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Vision Church

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Hello. If you have reached here, you are most likely somebody who has an interest in Vision Church in Canberra. Maybe you are a member, or considering becoming a member. Maybe you give to this church, or are considering giving. Or one of the 120 or so people[1]who help out at this church. A supplier, a lender, one of the people or organisations to which Vision donates. You may even be one of the staff members or Board members. Whoever you are, welcome. You have arrived at an independent review of Vision[2].


Although it is written principally from the point of view of donors or prospective donors[3], you should all get something out of it.

Vision’s response

A draft of this review was sent to Vision. They…did not respond.


In Australia, churches are also charities. And we have a charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The ACNC has an article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, that gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”. So, let’s follow that advice in this review.


[Instead, jump straight to see how Vision spent it’s money]


Here’s what the ACNC say you should do:

  1. Check the charity’s name.
  2. Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3. Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4. No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one, and
  5. Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.


Here’s the results for ‘Vision Church’, with consideration also given to the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support[4].

Question 1

A search on the ACNC Register for ‘Vision Church’ gives one charity with that name, Vision Church. But ‘Vision Church’ is a business name[5], not the name under which Vision is registered. (The business name should be under ‘Also known as’ on the Register.)

The directors

Before we move on to question 2, let’s identify who’s responsible for the decisions at Vision

The Register discloses that these are the current directors[6]:


  • eight people, four of whom are closely connected with Andrew Baker, the chair of the Board and the ‘CEO’ of Vision.
  • four independent directors[7] – but they are not independent of each other.
  • the Board’s eight members includes two of the three pastors, and their spouse.
  • the Board, not the members,
    • admits members
    • removes members
    • appoints pastors
    • removes pastors
    • selects new Board members. (This is subject to a vote by the members, but experience in similar situations says that it is unlikely that the Board nominations would be overturned)
  • there is no oversight by elders


Back to the ACNC’s questions:

Question 2

It would be unusual for a church to use either door-to-door or street collectors, and there is nothing to indicate that Vision does.

Question 3

The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above[8]]. However, Vision does not offer online giving.

Question 4

It would be unusual for a church to be entitled to receive tax deductible gifts, and indeed Vision isn’t [‘Will my donation be tax deductible?’, Visions Register entry].

Question 5

[Jump straight to where the money went]

The context

Here’s how Vision describes itself:


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There is no vision, mission or purpose given on the website, but this is the ‘Mission Statement’ in the constitution:


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The church’s beliefs are on the website:


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In 2003, when the constitution was written, in addition to Scripture references, these three beliefs were also included:

  • He works in and through us with His charismatic gifts.
  • We believe in the resurrection of every person: to eternal life for the believer and eternal judgment for the lost.
  • We believe in unity for all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and seek community together. We want to become more like Him in every way, who (sic) the head of His body, the Church. We are called to love Him and one another and are enabled to do this only as His life flows in and through us [clause 3].


For comparison, here’s the statement of faith of the Australian Evangelical Alliance (EA Foundation).


The church’s values are also on the website:


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(Notice the absence of anything about decision making, church government, or leadership.)


From these beliefs and values flow their activities, their ‘ministries’ [the third item in the main menu:


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That’s nine (9) programs, yet Vision continues to only include the last two in their Register entry, and their Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2021.

Fyshwick Soup Kitchen

This began on 3 June 2021[9], but for the AGM five months later the pastors’ report[10] has no information on how it’s gone:


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It must be thought to be a good idea though, because it’s to continue.


The financial statements (see below) do not disclose the expenses of the Kitchen.

Vision Worship

The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:


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The financial statements show the cost of ‘Music and sound equipment’ as $125K.


The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:


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The generosity mentioned here totalled $32K. That’s just 3% of the year’s revenue.


They do not mention here the people overseas to whom they send money. (Nor do they in the Financial Report]. One individual and three couples. The total was $40K. And that’s just 4% of the year’s revenue.

Prayer and Prophetic

The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:


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The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:


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The description on the website.

See ‘Women’, above, for the only mention by the pastors’ of homegroups.


The description on the website.

