On Denominations and Tithing….Live local. Give local.

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Bill and I are listening to Dr. David Jeremiah’s message on tithing. Tithing is not a church doctrine. It is a personal doctrine. He called it part of God’s plan for continuing Christ’s work in the world. As we matured in our faith we began tithing several decades ago and giving to special offering opportunities, as well, as God stirred our hearts. This year we have faced some difficult decisions concerning our tithe because we have become uncomfortable with the way in which some of the tithe we give is being allocated to purposes at denominational church levels higher than our local church where we have come to believe there is little accountability and priorities are being set in conflict with our understanding of God’s will. We trust God, but we have come to distrust some of the agencies, seminaries, causes, and individuals who are setting the course of our denomination. We believe that God has brought awareness of the ways that some of its institutional agencies and individuals are operating contrary to our consciences. We can no longer give in an undesignated manner that supports the apportionments paid to support the higher levels of the denomination. We will continue giving in a designated manner to our local church for its operation, programming, and missions, as long as the local church finance committee can assure that the intent of the designated giving is honored and that it is not used simply to shift dollars elsewhere to continue the full apportionment support to denomination. Protests against the polity and practices of the denomination and the injunctions of Scriptures by “progressive” forces within the denomination have been very public. May not those of us who oppose the progressive’s political agenda be public, too? And express the priorities of our lives as defined by our biblically informed consciences through how we give to the work of the Kingdom? We think yes.
As I stated in a message to a denomination bishop, this is not an original idea. It is being kicked around by a lot of people. Protest is brewing. Some individuals and churches enacted a similar strategy about a decade ago when a denomination-owned and funded camp facility hosted an organizational and strategy meeting of progressive activist individuals in leadership in the denomination intent on protesting the current polity in order to change it. For several years apportionments from some churches were reduced by the amount of support allocated for that facility.
The progressive activist movement is so widespread within the institutional agencies, committees, seminaries, and other entities of the denomination now that it is nearly impossible to target withholding of apportionment support as narrowly as was done then. But the principle is the same.
Many people will continue in fellowship with their faith community but disconnect themselves from the denomination…..as many non-member attendees have done for years. Denomination no longer means very much to many. That is what progressive activism and politicalization of denominations and denominational practices and policies has wrought. Legalistic maneuvering to force political agendas upon the religious beliefs and practices of others has resulted in increasingly localizing of faith communities and their institutions away from denominationalism. If one looks at Acts and the early church, it seems that is exactly what Christ intended!