Tougher times in Queenstown may be causing tithes to tumble at Frankton’s City Impact Church.
Newly-filed accounts obtained by Mountain Scene show “tithes and offerings” at the new-age evangelical church plunged to $188,000 in 2010.
That’s down $278,000 from the $466,000 in tithes which City Impact’s congregation coughed up in 2009.
The steep fall contributed to a $49,000 loss for the Queenstown church in 2010, compared with a profit of $154,000 the previous year.
Local City Impact pastor Daryl Watson won’t estimate how many church members have left Queenstown to work elsewhere.
“Some have left and gone to Christchurch and different places,” he admits.
Watson previously estimated his flock at about 150 churchgoers.
Tithing, a 10 per cent worship tax, is heavily pushed at City Impact – a Sunday service attended by Mountain Scene in 2010 saw churchgoers reminded that tithes are accepted by credit card, cheque, automatic payments or cash.
The sheer scale of tithing is shown in 2009 financials for the City Impact Trust, apparently the master entity for the five New Zealand and two overseas churches.
Tithes brought in $3.8 million that year and were a major contributor to the master trust’s bottom-line profit of $455,000.
Despite such solid profit and $11.4m of equity, City Impact escapes all taxation because it’s a registered charity.
City Impact isn’t so charitable about media enquiries – at least not from Mountain Scene.
The paper asked about a company called City Impact Queenstown Enterprises Ltd – to which the Queenstown church has lent $474,560.
City Impact founder and senior pastor Peter Mortlock personally owns 40 per cent of the Enterprises company, with two other church trustees personally owning the balance – all three are directors.
Queenstown pastor Watson refuses to say whether the Enterprises company sells City Impact merchandise such as books and videos.
Asked why he won’t comment, Watson says: “The last article you done was very inflammatory and slanderous of the church – when as a church, we do a lot of good in our community.”
That’s true – City Impact is involved in a range of heart-warming initiatives in Queenstown, including an annual donated goods giveaway and Secret Santa gifts for those in need at Christmas.
Mountain Scene approached the City Impact operations director and pastor Tim Look in Auckland on the Enterprises company.
Look says the Enterprises company is dormant: “It hasn’t been used for years – it’s not books or tapes or selling anything, it was set up on the advice of, like, best accounting practice.”
MS: What’s the $474,000 loan from the church for, then?
Look: “I’m not the accountant, I’m just passing on what I know.”
MS: Can we speak to the accountant?
Look: “No you can’t – no.”