The Church Missionary Society – South Australia Inc: mini-charity review

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has been superseded.  Please start with the updated review published in June 2018, and come back to this one as needed.

Mini-charity review of The Church Missionary Society – South Australia Inc (CMSSA), an organisation that seeks donations online, and is a member of Missions Interlink. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

For last year’s review, see here.

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • I sent them a draft of this review. Like last year, they did not respond.

Is CMSSA registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • CMSSA is a South Australian incorporated association (A1032).
  • CMSSA operates, per the ACNC Register, in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
    • If still doesn’t have the registration required to do business out of South Australia (an ARBN).
    • It’s still not registered for fundraising in any of the six states, including South Australia, that have a licensing regime applicable to charities[1].

What do they do?

  • Unfortunately, the only information available is one sentence, highlighted, in what they wrote in the AIS 2016:
    • CMS workers have continued to serve as co-labourers with over 100 international partners, including churches, schools, universities and Christian organisations, in more than 35 countries around the world. Our partners are involved in ministries that fit with our gospel vision and purpose. Our partners have welcomed CMS workers into their programs and ministries to share the lasting hope of Jesus Christ with people. CMS SANT raises financial and prayer support for this work and encourages churches and individuals in SA & NT to grow in their understanding of and involvement with cross-cultural mission. CMS Australia is a deductible gift recipient for provision of overseas aid in several countries, for aboriginal work in North Australia and in support of St Andrews Hall, the CMS training college in Victoria.

Do they share the Gospel?[2]

  • No

What impact are they having?

  • No information found.

What do they spend outside the costs directly incurred in delivering the above impact, that is, on administration?

  • If the unexplained ‘CMS-A Quota’ is defined as the money that goes to achieve the impact, then 39%[3] is administration (up from 36% last year).

Do they pay their directors?

  • The constitution does not address this question.
  • There is no line item in the Statement of Income and Expenditure suggesting that directors are paid.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Not for a donation to CMSSA.
    • Nevertheless, the giving page that they use, the one belonging to Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd, does offer tax-deductible giving.
    • If these donations are included in ‘Donations Received’ ($1.01 m), then, because they are being collected for a third party, revenue is again overstated.

Is their online giving secure?

  • Security is still not mentioned.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (seventh months after their year-end, a day late – but two months earlier than last year).
    • But if you are considering a large donation, I would ask for more up-to-date financial information – the accounts are for a year end that is now over 16 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: Like last year, no.
    • Most of the figures in the Income Statement don’t match those in Financial Report.
    • The description of ‘activities’ is largely about another charity (albeit an associated one).
    • ‘CMS SANT’ is not a registered name.
    • No outcomes are given.
  • Financial Report 2016: Like last year, no.
    • For 2016, the ACNC accepts the financial report CMSSA submitted to the state regulator as meeting its requirements.
    • The state regulator’s requirements are that ‘the accounts present fairly the results of the operations of the association for the financial year and the state of affairs of the association at the end of the financial year’ [section 35(2), Associations Incorporation Act 1985].
    • The committee of CMSSA have declared that the accounts meet this requirement. They don’t:
      • Two of the four financial statements normally included are missing.
      • There are no Notes to the accounts.
      • One six-line ‘Asset Statement’ is included in lieu of the required statement of financial position.
      • There are two income statements, neither of which complies with the Accounting Standards, and which give conflicting figures for total revenue and total expenses.
      • The auditor did not, as he says he did, follow the Australian Auditing Standards.
      • Revenue may be overstated by the amount of the donations collected for a third party.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • The contents of the Report – see above – are such that significant doubt is raised as to whether the situation shown is the actual situation.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • The auditor, Jeffrey T Byerley, CPA, issued a ‘clean’ opinion.
    • Jeffrey is only qualified to do this audit because of the ACNC’s transitional provisions for reporting by incorporated associations:  the South Australian regulator doesn’t require the audit of CMSSA to be performed by a registered company auditor.
    • Before you decide how much comfort to take from his finding, I suggest that you
      • Read here and here.
      • Re-read the information above under ‘Financial Report 2016’, above.

If a charity, is their information on the ACNC Register correct?

  • Almost – ‘CMS SANT’ is not a registered name.

What choices do you have in how your donation is used?

