Mars Hill Church Says A Little More But Not Enough About the Global Fund Changes

In this week’s email newsletter to members (dated 7/11/14), Mars Hill Church leaders mentioned the petition asking for financial accountability regarding the former Mars Hill Global Fund. Mars Hill has now admitted that money given to the Global Fund actually went in the church’s General Fund and mostly was spent on expanding Mars Hill video sites. Despite the fact that Mars Hill leaders admit there was a separate fund, they are requiring donors to contact the church and specifically designate (again) that their donation should go to missions (See the Global FAQs for more information). From the newsletter:

Update on Mars Hill Global

We are very thankful for what Jesus has done through our global family since 2009, with many disciples made and churches planted in the US, Ethiopia, and India.
As we strive to communicate the vision of Mars Hill Church, there has been an outside petition asking questions of Mars Hill. However, of the nearly 400 signers, only four have ever given to Mars Hill Global. We sent letters this past week to over 6000 Global donors giving them the option to designate their funds solely for international work if they wish. We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.
If you have any questions regarding Mars Hill Global, we have recently posted updates to our Global FAQ online page that you might find helpful.

I have heard from donors who did not get a letter or email from the church. In fact, I have not heard from any donors who did get a letter. Obviously, I am not in touch with 6,000 donors and so I am not saying a letter was not sent. However, some donors did not get a letter. Also, I would say it is a little early to quantify the reaction to Mars Hill’s change of public position (for a somewhat different reaction see Wenatchee the Hatchet). They just changed their Global FAQs on July 1.
I don’t understand what this sentence is trying to communicate: “We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.” Change designation from what to what?
The Global Fund was clearly designated as separate from the General Fund on the online giving page, as well as in Mars Hill documents. If donors wanted to designate their funds to Mars Hill Church’s General Fund, they had the option to do so. Thus, Global Fund donors were designating their money to what Mars Hill Church said was “how we as a church participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus” (see below from the FY 2013 Annual Report). Now Mars Hill is making their donors jump through another hoop to redesignate their money to missions. So when Mars Hill says they are changing the designations for gifts, I don’t understand. Are they really claiming that there was no designation before?

The petition (which is still open for signatures from anyone who wants to encourage disclosure in accord with ECFA guidelines) says:

Mars Hill Church has solicited millions of dollars for its “Global Fund” which, now that questions have been asked, has disappeared. It seems that most of the money was not spent on global or international outreach and that the money simply went into the general fund. Donors and those with a close interest or tie to Mars Hill Church ought to know exactly how much of what they gave was spent on international outreach. This is a part of a greater call for financial transparency from the leaders at Mars Hill Church.

Every time a person signs the petition, a letter is sent to the boards of Mars Hill Church and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability:

Mars Hill Church, please tell us how much “Global Fund” money was spent on “international” outreach. We donors, members, ex-members and the broader Christian community deserve transparency from the leadership at Mars Hill Church.

This is a question Mars Hill could answer easily. They know how many donors gave money, they certainly know how they spent the donor’s contributions. Mars Hill Church leaders already said the preponderance of the funds went to fund the expansion of Mars Hill video sites in the United States. Surely, they can tell us the actual numbers. Sources within Mars Hill have told me the percentage of Global Fund actually spent on missions is low, perhaps 5% or less. There is potentially quite a windfall for Ethiopia and India if Mars Hill donors would contact Mars Hill to stress they want those funds spent on missions. The amount would likely more than double the annual budget of Mars Hill’s partner for Ethiopia, New Covenant Foundation.
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