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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: December 05, 2012 09:28PM

kelvin:

Please answer a couple of simple questions.

1. Does the SMC have a democratically elected church government. That is, an elected board that serves fixed terms and stands for regular re-election as mandated by its bylaws. Such elections would be by secret ballot cast by all members of the church. The board would then have the power to fire staff (e.g. pastors) and control the budget.

2. Does SMC have an annually published and independently audited budget, which is distributed to all its contributors. That is, a budget that details all salaries, compensation and expenses paid out from contributed funds.

These two factors would provide for meaningful accountability and financial transparency.

These two questions are immediately relevant to the topic of this thread, not Eton, other schools or charitable status.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: December 05, 2012 11:38PM

Wow - some interesting arguments here.

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kelvin
@ThePetitor
For example, you claim that SMC is accountable to no-one and yet proceed to also claim it will be relieved of its charitable status by OSCR, to whom it is ... accountable.
I was not aware I had claimed anything. I thought I had used the word IF, and it was you that had said WHEN, implying you already knew the outcome. We obviously have a different understanding of these words.

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kelvin
You claim that the accounts are "misleading". If you were so badly mislead, how would you know? If you weren't mislead, then ... they weren't misleading were they! Unless you have inside knowledge that is not available even to members of SMC, this makes no sense. You have to accept also that there may be information legitimately withheld that would clarify the statement you find "misleading".
OK, I will accept that at one level. I would have thought what I said was fairly clear, but fair enough, I can see the possibility of a contradiction. Just to be absolutely clear then, I believe the accounts are misleading, not due to any insider knowledge but because they are inconsistent. In particular, I think that anyone who only reads the words and does not examine the figures in detail will be mislead. Many, many people will not take the time that the Latigo team appear to have taken to add clarify what appears to be a confused and contradictory document, so will be mislead by the bland words in the report. The figures tell a story of decline that is not reflected in the wording.

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kelvin
I suggest you familiarise yourself with the meaning of the phrase before interpreting it in a peculiar fashion. Anyone who did not get their child into Eton might feel aggrieved but do you think OSCR wants to know about that?

You are the one that used the phrase, not me. It is slightly bizarre to criticise me for repeating your own words back at you.

I think you are finally agreeing with my point however, which is that a clean sheet from OSCR does not prove there is nothing to be aggrieved about.

Finally, you may not be answering on behalf of SMC, but you are certainly using their approach - refuse to answer a question and instead blame the questioner for having such a bad question (even when you made up the question yourself).

Everyone on this forum has experience of SMC, and everyone will have noted that I have at least given my answer to your question. You on the other hand are not prepared to answer the question but blame the questioner for raising it - and this is YOUR QUESTION!! If this was just a discussion between two people, that might be OK, but this is a forum to discuss SMC, and one of the key things that has been raised time and time again is exactly this point - refusal to answer a question and instead blaming the questioner.

So, I ask again - are you prepared to answer your own question? I look forward to your further analysis of why I am wrong to be asking this.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Chesterk55 ()
Date: December 06, 2012 12:42AM

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kelvin
@Chesterk55 Your suggestion is an interesting one. I think the complaints/allegations people on this forum do make ought to be put to OSCR and the detail of the complaint posted here also, with any answer you receive. The question is, when OSCR allows SMC to retain their charitable status will you accept that they have been cleared of any financial impropriety or will it be business as usual?

Hi Kelvin

This forum has been very actively discussing the very serious problems caused by Struthers for the last 2 years. Struthers (according to their recent “celebration”) has been in operation as a church for 60 years.

So I suppose what constitutes “business as usual” depends on when you start counting.

As many testimonies here from the 70s and 80s indicate problems, pain, mental and spiritual anguish and unfair and unexplained rejection of some of those attending did not suddenly begin 2 years ago when those on this forum started talking about it. Neither is the charity having financial mess ups an exclusively recent thing. Let's assume you know that.

If you have been in Struthers for any length of time, as some of us were, you would understand that “business as usual” is rejecting questions and questioners, and regarding those who do not slavishly agree with the leaders as Godless and unspiritual. Even many still in Struthers will recognise that as “business as usual” as they keep quiet and just give less money as the years go on, at least according to the figures in the accounts.

What you seem to be doing is simply another attempt by those supporting the Struthers regime to say to the few attendees that remain in the few, shrinking churches there is not any real problem – these people online are making it all up. The pain they speak of is fake. The idea that there are any financial and governance issues is false.

I strongly agree with the Petitor that God is more concerned with moral honesty from Christian leaders that OSCR probably are. If I was a Struthers leader I would be more concerned with God judging me according to the way I had judged others (Luke 6 v 37-38) rather than with what OSCR will find. If someone like Covlass, Lyntar, Chris19, lovealways, susie or The Petitor had made a fraction of the complaints against me as they have about their treatment by various Struthers leaders I would do something about attempting to fix that whether OSCR told me to or not.

