Vose Seminary and the institutional Baptist church

It was Walter Scott (in Marmion), not Shakespeare, who said ‘‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” There’s little romance in what I am about to describe, and I don’t suspect any attempt to deceive[1], but it’s just that I like the first part of this quote for the picture it paints.

A nice simple charity review for me is where the entity is registered, has all the required documents lodged on the Register, and has its own website.

Vose Seminary, a member of Missions Interlink, is so far the opposite that you get this post instead of a review.

Not interested in Vose Seminary? What about Baptists in Western Australia? For that’s where we’ll need to go to get the information a wise donor needs before they donate to Vose Seminary.

Vose Seminary

I start with the Register. Nothing there. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives two closely related definitions for ‘seminary’: ‘an institution of secondary or higher education’ and ‘an institution for the training of candidates for the priesthood, ministry, or rabbinate’. Assuming that it is a not-for-profit, Vose Seminary is likely a charity.

So, unless it’s part of another charity that is on the Register[2], then it should be registered as a charity. Therefore I go to ABN Lookup. It’s name is there, but only as a trading name, a system that was replaced in 2012 by business names.

The trading name belongs to the registered charity The Baptist Union Of Western Australia Incorporated (BUWA).

Sometimes a business name is registered but it doesn’t appear on ABN Lookup. So I check the business names index at ASIC. And there it is, Vose Seminary as a business name. But not held by BUWA, but by an organisation with the same name but without ‘Incorporated’ at the end.

As ‘Incorporated’ is an essential part of an incorporated association’s name, and as this second The Baptist Union…’ has an incorporated association number, and as BUWA reports in its Annual Report that it is incorporated, then it’s likely that these two organisations are one-and-the-same.

But what about the third one, The Baptist Union of Western Au Inc? It holds the business names ‘Baptist Churches of Western Australia’ and ‘Baptist Op Shop’ (as well as ‘Leavers Green Team’.

Having discovered that Vose Seminary is part of BUWA, we turn to the accounts of that charity.

BUWA’s accounts

BUWA’s ‘Financial Report 2017’ (from the Register) confirms that Vose Seminary is included in the figures presented for BUWA:

So, as a department of BUWA, we would not expect to see separate accounts for Vose Seminary. And we don’t. (Why then have they included separate accounts for the two Trusts?) As a donor to Vose Seminary, you therefore need to trust BUWA.

In finding Vose Seminary registered as a business name, I also saw that there were five other ‘Voses’ registered as business names: Vose Leadership Centre, Vose Interns, Vose Research, Vose Mission, and Vose Distance. What’s the connection with Vose Seminary?

Voses

The website that is linked from the name in the list of members at Missions Interlink is not one for Vose Seminary, but for an entity called Vose. What is the relationship between the two?

The ‘About us’ page treats them as synonymous. But this is confused by the main menu having separate pages for ‘Vose Seminary’, ‘Vose College’, ‘Vose Training’, and ‘Vose Leadership’. (Despite the many registered ‘Voses’ (see above), these three are not included. Why?) To add to the confusion, the Annual Report brackets Vose Seminary with ‘Vose College’ as one of the four departments in which the staff work:

What about the other four Voses?

Back to the registers on a search for Voses. Nothing for ‘Vose’, ‘Vose Training’ or ‘Vose Leadership’, but Vose College is a charity in its own right. They are all Voses, so what’s the distinction?

The other parts of the ‘economic entity’ BUWA

The extract from the Financial Report, above, said that the following ‘entities and departments’ formed part of the BUWA economic entity, the group:

  1. Vose Seminary
    • See above.
  2. Campsites
    • There are two campsites that operate under business names registered to BUWA: Baptist Campsite Serpentine, and Baptist Campsite Busselton.
  3. WA Baptist Basketball
    • No such name is registered – to anybody.
  4. Long Service Leave Fund
    • No such name is registered, even with the inclusion of ‘Baptist’.
  5. Vose Seminary Building Fund
    • This is a fund operated by BUWA (gifts to which are tax deductible).
  6. Minnie Bairstow Trust
    • This is a registered charity. The trustee is Vose Foundation. Yes, another Vose, itself a charity.
    • Why is Vose Foundation not included in BUWA’s figures?
  7. Heather and Noel Vose Library Trust
    • This is a registered charity. The trustee is Vose Foundation.
  8. Mount Barker Community Resource Centre
    • A search of the ACNC Register for ‘Mount Barker Community Resource Centre’ gives this result:

The above list of eight entities therefore includes a confusing mixture of departments, funds, and subsidiaries. But neither funds nor departments require consolidation – they are already part of the holding company.

The analysis of the list also shows that one subsidiary is missing – Vose Foundation.

But is that all that is missing?

No, maybe not.  Are one or more of the following organisations also part of the ‘economic entity’?

  • Vose Seminary Library, a fund operated by BUWA (gifts to which are tax deductible).
  • Vose Foundation is the trustee for another charity, The Trustee for Thomas Bailey Trust.
  • The Annual Report of BUWA includes the financial statements of the charity Baptist Relief Fund Inc. Why isn’t this organisation consolidated?
  • The Annual Report includes a report on Baptistcare Inc. Elsewhere in the Report, this organisation is included in the family along with the campsites etc:

Who’s responsible for this mess?

The following people are listed as the ‘Responsible Persons’ of BUWA on the ACNC Register:

And unless you are in a position to command BUWA to prepare you a set of financial statements tailored to your needs, these are the people who, in deciding that BUWA ‘is not a reporting entity’, led to the preparation of accounts that are not the right ones for you – special purpose financial statements instead of general purpose financial statements.

Over to you Western Australian Baptists.

 

  1. But deception may well be the result.
  2. Vose presents to the world as a separate entity – own website, own premises – so you might expect that it has its own ABN (and then uses that to register as a charity). The fact that it doesn’t is OK so long as it operates under the same ‘business structure’ as the owner of an ABN:
  3. There are 11 directorships recorded for the name ‘Mark Wilson’, 10 for ‘Greg(ory) Holland’, and nine for ‘Bruce Watkins’. The ACNC Register has only charities, so if, after eliminating the entries in the Register that don’t belong to BUWA’s Mark Wilson, Gregory Holland and Bruce Watkins, you are left with their total being more than a handful, it would be legitimate for you to question whether their ability to discharge their fiduciary responsibilities is threatened.

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