Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Irvine, HJ, Pass the plate around again: a study of budgeting in a local church, Proceedings of Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Research (ANZTSR) Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 17-19 June 1998.


How does a religious organization, with a spiritual agenda, reconcile the inevitable tension between its spiritual aims and the necessity of providing funds in order to fulfill those aims? What part does accounting play in the working out of this tension? Are there implications, because of spiritual considerations, for the acceptance of accounting as a legitimate management tool? How does a religious organization protect its belief system from the potential corruption accounting might bring? These are all issues that have been raised in the study of churches and other religious organizations from the point of view of a sacred/ secular tension. This potential tension forms the backdrop for this study of a local church’s budgeting system. Reliance is placed on a “skeletal” model of organizations and change, and strategies are identified whereby the church members “sanctify” the process of accounting. By controlling the setting of the agenda, limiting the use of accounting and who performs accounting tasks, and “sacredizing” the purpose and use of money, the central belief structure is preserved.