Help us here Kelvin – why have the Struthers leaders done nothing? Do you understand why that is and can you explain it to us? I notice you claim (in your second post) not to speak for Struthers. Does that also mean you are not on the Struthers payroll?


At the end of the day all those who have left hurting, in pain and with a view of the love of God for them seriously damaged by the Struthers preachers can carry on helping each other here until everyone feels they have had the help they need. So in that respect I hope the “usual business” of this forum continues until everyone who wants to share their honest experiences and needs help and recovery gets it.


And if people still in the organisation want to pretend everything is alright that is not really going to affect any of us much. Whatever the outcome of any OSCR inspection - you can keep pouring money into the debt creation machine that Struthers has become in the last few years and continue to support the main focus of the charity (as indicated in the accounts) subsidising private education.

Hey Kelvin – it's your money.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: cbarb ()
Date: December 06, 2012 01:18AM

Hi guys

Financial mis-management is one thing but emotional and spiritual damage is something else entirely.

I agree wholeheartedly that the figures in the recent accounts are questiionable when taken together with the ending balances of the previous years' accounts. I have an accounting degree and currently write courses and exams for budding accountants, so I do know what properly prepared accounts should look like and how to interpret the information presented in them, including Charity accounts - which I specialised in for some years. The accounts for 2011 have some spurious figures in them which have not been properly explained within the text of the accounts. As the Petitor said, this might well be due to oversight or have a plausible explanation, but as Christians you would be expecting far more transparency from this type of organisation than you would from a more secular organisation. Given that SMC believe they are more holy everyone else, surely they should be so transparent as to be completely SEE-THROUGH?

Far more worrying than the financial matters is the emotional and spiritual damage which SMC metes out to those they deem 'unworthy of God's love'. To draw a secular example here; there have been many recent reports of childrens homes and care homes which have been brought into disrepute due to allegations of physical abuse. When one is emotionally and spiritually abused, to whom can they turn for help and support? This is a burning question and I believe this type of abuse is just as abhorrent as any other physical or mental abuse recognised in law.

This is what the OSCR need to be hearing about, not about how the organisation is benefiting the community but about how it is damaging so many people and, far from being a growing organisation they are very much smaller than they were and have a loooooong way to go to recruit back as many people as have already left.

The leaders of SMC need to be so transparent they become completely see-through - that's a biblical requirement of any leader of God's people - and to become see-through they must be absolutely open and honest in everything they do and say. We know the SMC leaders have been proved to be less than transparent and less than honest on a number of occasions, leading to a deep mistrust of their motives in all other areas - including the recent accounts which do raise some questions.

huge love and huggggs to all
God bless xxx

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: kelvin ()
Date: December 06, 2012 04:01AM

@ThePetitor
I did not refuse to answer, if you read more carefully you will see the answer to your question was (I repeat), "OSCR denying charitable status is not an indication of financial irregularity". I assume that is clear enough for you. Let's recap. @Chesterk55 stated that a test of SMC would be whether they would retain charitable status. Thus, @Chesterk55 introduced this facet to the debate, not me (please note @rrmoderator). I replied that if one made that the test, one should then admit they had done nothing wrong *when* they retain charitable status. (Some very poorly run charities have been allowed to continue in the UK so why would SMC not be allowed to?). This rhetorical point was probably too subtle, I'll admit. You then turned this round on me, completely missing my point (it wasn't me who introduced this test). I'll try to state things a bit more simply for you in future but I thought the posts followed a coherent sequence (BTW "you" implied "you lot above").

The issue of "public benefit" was also raised by @Chesterk55 and it was that to which I referred (okay you got me on that one - well done). I answered that point by drawing an analogy with the sector in England. "Public benefit" does not mean "does the public agree with the actions of this charity or have its members been good people", instead it means (roughly, going on precedent) "shall we still give this organisation a tax break because in the long run it saves the State money". There have been many examples of extremely doubtful charities, hence it is a bizarre test to apply (you missed that original point as I described above!).

@rrmoderator
I'm not sure exactly why you are asking me this. One could, for example, ring up the church and ask yourself! Anyway presumably this is some kind of test, so from what I do know, my answers would be: 1. It is an independent private organisation run by lay people for its members, governed by a board drawn from the members of the church; 2. I understand the church businesses are externally audited and salaries would be a private matter. (In the UK it is extremely rare for individual salaries to be released, charity or not.) There is an AGM at each branch and for the central church where accounts are discussed and can be questioned. FYI the discussion on "Eton, other schools and charitable status" was relevant to the points made above and perfectly on-topic since OSCR was raised by a previous poster.

