|The Christadelphian Office|
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Most people employed within Christadelphian organisations are employed to give practical services to the members and most of these are for their Care Homes. These activities are not ones that are directly involved in preaching and therefore it is not inconsistent with the primary stance of the community.
Many of the other organisations are involved with preaching such as the Bible Mission. Generally they will help with expenses, but they do not directly pay those who preach or do work. It is expected that this should be done voluntarily and without pay.
The anomaly is the Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association which has nine staff. It’s an anomaly too because the community now has a number of magazines all of which run without paid staff.
It is interesting that this is where a major Christadelphian fraud did take place and it is also interesting to consider what difference monetising a Christadelphian database has actually made. After all this has been the criticism of having a paid priesthood.
There are potential benefits to the community just as there are with a paid ministry. A paid magazine can identify and work on larger projects than an unpaid one can. It can employ talent volunteers may lack, particularly in technical areas. This isn’t demonstrable however with the CMPA. Its readership in the UK is largely due to the fact that it was the first major magazine to exist and has historically compiled information of baptisms, deaths and other events. Although it often had a co-ordinating and leadership role this has never been official and to a large degree no longer exists today. In practice therefore it is now simply a publishing house.
The main Christadelphian magazine has changed. In presentation terms it now looks like a modern magazine and it has sought to simplify its appeal. Its writers are less accomplished than early Christadelphians and largely rehash accepted positions. In its original days it was more adversarial. It could not be separated from its fierce debates with other churches for instance. It therefore has moved to a more institutionalised position. This may also be why its appeal has diminished. It is no longer moving the community forward or actively countering contemporary threats or spearheading preaching. Its focus is existing, long term Christadelphians and a flashy cover won’t change that.
If it is to move forward then it really has to regain some of its early character and credibly answer the contemporary objections that are found for instance on websites like this one. With huge amounts of new information and perspectives now being widely shared this is a faster moving environment and it would need to address these also on the online mediums as well. It was formed in the nineteenth century when journals and magazines were the principle way to communicate over distances and that has now changed.
More folk today look online and the young folk and potential new recruits will want answers to questions and issues raised online as well as how living is practically affected by the modern world.
It seems that making money to support existing staff and maintain revenues is what the emphasis has turned towards. With a declining readership that is understandable, but that represents a lack of vision and a diminishing of earlier ideals.
For instance it has no links to other sites which would provide free resources to those who are looking for answers. It simply focuses on that which can be sold. A few years ago it provided Elpis Israel in the new edition for free, now it sells it online as an ebook. It provides mainstream Christian materials which can be purchased cheaper online from Amazon. It still sells books from its former disgraced editor including one titled, “The Beauty of Holiness.” If it is to retain a useful purpose to the community the continued employment of staff has to play a secondary role to its earlier principles that the gospel having been freely given should be freely transmitted.
That is acknowledgedly hard for existing staff, but in a large community where the intention is to “love each other as themselves” and they are “members one of another” surely there are ways to help each other through that.
Here is a segment from their statement to the Charity Commission:
The trustees recognise their duty to identify and review risks to which the charity is exposed and to ensure appropriate controls are in place to provide reasonable assurance against fraud and error.
The identified risks in recent years have been
(a) a reducing readership within the Christadelphian community of magazines and books.
(b) extended production times for new publications due to other company activities; and
(c) the holding of large stocks of books and pamphlets which may take many years to sell.
Recognition of these risks has encouraged the trustees
(a) to continue to review the format and contents of the magazines with a view to increasing their appeal;
(b) to examine carefully the publication of new books and re-prints which are most likely to appeal to Christadelphian readers;
(c) to establish and fulfil firm publication dates for new material;
(d) to use appropriate printing methods to limit, without extra unit cost, the number of copies printed in order to provide stocks equivalent to no more than 5 years projected sales;
(e) to diversify into the production and distribution of electronic media, including making available valuable archival material;
(f) to seek ways of increasing the efficiency of production, sales and distribution;
(g) to improve the marketing and ordering facility by means of an effective website that provides a facility for online purchasing and payment by credit card.These are conservative objectives and the Christadelphian community was not formed on the idea of “risk management.” It was about proclaiming the true gospel at personal risk and personal cost. Sure risk from a charity commission perspective means using donated funds wisely, but in a Christadelphian context that means a commitment to truth, principles and veracity of preaching have to come first.