Letter #9 — Accountants give it an F

A few days ago, I wrote about one of JesusFirst’s campaign pieces that said some pretty horrible things about one of Synod’s most wonderful programs — World Relief and Human Care. It was the type of letter that could actually lead to decreased funds going to help those vulnerable people most in need. As such, I can’t begin to understand why it was written or how it met with the approval of anyone on JesusFirst, much less made it to production.

It also turned out to be factually incorrect. Within a few hours of the letter being distributed, the CPA who serves as Vice President of World Relief and Human Care’s board responded with a detailed explanation of just how far off base the Rev. Jon Coyne and JesusFirst were.

I assumed that the letter would quickly be retracted, apologies would be made, etc. Instead, I was disappointed last night to read the Rev. Charles Mueller defend the piece. He said that these numbers were subject to different interpretation.

Well, the chair of World Relief and Human Care, the Rev. Bernard Seter, asked Synodical Treasurer Tom Kuchta to review the letter and World Relief’s response. His letter can be read here. It’s time for JesusFirst to stop with the deception:

As you requested, I have reviewed the financial information included in the LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WRHC) response to Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9. At my request, the financial data was reviewed by the LCMS Accounting Department. We have concluded that the data included in the response is consistent with LCMS accounting records.

Regarding the conclusions reached in Letter No. 9, there are two items that should be considered that could affect the Jesus First conclusions.

The first item deals with grants made by ELCA and LCMS to Lutheran World Relief (LWR). LWR does not incur fund raising expenses in connection with these grants. On the other hand, all contributions received by WRHC result from incurring fund raising costs. A valid comparative analysis between LWR and WRHC should exclude the grants received by LCMS and ELCA. It doesn’t appear this was considered in Letter No. 9.

The second item relates to personnel costs. Not all personnel costs are administrative expenses. Some of the costs are incurred in the performance of a particular program (mission and ministry) of WRHC. Therefore, Letter No. 9 should treat some of the personnel costs as core mission.

Another accountant who reviewed JesusFirst’s campaign letter against World Relief & Human Care said the exact same thing Kuchta wrote above, adding that if JesusFirst had used the same faulty assumptions to gauge World Mission, the results would look even worse, saying the analysis seemed intentionally deceptive and dishonest.

I don’t know why the Rev. Charles Mueller thinks that leading a large congregation gives him more insight into basic accounting than professional accountants have, but I would suggest that he stay away from accounting.

All of us, no matter who we support, need to be fair and honest in our critiques and defenses. This letter has failed miserably on that front. Sad, disappointing and precisely the type of thing that so many of us have had enough of.

It’s Time — indeed.

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