The pastors’ report, showing that it didn’t quite happen as it should have done:

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Youth and Young Adults

The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:


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The description on the website.


From the pastors’ report:

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Sharing the Gospel?[11]



Vision operates in Australia, per the Register, only in the ACT (at 1 Lithgow Street, Fyshwick).


Although they were alerted to the requirement last year, Vision still doesn’t disclose the locations overseas where they operate.

How activities translated into dollars spent

The account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2021 on the ACNC Register. This Report includes an audit opinion.


This Report was lodged on the ACNC Register on 4 November 2021. Given that the financial statements were not to be considered by the members for another three+ weeks, don’t you think that this action shows a lack of respect for the members?


Do you think you are able to ring the Vision office and require them to produce a report that gives you all the information you need about Vision? For instance, a report on the Soup Kitchen? On where and to whom money was sent overseas last year? And so on. The directors of Vision say that it’s in your power as a stakeholder to do that[12], so ring away.


However, if you believe, as we do, that that’s an unreasonable belief, then the directors have chosen the wrong kind of financial statements to put in the Financial Report 2021. They’ve produced ‘special purpose financial statements’ rather than ‘general purpose’.


The consequence of this decision is that the directors have had to disclose less than they would have otherwise had to disclose. Less transparency, less accountability.

Who was responsible?

The Board Report discloses that the eight people above were responsible for the Financial Report 2021 (and hence the above decision).


You might ask ‘Where was the auditor in all this?’ Good question. If you are someone who is ‘unable to command the preparation of reports tailored so as to satisfy, specifically, all of [your] information needs’ from Vision, then he was either unaware of his professional requirements or mistaken.


You see, the auditor, Bhaumik Bumia of Hardwickes, agreed with the directors’ choice. Apart from him agreeing that all who are interested can get tailored reports from Vision, he is a Chartered Accountant (CA), and his professional body has given this opinion on the choice[13]:


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With professional management (seven employees), an almost complete dependence on donations, (totalling $995K), a large loan, multiple suppliers, 120 volunteers, influence not only in Canberra but overseas, and a government grant, there is little support for Vision being ‘the exception rather than the rule’.

Auditor Bumia’s report

Question: would you prefer the organisation receiving your dollars or time to have received an unqualified audit opinion? That is, a ‘clean’ opinion – no qualifications to the auditor’s ‘tick’. If that’s not important to you, then you can jump to the next section.


If you expect the organisation to be able to offer you a ‘clean’ or unqualified opinion, you’ll be disappointed with Vision. Bumia again this year gave a qualified opinion:


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What this means is that the auditor could give no assurance that the offerings recorded in the books of account were all the offerings given. This was because the directors still hadn’t put in place any controls to ensure that none of the offering went missing. Why hadn’t Vision done this? We don’t know – the directors still don’t explain what is stopping them from doing this.


It’s not as if the techniques don’t exist. There are numerous guides available to show churches how to avoid such a qualification. Here is the one by the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board that we referred Vision to last year[14]:


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And it’s not as if it is a deficiency that the directors have to accept. Four out of the five Protestant churches of the same size (‘Large’) as Vision were able to avoid this audit qualification in their last reports[15].


The auditor says that the impracticality of instituting the necessary controls is ‘common’. Whether or not one out of five is ‘common’ can be debated; however, what do you think of the Vision directors’ being in the 20% rather the 80%? If other similar churches can implement the controls, why can’t Vision? And if there is something unique about their circumstances, why can’t they give the reader of the financial statements the courtesy of an explanation?


Furthermore, even if we were to conclude that the practice is ‘common’, that doesn’t make it right does it?


The auditor also said that the cash offerings were 5% of ‘revenue’. That’s $36K. There were very few physical services in the year – if any – that had a cash collection of tithes and offerings. Is it really the case that so much was collected in cash? If not, then the lack of controls would not have been a problem, and no qualification to the audit opinion was necessary.

