For over a decade, CMA has followed with interest the ministry of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in the USA, and the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) in Canada. These organisations have, for decades, been accrediting Christian organisations against a set of standards, and in the process have made a tremendous contribution to the Christian sector in USA and Canada.
As scrutiny of charities in Australia increased, CMA began getting approaches from Australian ministries whose international partners were ECFA or CCCC members, asking if we might do the same here. Some even inquired about joining ECFA, only to find that ECFA is unable to accredit charities outside the USA.
CMA had developed relationships with ECFA and CCCC for years, and although the time wasn't right, the CMA board believed the concept would eventually have merit for Australian ministries.
In 2010, CMA published a simple set of standards, 'CMA's Essential Standards of Ministry Governance'. Although these standards were never meant to be the basis of accreditation, they nevertheless expressed in simple bullet-point form, a minimum set of behaviours that should be expected of any church or ministry board. Almost ten thousand print copies, and innumerable PDF copies are now in circulation, and organisations began asking CMA if they could be 'tested' against those standards, and be recognised as being in compliance with them.
While it wasn't practical to accredit against those standards, it became clear that something more than a simple self-assessment would be welcome. And so the CMA Board decided to proceed with the creation of the CMA Standards Council.
A significant donation, directed at strengthening ministry governance, allowed CMA to begin to explore the idea in more detail, including hosting small functions around Australia testing the concept. Valuable feedback emerged, suggesting that there would be support for an accreditation model similar to ECFA and CCCC. CMA applied for and received a significant grant and other financial support, not enough to underwrite the entire program, but enough to recruit an initial part-time Executive Director, and make a start.
In mid 2015, the recruiting process started for an Executive Director, part time. CMA received some excellent applications, and was thrilled to announce the appointment of Stephen Kerr to the position. Stephen's extensive experience as a lawyer, combined with his genuine passion for seeing Christian ministries become more effective, made an excellent fit for both the 'soft' and 'hard' aspects of the role. Stephen commenced in February 2016.
Meanwhile, in late 2015 a Standards Panel was formed, to ensure that the complicated and sensitive task of creating the standards, applying them, assessing against them, and arbitrating in cases of uncertainty, wasn't left in the hands of a single individual. This volunteer team has made an invaluable contribution to establish the initial set of standards, and ensure that there is collective wisdom for the staff team to draw upon as the Standards Council progresses.
A number of well-regarded Christian ministries offered (or were approached) to be part of a pilot program, which is underway until 2017. This pilot program will enable us to test the systems with live data, examine the Standards in a live working environment, and iron out any wrinkles in a collaborative test environment, before finally going live.