A report prepared by the National Council of Churches and 14 Protestant agencies says that churches should not be subject to the same auditing standards as other non-profit organizations.
The organization, which was prepared for the American Institute of Certified public Accountants, drew the same conclusions as one submitted earlier by the U.S. Catholic Conference's Accounting Practices Committee.
The caaountants' agency has attempted to develop a single set of standards for churches and such organizations as trade associations, labor unions, social and country clubs, and political parties.
According to the new report, which was drafted under the auspices of the NCC's Office of Finance and Commission on Stewardship, "religious organizations demand more attention than is given in this mass lumping of various types of organizations."
The NCC and the 14 Protestant agencies assert that "their only common bond (nonprofit groups) appears to be the fact that they are not covered by an existing audit guide. The size of the major denominations in terms of dollars, members and number of organizational units would seem to indicate that a separate guide for church organizations would be helpful."
While the accountant's association proposes that a denomination be required to present a consolidated report for all its agencies and congregations, the NCC report says that such a financial statement would be "a meaningless combination of millions of dollars," since separate legal incorporations would be involved for the different agencies of a denomination.
The accountant's association also commends that gifts made for a particular purpose not be applied to past expenditures. But the NCC report points out that "a disaster or emergency need may require an immediate response on the part of the Church regardless of the availability of funds to meet that need. In these instances, the funding must come from the programmatic funds of the Church or other unrestricted sources with the intention that the contributing churches will respond through giving at a later date for that cause."
The NCC report also objects to such recommendations as requiring churches to record the amounts they expect to receive against a pledge, rather than the pledge itself, and making grants a legal liability when they are approved, rather than when they are paid in full.
Stephan A. Feke, head of the NCC finance office, said the ecumenical agency probably will follow the standards set forth by the accountants' association because many are consistent with the NCC's current practices.
But he noted that the proposed standards present "insurmountable problems" for some denominations and he said that if churches do not follow them, they might get only a "qualified" opinion from auditors, which "could be misunderstood by contributors."
In addition to the NCC, the report was prepared by agencies of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches, American Lutheran Churches, American Lutheran Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Church of Brethren, Episcopal Church. Friends General Conference, Friends United MettingLutheran Council in the USA. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church in America, Reformed Church in America, United Methodist Church and United Presbyterian Church.