  • Having been redirected from the CMSSA page to the ‘Give to CMS’ page, that is, to Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd’s giving page, your choices are:
    • ‘General Missionary Support’
    • ‘General Tax Deductible (sic) Gift’
    • ‘A particular worker’ (with a dropdown listing all the workers)
    • ‘Other’

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • There is a line item ‘CMS-A Quota’ in the (concise) Income Statement that is 63% of the expenses. Neither element of this term is explained, but ‘CMS-A’ is most likely Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd.
    • The detailed Statement of Income and Expenditure has no further information.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the webpages, but the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’) says it is these people:
    • Edward Alcock
    • David Bassett
    • Martin Bleby
    • Philippa Harris
    • Robert Haynes
    • Andrew Jackson
    • Christopher Jolliffe
    • Barry Lock
    • Naomi Noakes
    • Tamra Purton
    • David Williams
      • The name ‘David Williams’ appears on the register for 30 charities. And the register only covers charities, not all not-for-profits, and of course doesn’t include for-profit organisations.  If after eliminating the charities for which CMSSA’s David Williams is not a director, you are left with the total being more than a handful, it would be legitimate for you to question whether his ability to discharge his fiduciary responsibilities is threatened.

To whom are CMSSA accountable?

  • Although not mentioned on their webpages, they are accountable as a Member of Missions Interlink.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.
  • To the South Australian regulator of incorporated associations.
  • They are also accountable to the ACNC.

 

 

  1. The law in this area is not straightforward and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  2. Good living and social concern are important [to the cause of evangelism], but they are not uniquely Christian graces…I’ve met a lot of fine Hindus, Muslims and atheists. Just living the life is not going to bring someone to Christ. There is much more to it than that. We must help people, certainly, but we must also share with them why we are motivated to do so. We must stand against injustice, poverty and need, but we must at the same time point to the One who brings justice and who can meet the deepest need. Until they know our reasons, how can they come to know our Lord? [Dan Armstrong, the Fifth Gospel: The Gospel According to You, Anzea Books, pp. 13-14.
  3. If the other figure for total expenses is used, the one in the other income statement, the percentage is 41.

2 Responses

  1. Boris 12/01/2019 / 10:50 pm

    I’m investigating CMS to determine if it is a good missionary agency to support and promote, so I am reasonably unbiased. I found the answer “No” to the question “Do they share the Gospel?” to be seriously lacking in evidence.

    Just a simple search on the CMS website for their Statement of Belief gives:

    “God, the Creator, has made himself fully known in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the unchanging truth of his written word, the Bible.

    God commands all people everywhere to repent and believe the good news. In love and through the sacrificial, substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of his Son, God saves his elect people from wrath and judgment and raises us to new life through the power of his Spirit.

    As God’s people we are called to proclaim this message in all the world that people might put their trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour and so be reconciled to God the Father, become members with us of his forgiven people and live by the Spirit under his rule, awaiting the coming restoration of all things.”
    Source: https://www.cms.org.au/sant/about-us/statement-of-belief/

    If that doesn’t include some of the core components of the Gospel, I’m not sure what Bible you are reading. 🙂

    I have also listened to some of the CMS podcasts, and found them to be quite evangelical and Biblically-based.

    • Ted himself 13/01/2019 / 2:19 pm

      Hi Boris

      It’s good to see that you are checking them out before supporting them.

      Not that it makes a big difference – I’ll explain in a minute – but it appears that you have landed on the superseded review (or are at least basing your comment on that review). (The message at the beginning alerts readers to that. Here is the link to the latest review. Now to your criticism. The first thing is that a Statement of Belief is one thing, sharing the Gospel another. Then there is the distinction between, as John Dickson says, proclaiming the Gospel and promoting the Gospel. (See the footnote in my review for my interpretation of ‘sharing the Gospel’.) Third, you need to distinguish between the Australian organisation (CMS-A) and the South Australian organisation. The latter do not themselves share the Gospel – see their home page. They recruit people whose job description may, to a greater or lesser extent, include ‘sharing the Gospel’. But are those missionaries on the payroll of the South Australian charity? The ‘Missionaries’ link on their page goes to a list of, I’d suggest, the missionaries handled by CMS-A.

      Happy to discuss.
      In His love, Ted

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