Saturday, September 20, 2014

the March 17, 2012 memo, "policies and procedures were non-existent", but what about the 2007-2010 tenure of Tim Beltz and the financical policies mentioned in the 2008 Generous series?
One of the greatest and most harmful events was Pastor Jamie resigning and leaving me in this job as General Manager/Executive Elder. From early June until he resigned in August, he had basically checked out. So I had less than 6 weeks as General Manager before becoming #1 King without being an Elder. Then finally in November, I was made an Executive Pastor without have any creditability with the staff. This single fact hindered my ability to really even understand the organization or the people, much less see the problems as they had existed for a long time.

If you go back and look, the Church had no budget and the financial statements were a total joke this time last year. Financial reporting was 4 to 5 months late because the staff in finance was incompetent and the policies and procedures were non-existent. I am sorry, these are strong words, but it is true. ...

This memo seems to have been written by someone who may or may not have had memory of earlier explanations of financial systems from the pulpit.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has kept some tabs on this kind of thing and we're about to indulge in some self-recycling for educational purposes.  If there was truly a bunch of incompetent staff in finance and no set of policies and procedures then this opinion would need to be cross-checked against the short history of public assurance about financial solidity.  Specifically, we need to go back to 2007-2008 when Tim Beltz was introduced as an executive elder and consider that Beltz handled financial operations up until later 2010.  Why he stopped being an executive elder has never been explained and how he transitioned from that high role to being some kind of biblical living pastor has also never been explained. 

Now on November 4, 2007 Mark Driscoll preached the sermon “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility”. In this sermon he referred to a couple of men who became pastors. One of them was James Noriega who had recently been promoted to the Board of Directors and placed in charge of alcohol and recovery group ministries.  James Noriega and Bill Clem played important roles in getting the property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle to Mars Hill in 2006.

In the sermon excerpt below Driscoll describes Tim and the Tim in question
Another man we appointed to that board is a man names Tim. I’ll tell you his story. He has an MBA in not-for-profit management. He has 20 or 30 years, I can’t remember, of not-for-profit manage experience. He’s run some very large, very significant ministries. He’s consulted for very large, very significant ministries. He nominated himself for eldership. Was a faithful member of this church. And he said, “You know, I think I can help. I think my management background will help organize Mars Hill.” We said, “Okay, well what’s your proposal?” He said, “I’ll work 50 hours a week for six months free of charge. I’ll quit my well paying job. I’ll shut down most of my consulting business. I’ll reduce my expenses, live off of my savings. I’ll nominate myself for eldership. I will work for free for six months, and I’ll come under Pastor Jamie, who’s young enough to be my son, and has none of the experience or education that I do so that I can humbly serve him so that Mars Hill can become a better church.”
God opposes the proud. Gives grace to the humble. The elders vote and say, “He should be an Executive Elder and on the Board of Directors.”

So the elders voted this Tim to be an Executive Elder and on the Board of Directors.
... Not all of these men are paid staff. Executive Elders – A sub-team of the Board of Directors who serve as the leadership team of Mars Hill. The Executive Elders are responsible for the day-to-day leadership, management, and oversight of Mars Hill. At present, the Executive Elders are: Jamie Munson, Mark Driscoll, Scott Thomas, Bubba Jennings, and Tim Beltz (read more about them here).

Now we get to the late 2008 Generous series
December 21, 2008
Part 4: Generous (Part 2B)
Pastor Driscoll: Along that line, what I wanted to do is bring out Pastor Jamie Munson (your lead pastor), Pastor Tim Beltz (your executive pastor), and I wanted them to describe to you kind of where we’re at, where we’re going, what we’re doing. A little bit of business, and then we’ll sing some Christmas songs.
Hey guys, you want to take it, buddy? Maybe introduce Tim. You guys all know who Jamie is, right? Lead pastor – was up last week? Yes? No? You guys know Jamie? Cool.
I don’t oversee the money. You don’t want me counting stuff, that’s for sure. I’m not a systems, policies, and procedures guy. These men have great skills, gifts, and abilities. And they run the administrative and stewardship load of Mars Hill. And so, rather than me making mistakes, I thought it’d just be best for them to let you know what’s going on.
Pastor Munson: Appreciate you guys making the hike in the snow. So, this is Pastor Tim Beltz. He’s the executive pastor of Mars Hill, a dear friend. He runs all of the operation side of what we do as a church. So, we’re a church, we’re about ministry, but we have to have budgets, we have to have buildings, we have to have staff, we have to have policies, procedures. Tim oversees all of that.
He has a lot of experience in nonprofit management. He was the chief operating officer at Crista Ministries, and the interim CEO up there for a number of years. He has an MBA. He’s overseen a $200 million budget in the nonprofit world. Lots of experience.
And so we brought him in about a year-and-a-half ago, to come on and oversee this area for us. He does a great job. I love working with him. A good man. So, I’m gonna turn it over to him to give you guys an inside look at some of the not-so-sexy part of Mars Hill, but the important part.
He keeps us out of jail. He does the good work, the hard work, to make sure we’re above reproach in a lot of those systems. So, I’ll let you kind of give us an overview of what does some of the financial accountability look like at Mars Hill?
Pastor Beltz: That’s a tough act to follow. Thank you. Just a couple of real quick points. We take this really seriously, the financial controls of the church. Our generosity as a – I’m a members of Mars Hill Church, obviously, and so it’s our generosity that really gives us an opportunity to be great stewards here at Mars Hill Church.
And so, just walking through this, the financial controls piece, it’s as simple as the two people that count the money and then deposit it. We have a chain of custody for that money, to make sure that there’s no opportunity for making errors or mistakes or having any problems.
It’s as complicated as having budget and expense reports that are reviewed at multiple levels of management. It’s also a system where Pastor Mark and Pastor Jamie, they don’t sign any checks. Their names aren’t on any of the accounts so that we can keep them above reproach, and that we can allow those who really enjoy doing those kind of things, and who are good at it, that we can.
Pastor Munson [from the same transcript]:
In addition, we’re gonna give $500,000.00 to our Shoreline campus, to help them find a permanent home. We launched that campus in January 2006, so this will be it’s third year. It really paved the way for the multisite movement of Mars Hill and allowed us to add other campuses. They were the guinea pigs in a lot of ways.

