Publication Details

This article was originally published as Irvine, HJ, Balancing money and mission in a local church budget, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 2005, 18(2), 2005, 211-237. Copyright Emerald. Original journal avalaible here.


Purpose. This study of budgeting practices and attitudes to budgeting in a local church uses Booth’s (1993) framework to consider the potential conflict between the “sacred” agenda of the church and the “secular” nature of accounting. Design/methodology/approach. Over a six month period, the author conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with key church leaders, and studied financial reports and the minutes of church meetings. Findings. Clergy and lay people alike, far from viewing accounting as an unwelcome intrusion into their church’s sacred agenda, integrated belief in their church’s mission with the need to raise and manage the money necessary to mobilise that mission. Research limitations/implications.Religion and religious organizations occupy a greater importance in society than academic accounting research would indicate, and this paper represents a response to that academic blind spot. Opportunities abound for further studies of the contribution accounting makes to other religious organizations, and to non-profit organizations whose goals are not primarily wealth creation. Practical implications. All organizations, even those with a sacred agenda, need to confront the reality of money and accounting if they are to achieve success. If they are unable to obtain or account for the resources they need for their mission, their ability to fulfil that mission is likely to be compromised. Originality/value. By portraying accounting as an enabling and liberating contributor to a church’s fulfilment of its spiritual mission, this study demonstrates that attitudes to accounting are inextricably intertwined with religious beliefs, and that accounting can be a valuable tool in a cooperative attempt to implement a spiritual vision.



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