On several occassions during the Pastoral Visitations of our beloved Executive Minister, Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo, he emphasized that the people of God must be obedient to the Laws of the Land. As our late Executive Ministers also admonished especially to those caring for the finances of the Church, “Prove to God your integrity and faithfullness.”
This article is very timely as it reminds us to uphold obedience to both the laws of man and especially the Laws of our Almighty God. Integrity- defined as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. A trait that must be found in every one of God’s people. Remember, God is always watching…
“They tried to bury us…they didn’t know we were seeds.”
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By: Vincent Florida
This circular was sent out to the congregations by our dearly beloved Brother Eraño G. Manalo on February 5, 1998. 1998 was designated as the “Year of the Church Officers”. February is the month to remember the efforts, sacrifices and works of the Church’s Finance officers.
During those days, everything was being faxed from the communication center of the Central Office, which was basically Sis. Eden Samson (sister of Bro. Jun & Jerson Samson) and two or three other devoted sisters manning the phones and fax machines. They sent and received, all communications from inside and outside the Philippines to and from the Districts, or in this case as the fax stamp at the top of the page indicates, to Bro. Manuel B. Santos (MBS, auditor general of USMO and brother of Bro. Jun Santos). Then, he in turn would send it out to the respective Districts.
Bro. Eraño, as you can read above, spoke of the transparent and efficient manner that the finances were taken care of. The need to keep the finance reporting done in an efficient manner was the great trust put upon every locale treasurer, locale auditor, committee chairperson and head deacon of each local congregation.
Quoting Luke 16:10-11 TEV, which for the purposes of this exposé bears repeating.
Luke 16:10-11 (GNT or TEV)
10 Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones. 11 If, then, you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with true wealth?”
Let’s talk for a moment about the responsibilities of the congregations and the banks in the various states where the Church is present. Each congregation has a checking account. The account is managed by the lay members, meaning to say, NO minister/Church worker is a signatory nor can he access in any way the offerings of the locale. This great responsibility rest squarely on the shoulders of the finance officers and head deacon of the congregation. It is your face, my dear brothers and sisters that the bank’s staff see. It is your ID that the banks ask for and it is, in some cases, your social security number that you must give when asked by the bank’s staff because of the large deposits, especially during the Anniversary Thanksgiving and the Year-end Thanksgiving. Note: Never was the Church EIN given in such occasions.
Basically, as Bro. Eraño put it, “may God take good care of you in the performance of your duties to save you from errors and may you always prove to God your integrity and faithfulness”.
I believe that this is a good place to pause and think about the troubling practices that are being done in this present time.
How do you think our God feels about the performance of your duties when the cash from the offerings are not deposited in the bank, but instead it is being delivered to the Sangunian (Church Advisory Council) through the District Auditors with NO accountability? Many of you, dear finance officers, have a lot of finance-related experience from businesses that you either own or work for. Knowing that when cash is not deposited, it disappears off the books.
Let’s say, for the moment, that those in whose pockets the cash finally ends up was for their ‘tulong’ (stipend or salary) or they have a definite purpose for collecting cash instead of using banks to withdraw the funds. Why would they take it in cash? Firstly, let’s start with the cash “tulong”. Well, according to U.S. law, income earned in any form is taxable. So they are, essentially, avoiding paying taxes on it. What does our Lord Jesus instruct us in Luke 20:25 NKJV
25 And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
This pronouncement of the Savior is quite clear. Give to the government what is due and to God what is due. Basically, one aspect of the corruption that everyone is talking about when it comes to the Council is that they are circumventing the tax laws of the United States. Here is where it even gets better if those who are receiving income from those hundred dollar bills you
so eagerly change at the bank do not have an SS or TIN number, then the Church is hiring and paying illegals, which is another violation of U.S. law.
What about what the apostle Peter said, I Peter 2:17 LB
“Show respect for everyone. Love Christians everywhere. Fear God and honor the government.”
Are we respecting or honoring the government by circumventing the tax
laws and laws regarding those who are eligible to work in the United States?
How about their plans for whatever they want to use the money? It certainly is not going to build houses of worship, or propagation or the worship services. It is ‘off the books’, as they say. Under the tax laws of the United States, which are being enforced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), who do you think IRS will go after when an audit is done and the additional remittances come to light? Who would then become responsible for all those hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars that have been diverted from the Church? It is you, dear finance officers and head deacons, because it’s your names that are on the accounts, your names that they will drag into tax court and it’s your homes and assets that the IRS will go after. Did you sign on to that when you raised your hand and took oath as a finance officer of the Church? You, brothers and sisters, are accomplices’ in these unlawful acts, whether you are aware of it or not. You also know that we should never allow anyone to defile the offerings for they are consecrated for the Lord. Now that the consequences of this practice are brought to light, will you let them continue defiling your hands? Why not just deposit the entire ‘abuloy’ (offerings of members) in the bank and report “no remittance” to the District Auditor?
Many will claim that “… it is not our place to question what the Church leaders decide to do with the offering that we gave”. Hmm. Do you think the IRS will acknowledge this argument favorably? It is not a question of what they do with the cash offerings or if it is our place to question. It is a question of breaking the law of the United States of America. Are you “ONE WITH Tax Fraud”?
Why do you think some banks, such as TD Bank, have refused to do business with the Church and even others won’t comply with your request to change the cash in $100 denominations? Why do you think you’re instructed to
deposit the money then withdraw it? Why do you have to ask some officers or rich brethren to bring in hundred dollar bills for exchange? Because bank managers have strict codes that they must follow and the Council are aware of that. You, brothers and sisters in finance, are what they’ll call the fall guy, the mark, the patsy, or the scapegoat. Don’t think for a moment that your finance records wouldn’t be shredded in a minute when they see the IRS agents closing in on the Church with subpoenas.
Think of what the Apostle Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira when they kept back part of the proceeds. It was in “your hand” to do with accordingly… ”You have not lied to men but to God.” God appointed you to a sacred duty to care for the offering of the Church. The offerings are in your hands to do with accordingly. It is your name going on the forms. Go back to the letter of our beloved Brother and read it again and again. In the past six years this is where the anomaly has started, at least in the West. We knew what we were doing was wrong. It is time to take a stand and remember the words of Brother Eraño G. Manalo, “… do not allow anyone to defile the offerings”. If they want money so badly, let them go to U.S.M.O. and let it be on the books, in the record so the corruption will stop and good people won’t be forced to do evil.