A true and fair view

The directors, in their Board Members’ Declaration [Financial Report 2021], say that ‘the financial statements and notes satisfy the requirements of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012’. This means that they must (a) comply with all the Accounting Standards in some things and certain Standards for other things, and (b) show what’s called a ‘true and fair view’. But

Repeated from last year

  • the directors continue to classify ‘Building fund contributions’ and ‘Miscellaneous income’ as ‘Other income’, rather than revenue[16]. This understates revenue by $291K, or 41%
  • Vision recorded a surplus (profit) representing 34% ($342K) of its revenue. The directors don’t explain why such a profit was necessary
  • they don’t explain why there is an asset called ‘Leasehold improvements’ ($22K) when the lease on the building ended on 31 March 2020 [Financial Report 2020]
  • the Statement of Changes in Equity does not disclose all that is required by AASB 101
  • there is no reconciliation between the accrual statement (the Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income), and the cash statement (the Statement of Cash Flows)[17].
  • Vision has a bookshop, but there is no explanation for the absence of inventory in the accounts
  • the disclosure of ‘Cash flows from operating activities (in the Statement of Cash Flows) has not been adapted to Vision’s circumstances
  • there are a number of Notes missing. For instance, the ones about new Accounting Standards.

New this year

  • there’s no explanation for why $1.35 million of short term liabilities compared to only $44K of short term assets, that is, a very large deficiency in the means to repay liabilities, isn’t a threat to Vision being able to continue as a going concern
  • they show $164K of the revenue, 16% of the total, as ‘Miscellaneous income’ Wouldn’t you like to know what’s in this item?
    • From the information in the AIS 2021 it appears that nearly all this money is donations. Why is it hidden under ‘Miscellaneous’?
    • If the AIS is accurate this means that donations are grossly understated in the financial statements
  • why are there no loan repayments shown in the Statement of Cash Flows?
  • Is the disclosure of the revenue correct? Vision’s AIS 2021 shows a different picture.
  • the Board Members’ Declaration is undated

The use of donations

If you are still willing to rely on the accounts, this is where the donations went (with last year’s in the second column):


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  • ‘Mission tithes and offerings’ declined 25% even though non-building offering revenue increased 12%. No explanation is given.
  • what is included in ‘Administration expense’?
    • And they have increased 60%. No explanation is given.
  • ‘Employee costs – general’? ‘General’ compared to what?
    • Why is the figure $61K less than that shown for ‘’Employee expenses’ in the AIS 2021?
    • There were three full time, two part time, and two casual employees [AIS 2021]. They cost 54% of the expenses (up from 51% last year).
  • the amount directed to ‘missions’ was 13% of expenses, 8% of revenue.


Nothing systematic on impact was found.



  1. Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2021, Vision’s entry on www.acnc.gov.au
  2. We’ve reviewed them before. Here’s the last one.
  3. In addition to the usual expectation that those attending give to the church, the website still has an invitation to help fund their new church building (towards the bottom here) [From the website 10 December 2021:Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated
  4. A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:
    1. Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.
    2. Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?
    3. Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?
    4. Is the charity being transparent about its activities?

  5. Asic.gov.au:Text Description automatically generated with medium confidence
  6. The Board is not shown on the website.
  7. A majority is generally considered best practice; for example see Standard 3.3 in the Standards issued by the CMA Standards Council, an organ of the Australian evangelical movement.
  8. ‘https’ does not, as implied by the ACNC, appear in all browsers.
  9. The Soup kitchen plan is mentioned in the Minutes of the 2020 AGM.
  10. Graphical user interface, text, application, email Description automatically generated
  11. ‘When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett says this about sharing the Gospel: ‘A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in militant Muslim or Hindu settings. But without such a presentation, it is not possible for people to be personally transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about [Kindle Locations 1262-1264, Moody Publishers].
  12. From the Notes to the Financial Statements, Financial Report 2021, ACNC Register:Text Description automatically generated
  13. Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020.
  14. www.auasb.gov.au, page 17, accessed 17 December 2020
  15. C3 Church Watson Inc, Crossroads Christian Church Inc., C3 Church Monash Inc, and Life Unlimited Church Ltd.
  16. The distinction is not just a nicety: for instance, reporting obligations of charities are based on ‘charity size’, and ‘charity size’ is based on revenue, not income.
  17. Cash that is said to be from ‘customers’.