 We’re gonna give them half-a-million dollars and then raise some more money to then be able to go find a permanent home for them. They’re meeting right now on the campus of Crista Ministries, King Schools, up in the North End. We’d like to get them a permanent home.
So, we wanted to bless them, get that fund started by giving them a half million.
According to Tim Beltz' earlier accounts he was an executive pastor from October 2007 until November 2010, when he became Pastor of Operations.  But it wasn't all that long before he ended up being a "biblical living pastor" of some sort, was it?

In October 2007, Tim was ordained at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA and served as the executive pastor until November 2010 when he became pastor of operations. [emphasis added] As executive pastor, his responsibilities included overseeing the financial, HR, legal, technology and capital programs for the church. He transitioned off staff July 2011 and now serves as an unpaid elder at MHC West Seattle and as a member of the MHC Board of Elders. Tim is a faculty member at the MHC Re:Train program and regularly presents workshops at regional and national executive pastor seminars and conferences.

Tim has extensive executive experience in the non-profit, public and private sectors...7 years as a CEO and 8 years as a COO. From 2003-2007 he was the executive vice president and COO of CRISTA Ministries, a North Seattle-based Christian organization of nearly 2,000 employees and a $170M annual budget...the 2nd largest non-profit in the state. [emphasis added]

So while the March 17, 2012 memo indicated that there seemed to be no financial competence or controls or procedures it is actually not clear that there were no such things in place throughout the history of Mars Hill since 2007.  Beltz was brought on as a consultant to streamline policies and procedures and ensure financial accountability of some kind. 

Assuming that Beltz had helped architect accountability for money given to Mars Hill across the entire chain of command what happened between November 2010 and November 2011, the gap of time between Tim Beltz no longer being executive pastor and Sutton Turner being introduced as an executive pastor?  The March 2012 memo seems to indicate the author was persuaded financial reporting was incoherent and that the financial situation was problematic at best and that there were no controls and no competence. 

Assuming Turner's memo was right that Munson was basically checked out and the financial staff were incompetent and there were no policies in place ... could this be proven?  After all, one opinion is still one opinion, even if of an executive elder.  And Beltz was at that time still around to see how things had changed for better or worse since he had been added to the executive elder team back in 2007 and had transitioned off for reasons as yet unexplained.

It's possible there was "nothing" per the March 2012 memo but it seems to make more sense, knowing the history of Mars Hill and the public assurances of its leaders to the laity that financial stewardship was a concern, to suggest that there probably were previous policies and procedures and systems in place that had devolved earlier in the wake of some kind of change in the leadership culture. 

Because if the fiscal scenario was as bad as the March 2012 made it seem then the corporation known as Mars Hill Church may have just deserved to die of its own fiscal incompetence and the culture of entitlement in its leadership.

It also means that if Mars Hill does not become 100% transparent about all its finances in the past as well as the present that there's no saving the corporation from a deserved financial death however robust the social and spiritual community associated with it may yet prove to be (or not to be).


brgulker said...

It is probably worth considering that what one financially-minded professional thinks of as adequate controls might be completely disregarded by another such professional. I experience this kind of thing all the time. It might just be really sloppy language from Turner.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

yep, the memo seems pretty sloppy and that suggests a rough night and not much sleep. And it could well be that what would have been considered good controls by Beltz circa 2007-2009 may have turned out to be inadequate to the growth plans committed to by the other executives. What Beltz had in place might have been great but unable to "grow with" what was planned. Since Beltz has not yet said anything for the record the Turner memo seems to just throw everything Beltz may have done years earlier and Munson more recently under the bus. ... and a couple of other guys, too, while he was at it.