7 Dec 2009, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States…Ansel Oliver/ANN

The Seventh-day Adventist Church's world headquarters is operating “well under budget” through continued cutbacks in light of a 3 percent decrease in tithes and offerings compared to last year, a church financial officer said.

Employees at the world headquarters will not receive wage increases for next year, but a year-long “virtual” hiring freeze is thawing as more positions become open, said Adventist Church Treasurer Robert Lemon.

The headquarters is currently operating $6 million under its $37 million operating cap, which is set at 2 percent of tithe from both North America and the church's other world regions. And while contributions are slightly down, a weak U.S. dollar is maximizing currencies coming from overseas, where the economy hasn't affected giving patterns as much, Lemon said in a scheduled town hall meeting at the world headquarters auditorium.

More than a year into recession, church leaders said they have been able to plan budgets as the economy stabilizes after more than a year of decline.

“I think we have a fairly clear picture that we're not on that slippery slide we were on,” Lemon told church officers and employees.

The church has scheduled regular financial updates every two months since last year's economic decline.

During a 15-minute presentation, Lemon highlighted the church's continuing response to last year's economic decline.

Last month, leaders of the church's North American Division voted to not increase salaries for their region for 2010. Lemon said the world headquarters will follow suit; while it will implement normal step wage increases for employees not at the category maximum, employees will not receive salary increases next year, Lemon said.

“There is virtually no one increasing salaries or hourly wages,” he said of the church's world headquarters, which is also home to Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Adventist Risk Management, Griggs University and the church's North American Division.

While the church's North American Division – which includes the United States, Canada and Bermuda – has seen a decline in giving, most other regions haven't been hit as hard by the economy, Lemon said.

“We're not down in local currencies around the world,” he said. “There's an increase in tithe and offerings in every other division, and that's an incredible thing in a time like this.

About 40 percent of the world budget comes from outside the U.S., Lemon said.

Currency conversion with a weaker U.S. dollar benefits the headquarters with funds coming in from overseas, but hurts other regions receiving appropriations, Lemon said.

Six currencies account for two-thirds of incoming funds from countries outside the U.S., Lemon said. The Canadian dollar is lower than in 2007, the Euro is “slightly” up from 2007, the Brazilian Real is “almost” back to the average of 2007, the Korean Won hasn't appreciated and the Mexican Peso is still down, Lemon said.

Overall, tithe is down $1.5 million and mission offerings are down about $4.5 million compared to last year, or an overall decline of about 3 percent when measured against the U.S. dollar, Lemon said.

“We're doing very well for the year but the recovery isn't over,” Lemon said. “We praise the Lord for the faithfulness of our members.”

The world headquarters is softening its freeze on hiring and plans to soon fill seven open positions — two positions in the Information Systems Services Department, two in Security, one in Human Resources, a marketing position for Hope Channel and a donor relations position at Adventist Mission.

“Even with all these hires we will still have the same number of open positions that we did four months ago,” Lemon said. The world headquarters is currently saving $1 million on salary budgets that haven't been filled.

Image by Image by ANN. Ansel Oliver/ANN

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