Financial scandals are nothing new in the world of churches. The Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky is dealing with one right now:
[Chris] Platt allegedly wrote himself 19 checks worth $13,020. He wrote an additional 53 "for cash," checks totalling $13,930, Hall said. Another church check, for $250, was mailed to American Express, apparently to pay for Platt's private account, Hall said. In addition, Platt apparently used church money to make payments on a personal loan from BankOne, she said.
It's unclear what many of the checks were used for since Platt kept poor records and little documentation, Hall said. Some of the expenses that are documented are unusual for an Episcopal priest. Platt paid his National Rifle Association dues and purchased a book called Erotique with church money.
While I appreciate any Episcopalian who is a member of the NRA, the problem starts with the fact that Platt had the checkbook. Bad idea. Any time there's money there's temptation (root of all kinds of evil, remember?), and they should have known better. I don't have a church checkbook. I don't want one.
I understand financial difficulties, although I recognize they are often more the result of poor management than too little money (I'm speaking from experience here). Platt had little excuse in the income department:
Divorced, bankrupt, unable to pay his bills, the Episcopal priest was struggling to get by on an annual compensation package of $79,000.
Ah, if only I could struggle with $79,000! Trust me, in Lexington that's not too shabby.
The purpose of this isn't to rail on Platt. I actually do sympathize with him, probably more than I should. But churches really ought to know better. A few years ago a church in Lexington discovered one day that they didn't have a treasury any more. The treasurer--relieved of his duties--sought forgiveness, but the money was gone. There have to be checks on this sort of thing. I know of a church out there somewhere where the minister's mother served as treasurer. Not a good idea, either.
"Um, yes Mom. That's a legitimate expense."
"Well, if you think Erotique will help your studies..."
You get the idea. Think people--think!