Florida Episcopal church discloses theft of up to $200,000

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Between $100,000 and $200,000 has been reported stolen from the Episcopal Church of the Advent, and a former church employee is now under investigation, according to the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

Church leadership called a last-minute meeting Wednesday night at the sanctuary at 815 Piedmont Drive to explain the situation to parishioners. About 100 of them came.

"What's happening to us is not a killing blow," said Al Kaempfer, chair of the church's finance committee. "We have good, strong assets as a church."

The loss was discovered after an audit, Kaempfer said. Some of the parishioners gasped when he told them the church's finances hadn't been audited since 1998.

After the church split in February 2006, it took about a year before the church's leadership could get things back in order. The audit is one of the business practices recently implemented as part of that reorganization.

Kaempfer told the congregation how much he wanted to tell them what happened, but he can't as long as the investigation is still open. He said it would jeopardize the church's ability to recoup the money. He asked them not to ask questions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry

Posted January 31, 2008 at 8:47 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Steven in Falls Church wrote:

I assume the unnamed person under investigation left with the breakaway contingent and is now at the Anglican parish.  There are three possibilities.  First, this could involve one or more funds where there is some question as to whether the fund is an asset of the Episcopal parish (and thus unremovable) or is structured in such a way as to allow it to move with the breakaway congregation.  If that’s the case then calling this “theft” is an overstretch.  Second, if the parish finances had not been audited for 8 years, there could be an assumption that unaccounted-for moneys must have been stolen.  It certainly seems unreasonable that the finances had not been audited for that long.  And third, this could truly be a case of outright theft.

January 31, 12:00 pm | [comment link]
2. Xwards wrote:

I would imagine that the church could easily afford the loss if they have a sanctuary large enough for over 100 people.

January 31, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
3. libraryjim wrote:

There is no evidence being presented that the funds were taken by someone who left ‘with the breakaway contingent’.  It could have been taken/removed anytime in the last TEN years (not eight 1998 to 2008 = ten years).  A lot of workers could have come and gone in that period of time.  But it does no one any good to make assumptions at this point.

January 31, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
4. libraryjim wrote:

My wife brings up an interesting question:

IS Bishop Howard requiring audits of all churches who have had a split recently, where one group forms an ‘Anglican’ parish? 

It will be interesting to hear the answer.

January 31, 2:07 pm | [comment link]
5. libraryjim wrote:

Later, my wife said, “Actually, I think it would be a good idea if Bp. Howard insisted that ALL churches in the diocese had an audit as soon as possible.  Not just those who had a split.”

I agree with her.
Jim E. <><

January 31, 3:12 pm | [comment link]
6. Brian of Maryland wrote:

As an ELCA congregation, we are required to yearly submit evidence of a financial review to our local synod office.  Is this not something required of TEC congregations?


January 31, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
7. Steven in Falls Church wrote:

Libraryjim—Sorry as I don’t mean to suggest such a thing likely happened.  This just seems like the beginning of what happened in Massachusetts, where the Diocese filed suit against All Saints Anglican parish and its pastor, the Rev. Lance Giuffrida, claiming that certain funds were inappropriately taken from an Episcopal parish by those who departed to form their own Anglican parish.  The question there was whether the funds belonged to the Episcopal parish or were sufficiently segregated, e.g., a special-use fund entirely under the control of the clergy or other individuals and thus not part of the parish assets.

January 31, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
8. Daniel wrote:

Folks - a “financial review” and even an official audit are no guarantee that fraud or theft of funds could not occur.  Granted, the public accounting profession has recently had the role of absolute fraud detector thrust on it, but a standard audit cannot provide 100% guarantees.  The public does not have a good understanding of the scope and limitations of a standard financial audit.

This news story has a somewhat “fishy” smell to it.  If I were part of the breakaway congregation I would recommend they offer to help pay for a full forensic audit, if they get to help pick the auditor, and the audit is done with normal standards governing independence.

January 31, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
9. Vintner wrote:

libraryjim, my understanding is that audits are not a diocesan policy but now are a canonical mandate.  I could be wrong but I think that was the way it was presented to us at convention some years ago.

January 31, 4:57 pm | [comment link]
10. libraryjim wrote:

Thanks for that, I haven’t been ‘in the loop’ on such matters, since I have never sat on a vestry.  The only positions I have held in church are lay reader and singer in the choir.

January 31, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
11. Wilfred wrote:

#2 Xwards-  Using your logic, you should easily be able to afford a loss of $20,000 if your living room can hold more than 10 people.

January 31, 5:32 pm | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

Church of the Advent has one of the nicest sanctuaries and office/ school complexes (they run a Christian pre-school) in the area.  One of the oldest chapels in Florida (St. Clement’s) was re-located many, many years ago to the church grounds and is used for the early service.  Please visit their web site.  However, I’m glad I left there before they offered the “U2-Charist”! If not before, I would have then!)

But the size of a building is no indication of the wealth of a parish, and the loss of 100,000 to 200,000 would seriously handicap a parish of ANY size in the North Florida area.

Please keep them and this situation in your prayers.

Jim E. <><

January 31, 6:52 pm | [comment link]
13. Little Cabbage wrote:

A thorough annual audit is always a good idea.  However, it must be carefully designed.  An audit is only as good as the questions it asks.

January 31, 9:34 pm | [comment link]
14. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Hmm, was that the “Browning canon” after the PB under whose watch similar though larger thefts were perpetrated upon 815 ?

January 31, 10:58 pm | [comment link]
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