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Archived: Presbyterian Church Of Australia Aust Presbyterian World Mission Committee: charity review

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This is a charity review of Presbyterian Church Of Australia Aust Presbyterian World Mission Committee – yes, I’ve got the name right – (PWMC), 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 the previous review, see here.

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • I sent them a draft of this review. Like last year, they chose not to comment.

Is PWMC registered?

What do they do?

  • ‘What do we do?
    • aid and refugee work
    • audio distribution of the Bible
    • Bible translation
    • church planting
    • teaching English as a Second Language
    • Evangelism
    • IT support
    • mission aviation
    • primary/secondary education
    • short term work parties to Vanuatu
    • theological education
    • training Australian indigenous leaders
    • university lecturing
    • …and many other activities that help spread the gospel [APWM Information Leaflet, here.]
  • PWMC is a national organisation, a committee of the General Assembly of the church in Australia [The Presbyterian Church of Australia, Constitution, Procedure and Practice, paragraph 5.(a), governing document, ACNC Register]. It appears from the NSW Property Trust Act 1936, that the NSW church looks after all the affairs of the General Assembly [Chapter 12 of the above document].

Do they share the Gospel?[2]

  • Although it is only one thing in this long list, one would expect that at least some of the missionaries doing good works are also sharing the Gospel.

What impact are they having?

  • There is no indication that they are assessing their impact. (I searched for ‘outcomes’ and ‘results’ too.)

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

  • The figures for PWMC are contained within the financial statements of the Group, those of the Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust, along with those for eight other Presbyterian organisations. So no calculation is possible.

Do they pay their board members?

  • A 481-page document and unfamiliarity with the relationship between the parts of that document meant that I didn’t check whether they can pay such fees.
  • There is insufficient disclosure of expenses to say whether anybody in the Group paid their board members, let alone PWMC (one of nine organisations in the Group).

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No

Is their online giving secure?

  • PayPal is used, so yes.

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

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • They don’t have to report, their figures being included in a Group Financial Report.
    • That Report was submitted four months after the year-end, seven weeks 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 13 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: One wasn’t required.
    • It wasn’t required because of PWMC’s membership of the Group (see above). But even without this, it wouldn’t have to submit financial statements because it is a ‘basic religious charity’. The legislators apparently thought – I’ve not been able to find the reasoning – that there was enough accountability and transparency for you in the requirements of the religious system to which these charities belonged.
  • Financial Report 2016: One wasn’t required.
  • Group AIS 2016: Yes – although I don’t think the control of nine diverse Presbyterian organisations, one of which is the national ‘Missions Committee’, is fairly described as ‘Providing administration support to Presbyterian organisations in NSW’.
  • Group Financial Report 2016: (the report that includes PWMC’s figures): No, no true and fair view.
    • To produce the type of financial statements that imply that any stakeholders, past or prospective, can request a body controlling nine charities, earning $33.92 m p.a., and with 300 staff, can expect a positive response to their request for financial statements tailored to their needs is ridiculous.

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

  • No information on PWMC is available. You must trust the holding company. If this is not enough for you, then contact PWMC.

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • Nothing is disclosed.

What did the auditor say about the last (Group) financial statements?

  • The auditor, Meredith Scott for Ernst & Young, gave a ‘clean’ opinion.
  • But
    • as it’s on the consolidated financial statements, statements where PWMC is mentioned only on the cover as one of nine other entities whose figures have been included,
    • and as it’s accepting of special purpose financial statements (above),
    • you might question how much comfort on PWMC you can take from that.

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

  • No
    • An absence of countries under ‘Operates in (Countries)’ does not match the website information.
    • Is it really the case that just two people govern this charity?
    • ‘Who the Charity Benefits’ is blank.
    • Admittedly it’s only a trading name, but it’s incorrect (under ‘Other Name(s)’

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • There’s nothing about directors or a governing body on the website.
  • ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register shows two people:
    • Peter Merrick
    • Stephen Smith
    • The governing document says that there are considerably more than two people on the Committee:

To whom is PWMC accountable?

  • As a charity, to the ACNC.
    • Its ‘Charity Tick’ is used in the website footer in support of you giving to them.  And rightly so, because it would be unwise to give to a charity that is unregistered.   The ‘tick’ also means PWMC’s AIS is not overdue, and the ACNC has not taken any compliance action against it.
  • They are accountable because of their membership of Missions Interlink.
    • However, when they describe their membership, they make no mention of the accountability aspect.
      • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.



  1. I only checked in the name that they use on the website, the name that they told me last year was ‘the correct name’ (private email), Australian Presbyterian World Mission; ‘Fundraising’ is not mentioned on the website, so maybe their operations don’t include fundraising. But the internet invitation is fundraising. If their compliance with these laws is of concern to you, I’d ask them to explain.
  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.