@Chesterk55
I strongly object to you attributing those sentiments to me, with no evidence whatsoever, implying that I think previous posters are fakes and liars. (What are you on about, "It's your money"?) Thing is, I have heard similar stories over and over again in many churches with all kinds of governance models and none of what I read here is unique to SMC in my experience. From what I know of members they are a well-educated, articulate and capable bunch many of whom hold highly responsible jobs in secular employment. To suggest they are deluded to such an extent by a few unimpressive women strikes me as highly implausible, hence my points.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: December 06, 2012 04:46AM

kelvin:

You decided to come here and post as an apologist defending SMC. There is no need to "ring up the church" as you should know the answers to such simple and basic questions.

How is the governing board "drawn"? Do you mean to say that the board is hand picked? If so who picks the board and on what terms do they serve? Are they therefore not elected by the general membership of the organization?

"Extremely [externally] audited"? What evidence do you have of that? Is there no published budget that is distributed to contributors explaining how the donated funds are spent? Are you saying that you don't actually know what happens with the contributed funds? Why would salaries be "a private matter"?

Please understand that most churches in the United States have both meaningful accountability through democratically elected boards, financially transparency through annually published, distributed and audited budgets and bylaws enforcing such accountability. Salaries are not a private matter, but rather voted upon and announced by the board in open meetings.

Meaningful accountability is something that can be easily verified by answering the questions directly and plainly. Either SMC has such accountability or it does not.

Please directly answer the questions.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/06/2012 07:30AM by rrmoderator.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: kelvin ()
Date: December 06, 2012 06:33AM

@rmmoderator

"Please directly answer the questions"

Right. BTW I find your tone rather ... odd. I also note you don't interrogate all the other posters, despite some of what has been said here being entirely subjective. Of course, I am sure you like me value free speech and welcome a less strident viewpoint which may clarify some of the speculation (i.e. mine). Please understand, I am no simple apologist for SMC and I am not employed by SMC. I have attended SMC but do go to other churches (Baptist, AOG, Church of Scotland). I merely state what I do know of the situation to redress the balance of some of the more implausible comments which are going entirely unchecked.

To your questions:

Presumably by "Extremely audited" you meant "Externally audited"? Well, as it happens, I have been visiting in the church coffee shop when the auditors were there. If you know Revenue and Customs in the UK, you would realise the possibility of any impropriety from a public business is increasingly slim. SMC seems to have many highly-qualified, professional members, among whom are accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, professors, teachers and businessmen (these are the ones I know of ...). Ask yourself, what's the chances of deceiving that lot for long?

Why would salaries be a private matter? I understand that SMC leaders are not paid at all, and never have been, hence there are no salaries nor expense accounts to declare that are not part of the businesses (these seem to be mainly Church School and coffee shop salaries). Note that in the UK salaries are not made public unless you are on the public payroll and even then no-one would know where on the scale you were.

How is the governing body "drawn"? I have no idea. (Again, has no-one thought to actually ask them?)

Is there no published budget? As alluded to, it appears expenditure is a matter for the governing body (hardly unusual for a charity) but is discussed at intervals with the main body of the church at conferences.

Do I know what happens with funds? Well, I have never heard a member complain about misallocation of church funds on any specific verifiable point. It's not as if the pastors are driving around in Ferarris! Fund raising seems to have a very clear purpose. Also charitable giving is subject to tax relief so there would be a record of exactly who gave what at any time. From my experience of charities, if you state the gift is for a special purpose a legal letter usually accompanies that (in the case of a legacy, for example). Otherwise it goes into the general fund and that is that i.e. you trust the governors who have a legal responsibility under UK law to act in the interests of the charity (not primarily for the wider public benefit).

Coming from the US, I suppose it may seem suspect that SMC does not follow the model you describe, exactly. However, I can't actually think of a UK church which does follow that exact model. AOG, perhaps... certainly not the Established Church. On points of doctrine, anyone could go and read Hugh Black's books to see what SMC believes. I'd find it hard to conclude this is a cult based on what is in them.

(On a general note, please don't bombard me with questions and pretend because I don't reply that means your suspicions are somehow valid. I'm not really that invested in this that I'd wish to spend my whole day on this message board.)

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: December 06, 2012 06:59AM

Kelvin

First, it is great that you took the time to reply to these posts. Thanks for dealing with many of the questions directly and, in general, not allowing it to degenerate into personal comments.

I do think you are out of line on one point however, and that is your criticism of Chesterk55 when you say - “I strongly object to you attributing those sentiments to me, with no evidence whatsoever, implying that I think previous posters are fakes and liars.”

