In terms mentioned by another former colleague, Mike Bianci, that means protecting the leaders from false accusations.

Every CPA would make the same points today.

Thanks for finding & mentioning that comment, Jennifer.

2 thoughts on “Internal control, 5th century version

  1. What if your congregation is incredibly small? I have a friend who is about to be ordained and start his own church, with zero intentions of growing the church itself. (He considers his personal mission to be growing the kingdom of heaven and serving whatever flock God happens to bring to his church.)

    He’ll be starting with perhaps 5-6 churchmembers and the Lord only knows how slowly (or possibly fast, but I’m expecting slow) that congregation will grow. It could be years before the church reaches 20 members.

    1. If God brings half a dozen people to the congregation, there likely be either no donations or extremely small amounts. As soon as he can, he should recruit someone else to handle the funds.

      Even if the congregation is a dozen or two people, it would be good to get a treasurer to handle the funds. Far better for the pastor not to be involved in handling money.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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