By Rev. Kevin Nollette, Associate EP
It was my intention to write this week on the topic of cell-tower contracts. Another pressing matter has arisen and I think I will write about both. The theme is: “Sometimes things just aren’t what they seem,” or “If it seems too good be true, it isn’t true.”
Cell Phone Towers
Many churches are approached by cell phone companies about leasing part of the church’s property for placement of a cell phone tower or antenna. The church is often tempted because of the added income. The church is reassured that the cell tower will not affect the church and its ministry. Too often what is not considered are the long-term commitments that come with a cell tower contract.
Please remember that every contract that encumbers or commits the church’s property needs to be reviewed and approved by presbytery. Even contracts offering to manage your existing cell phone contracts require presbytery consultation and approval.
The contracts provided by cell phone companies are, of course, written to benefit the company while providing just enough incentive to make them appealing to the church. Often hidden in the small print are details that are decidedly not in the church’s interest. For example I’ve found clauses that obligate the church to pay the cell phone company’s property taxes on equipment, even if those taxes exceed the rental income to the church! It is therefore important that these contracts are carefully reviewed by the Session of the church as well as the presbytery’s Property and Finance Committee. Legal review may also be in order.
As I said earlier – “Sometimes things just aren’t what they seem,” or “If it seems too good be true, it isn’t true.”
Along the same thematic lines: The Pakistani “moderator”
The presbytery was treated at our July presbytery meeting to a report from a man who claimed to be the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan. Sadly, I must report that the presbytery was the victim of an imposter. We have learned that we are not alone in this deception. Throughout Pakistan, and now internationally, this individual has caused great turmoil in the church and in civil society through this ruse.
When we first met him he seemed to have all the right credentials and know all the right things to say. Eliana requested information from the General Assembly Mission Office on the relationship of this man to the church but they are in a staffing transition and the request was somehow lost or delayed. On the surface it appeared that all things were in order, and naturally our hearts went out to him with the story he shared of persecution and hardship.
We received confirmation late last week from the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan’s General Assembly office that the man was not ever a moderator of their church, nor do they have any record that he has been ordained as a minster. They also recounted some of the harm done to the church through his deception. This was reiterated by a response from the PC(USA) General Assembly Mission Office on Monday.
His story seemed to ring so true. Alas we were deceived. This is also an example that gives all the more reason to check the details and follow through on checking credentials. Not everything is what it appears.
Despite the ruse, there are very real needs in the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, and I hope that all of us have increased our awareness of their needs and challenges. I know that it has heightened my concerns about the challenges facing all Christians in that troubled land and deepened my prayer for them.