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Accounting and religious influence in the seventh day Adventist church in the Pacific islands

Clayton Kuma (School of Accounting, Economics and Finance of the University of South Pacific, Suva, Fiji)
Peni Fukofuka (Business School, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Sue Yong (Accounting Department, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Pacific Accounting Review

ISSN: 0114-0582

Article publication date: 21 June 2023

Issue publication date: 6 November 2023

150

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the practice of accounting in the Seventh-day Adventist church of the Pacific Islands and pays particular attention to the coexisting of two control devices: accounting and religion.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper implemented a qualitative field study design collecting interview data from church members from the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji. Data were also collected through focus group discussions, document reviews, website analysis and participant observations. Pierre Bourdieu’s thinking on symbolic violence, doxa and capital are used to interpret the findings.

Findings

This paper’s main contribution shows that while there is a divine and profane divide, social agents, given their agency, can move back and forth from one side of the divide to the other. Accounting as a control device does not include features such as faith, which is helpful for decision-making; accordingly, religion is relied upon when it comes to decision-making. In contrast, accounting has features that are useful for stewardship purposes. Accordingly, when it comes to the church’s stewardship function accounting in the form of financial reports is relied upon.

Research limitations/implications

Pacific Island culture almost permeates all facets of life, including church life; however, this study did not clarify this. Later studies can explore the implications of culture on the deployment of accounting in a religious setting.

Practical implications

This rich empirical study describes the control dynamics and the tension between accounting and religion in a religious organisation. Accounting needs to adapt to churches’ unique characteristics, whereby religious/doctrinal beliefs must be accounted for and respected. Unlike in the corporate world, accountants in churches cannot fully practice their training or exercise the kind of influence they usually hold in organisations due to their religious belief systems.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is one of a few studies on the religion-accounting relationship. While the focus of earlier studies was generally on a secular and sacred divide, this study looks at coexisting of accounting and religion. This study adds to the sparse literature on accounting and religion and their controlling influence.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project was made possible with financial support from the School of Accounting, Finance and Economics of the University of the South Pacific.

Peni Fukofuka is a Senior Lecturer with the Business School, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Clayton Kumar is with the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance of the University of South Pacific, Fiji. Sue Yong is with the Accounting Department, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

Citation

Kuma, C., Fukofuka, P. and Yong, S. (2023), "Accounting and religious influence in the seventh day Adventist church in the Pacific islands", Pacific Accounting Review, Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 773-799. https://doi.org/10.1108/PAR-03-2021-0040

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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