Can We Make Tithing Less Taxing? (Part 2)
By Ken Sloane
Q: So, should we still tithe ten percent even though The United Methodist Church spends money in ways I sharply disagree with? How do I resolve that?
For my second installment on tithing questions I have received, I wanted to share this one with you. It is an actual question that I responded to in a back-and-forth email exchange.
Our tithing should be a joyful act, born out of gratitude and our way of honoring God.
People vote with their money every day. God is not solely interested in what we do with the ten percent of our money that we devote to God’s agenda, but equally concerned about our faithfulness in what we do with the part of the money we keep. We need to be conscious of how we spend the ninety percent– what products we purchase, what kind of employment practices we support, what justice issues are involved in the products that line store shelves. These are all legitimate topics for study and reflection by Christians.
What happens when someone withholdstheir tithe as a way of expressing disagreement, or hurt feelings Doesnt that reflect that the tithe is less about honoring God and more about asserting ourselves as consumers Can withholding ourtithe be used as a form of punishment, and still reflect the sincere gratitude that should be its source
We should be aware that when we withhold support from our church, we may unintentionally be undermining work we believe in. This has an impact locally and globally.
Here is the email exchange referenced above. I have changed the writer’s name to “Joe.” In this instance, his objection involved our General Board of Church and Society, although other agencies (and bodies, including annual conferences) have been in the cross hairs of unhappy church members as well.
Joe’s email: So, should we still tithe ten percent even though The United Methodist Church spends money in ways I sharply disagree with? How do I resolve that?
Ken’s email: Your question was forwarded to me, and I will try my best to advise. Of course, the decision about what you give is your own.
Let me first ask for clarity around your statement: "even though The United Methodist Church spends money in ways I sharply disagree with.” Is this reference to money being spent by your local church or by the larger global church?
You may not be aware that only about two cents of each dollar you give to your local church goes to the work of the global church. If you reduce your tithe to your local church, the greater impact is felt locally in the support of many aspects of ministry that you might not want to hurt.
If you can provide me with more information about the spending that you find objectionable, we might be able to find a better way for you to express your feelings.
Thanks for your generous giving to the church!
Joe’s email: I sharply object to much of what the Global Board of Church & Society spends tithe money on, especially since apportionments force me to accept it.
Along that line, I'd like to know the money amount GBCS received in 2014, and the percentage of those monies of the UM Church 2014 revenue.
Then I can divert that percent into my church's capital building fund, which stays here. If this hurts other UM efforts, it's because of UM formulas and the insistence that GBCS gets a piece of the pie. The UMC does not give us options.....like U.S. government taxation.
Thanks for your response; I await the $$ and % answers I seek.
Ken’s email: Joe,
Here are the numbers you requested. I’ve also included a link to the publication that I used as the source:
TOTAL BUDGET FOR THE GENERAL GLOBAL CHURCH
2013-2016 $603M (Decrease of 6%) or $151M/YR
TOTAL WORLD SERVICE PART OF THE BUDGET
2013-2016 $308M (Decrease of 7.7%) or $77M/YR
Percentage of all General Church Apportioned Funds: 51%
PORTION ALLOCATED FOR GENERAL BOARD OF CHURCH & SOCIETY
2013-2016 $11.1M (Decrease of 6%) or $2.75M/YR
Percentage of Total Budget for General Church: 1.8%
In 2015, the TOTAL EXPENDITURES by all churches in the US was $6.1 billion.
2.18% of that was for the GENERAL CHURCH BUDGET (this percentage has been decreasing since 1998, see page 6 in the linked document).
So, if a local church member puts $100 in the offering plate, $2.18 is used for the entire GENERAL CHURCH BUDGET.
Since Church and Society gets 1.8 percent of that $2.18, from a $100 donation, that agency would get less than $.04. For a member who gives $5,000 per year, only $1.96 of that member’s donation would go to Church and Society.
From what I sense in your letter, there might be some work done by GBCS that you would support, such as helping youth make good decisions about drinking, smoking, and drug use, for example. A better way to share your disagreement with other issues might be in to email the general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe. I’m sure she would be willing to explain to you the GBCS position on issues and listen to your concerns. That is a much better way to influence policy than withholding a portion of your tithe.
Please contact me if I can be of any further help; and again, thank you for being a generous giver!
Thanks for reading this all the way through. I truly hope that people will thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the “collateral damage” when they withhold their giving to protest a position or decision with which they disagree. Expressing your opinion directly, as I advised in this email exchange, is a much more effective way to let your opinions be known!
And let your tithe be a tithe -- a joyful way of honoring God, out of an awareness of all for which you are grateful!