Legal Issues in Ministry
Monday, June 21, 2010
Yorba Linda Calvary Baptist Church Scandal
Accountability is something that we all need to experience in our lives. It’s great for people struggling with addictions and in need of prayer and support. It's also a safeguard against other kinds of temptations that the Yorba Linda Calvary Baptist Church in Yorba Linda, California experienced the late 1990s. The senior pastor Richard Cunningham and his son, who later became the senior pastor, Philip Cunningham, were charged with theft, fraud and forgery when they took over 3.1 million dollars from the church's, and the church's private school's, bank accounts for their own personal expenses including luxury homes and cars. The church secretary Mandy DiAddezio testified that, "Philip Cunningham at times paid his personal credit card using school funds, booking them as travel expenses, and would book payments for his dry-cleaning bill as janitorial expenses. But he also put his own money into the school account when it was low, she said". Philip also paid his children's college tuition with the funds from the church's school's bank account while saying that the church board had approved it. The problem with this is that, according to a former board member at the church, the board only met 2-3 times a year and they were never given proper financial statements or documents to look over. It was always hand-written on a piece of paper just minutes before the meeting. It seems that there steps taken to use the church and school funds for personal gain and then steps were also taken to make sure that there was no oversight or accountability of the church or school funds. In regards to ministry, my experience with accountability has always been kind of a prickly subject. I say prickly because I come from small traditional Pentecostal churches where my dad was the pastor of most and the deacons made up the church board. Unfortunately, in my experience, these deacon boards tended to try and control the pastor. They controlled what the pastor’s salary was, what the church could spend on ministry, church maintenance, etc. This and churches voting pastors in and out gave me a bad experience and taste in my mouth when it comes to churches and so-called deacon boards. I have equated deacon boards with politically corrupt power mongrels. I didn’t see the Biblical example of deacons. Scripture says in Acts 6:1-7, 1 But as the believerss rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, "We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word." 5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith).6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. 7 So God's message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
Church history even shows that original responsibilities of a deacon were strictly of a benevolence ministry nature. The deacons appointed in this passage of scripture were to help with the local church benevolence ministry so that the apostles, who acted as the early pastors, could focus on praying, preaching and other ministry. It’s only been in the late 1900s that we see that the deacons become what some call the church board. I personally believe that these two...
Cited: Cassidy, Jon. " Secretary: Ex-Pastor Mixed Church School, Personal Funds". Orange County Register. June 20, 2010 .
"Father, son pastors accused in church theft". Time Wire Reports. June 20, 2010 .
Hopkins, Bruce R.. Starting and Managing A Nonprofit Organization. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009.
Life Application Study Bible. New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004.
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