It was you who said “there is a danger of demeaning legitimate and clear cases of "cultish" behavior by relentlessly going after SMC because of personal grudges, which is what is happening here.”

specifically... “because of personal grudges… which is what is happening here”

Really? Do you know the forty or so people who have testified to the pain and personal trauma they have experienced related to SMC? Have you met them and talked to them, exploring their experiences and motivations, and concluded that, in every case, it is some sort of personal grudge rather than an honest statement of their experience? How can you possibly conclude that 40 different people, many of whom were not in touch with others, are all motivated by personal grudges?

I have to agree with Chesterk55 on this one. You said that what is being posted is because of personal grudges. To me, that is a very clear statement that you believe, as Chsterk55 says, “these people online are making it all up. The pain they speak of is fake”. If you believed that someone had suffered real trauma, had perhaps sat beside them night after night for years as they woke with nightmares, you would not say that what was happening was because of personal grudges.

I do not think Chesterk55 was speaking on the basis of no evidence, I think the evidence its there in your statement. That is certainly how I took it – that you were saying my posts are due to a personal grudge, not due to a wish to share a real experience as I know it will help others with the trauma they have had to work through. So, you ARE calling me a fake and a liar, and the same is true of other posters here.

If that is a misunderstanding and you truly do believe the testimonies here, so are not wishing to accuse anyone of being a liar, then I think you do owe us an apology for wrongly attributing our motives to personal grudges.

As for the statement “None of what I read here is unique to SMC in my experience.” what can I say? Thankfully, that is not true of my experience, and it doesn’t appear to be true for many others who have testified on this forum that they have found loving, caring churches who have helped heal the wounds inflicted by SMC.


rrmoderator – as you know from my posts, I am no supporter of SMC, but the church books are in fact audited by an accountancy company. I have no reason to doubt they are independent of any direct connection with the church, so they are “externally” (rather than “extremely” – presumably a typo) audited.

I personally have much greater concern over the governing body which is self-appointed and not open to any real form of scrutiny. The accounts and other documents appear even to be confused about what they mean by a member, so it is entirely unclear who gets a vote on anything. There is an AGM, but my understanding is that only the 6 leaders are actually entitled to vote so the AGM is just a sham.

You may find the Kelvin is not in a position to answer in any more detail however as asking questions is taken a sign of a lack of spirituality, so people cannot really find out the rules about the church.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Treetop ()
Date: December 06, 2012 07:04AM

"It is an independent private organisation run by lay people for its members, governed by a board drawn from the members of the church "

Hi Kelvin,

This is the organisation I remember from the 1980s. We were definitely told then that Struthers was a private, independent set up. In fact Mr. Black seemed quite proud of this. It was run by lay people then as now (now only the religious part). I also agree that during the 1980s it was run for its members in that there was no trading or salaries involved at that point. And yes the board were all church members – although it wasn't until later that a membership list was formed. You could also say they were "drawn" from the pool of church members, although no formal criteria or procedures existed to explain how this was done.
Although this was the historical situation I'm afraid I have to disagree with you that it is currently the case. I have two main reasons for this (1) When Struthers became a charitable company it signed up to public scrutiny and accountability in return for tax breaks. It can not be deemed a private organisation any longer. (2) Struthers is the charitable equivalent of a limited company now and trades in coffee shops and private education. The financial demands of these business activities mean that the church cannot be said to be run for its members – or solely for its members. (To be fair, Kelvin, you did not say solely for its members – I've read into your statement, maybe wrongly.)

Struthers would be entirely within its rights to run itself how it wanted and keep any amount of things secret if it was an independent private organisation. However it is a charity and is bound by charitable law. Perhaps the leadership had not realised the impact of being bound by charitable law. Maybe the Struthers people might reconsider this decision and think it would be more in keeping with their aims to withdraw from charitable status?

This is all about legalities however. It doesn't cover the values ("ethics" someone said before) that you'd expect from a christian church. "Let your light so shine before men that all may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven." Most would expect full disclosure – at very least to their own members. You'd expect forgiveness, care, recognising mistakes and seeking restitution, as well as acts of charity to the poor. I could go on, but would only be repeating what others have said...

I don't know about salaries being secret. It seems desirable from the employees' point of view, but I don't know the actual lawful position regarding being a charity. Maybe someone else understands this? That said I don't see why there's a problem with disclosing salaries. My church – and many others - does this and it is a successful way of raising sufficient money to cover salaries for the work church members agree needs done.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: December 06, 2012 07:28AM

kelvin:

You have not answered the questions directly, but rather attempted to skirt around them.

Nevertheless what you describe is an organization that is not democratic, has no meaningful accountability through constitutional bylaws that provide for elections voted by the general membership and SMC is not financially transparent. No doubt the appointed few know where the money is and how it is spent, but you don't and it seems doubtful that other members outside the inner circle do either.

Apparently the SMC has no meaningful accountability other than to to the British government.

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