Tithe: the Biggest Story of the Year


(Spectrumbot) #1

For the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesan, the total gross amount of tithe in 2018, a record-breaking $2.5 billion, was thus, the church’s biggest story of the year. Tithe went up $89 million, or 3.6%, he told the Church’s Executive Committee at their Spring Meeting. The increase in the United States was particularly dramatic. It went from $1.022 billion to $1.077 billion. Mission offerings worldwide were also up to $88.3 million, although where the increase occurred was the reverse of the tithe story. The U.S. mission offerings were flat, but they went up in the rest of the world.

Every Sabbath in 2018, the amount collected in offering plates around the world amounted to $50 million in tithe and mission offerings. “If you add local giving, you’re talking about far more — this is what I call the silent miracle,” Prestol-Puesan said. “We would not be reporting to you these positive numbers, if not for the generosity of our members.”

Tithe is now also one of the most hotly debated topics in administrative circles, following the 2018 vote by the North American Division Executive Committee to discuss with the General Conference how parity in tithe percentages sent to the General Conference can be accomplished. Currently the NAD sends about 6% of tithe, while the other divisions send 2%. Prestol-Puesan did not mention the ongoing negotiation about tithe percentages in his report on Tuesday, April 9. Looking forward to 2019 and 2020, he did say the (NAD) tithe percentage would decline according to policy to 5.85% at the end of 2020. But that is the percentage that was scheduled before the NAD vote.

There were no questions following his presentation. Perhaps that was in recognition of the ongoing negotiations. The General Conference and Division Officers had met on Monday evening before the start of Spring Meeting, but failed to come to agreement. That committee met again on Tuesday evening. Plus, the presidents were called to a third meeting on Wednesday. But there was still no resolution. One of the committee members said that the only thing all of them could agree upon was that all parties were not happy. Annual Council is the designated time in church policy to deal with changes in tithe. This year the meeting will take place October 10-16.

Following Prestol-Puesan’s report, former General Conference Treasurer Robert Lemon was invited to pray. In a memorable and moving prayer, he reminded the leaders that in the Bible, offerings were burned. “I have often wondered what would happen if we burned our tithes and offerings,” he said. “God doesn’t need our money, he needs our hearts and lives.”

Luckily, the Stewardship Department report did not immediately follow his prayer. When it was their turn at the microphone, they shared materials they had prepared to help the younger generation become active tithe payers. God First is a stewardship video series prepared for millennials that comes with materials for group activities before watching the video. In the copies of the quarterly magazine Dynamic Stewardship that were distributed there was also an ad for the Pathfinder’s Stewardship Honor developed by the NAD Stewardship Ministries that will be offered at the 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Spring Meeting was the aborted discussion of the “Reconfiguration of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division and Attaching the Chinese Union Mission to the General Conference.” Live-streaming was stopped for this item that was scheduled for two hours of discussion. But the first commenter pointed out that such realignment of territory, according to the Working Policy, could only be made at Annual Council. A recommendation for the proposed change was voted to be taken to Annual Council.

In the other reports during the Spring Meeting, division leaders were reminded of upcoming deadlines for activities tied to the 2020 General Conference Session such as the Strategic Plan for 2020-2025 and the rollout of the Adventist Encyclopedia. Jim Howard, associate director of the General Conference Department of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, presented a plan for the next phase of Total Member Involvement (TMI). He said TMI 2.0 will go deeper into every local church and broader to sponsor a worldwide evangelistic effort.

There were receptions in two newly renovated office spaces: Adventist World Radio and the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Remodeling continues as the space left vacant when the North American Division moved out of the building is being utilized by other departments and agencies.

Reports on two new training programs were given. A Community Services and Urban Ministries Certification Program has been developed in a unique collaboration between ADRA and Sabbath School and Personal Ministries. Input from many organizations was sought according to May-Ellen Colon who said the program has now been offered in 11 divisions. Recently, the curriculum was put online through the Adventist Learning Community. She talked about community services as preparing the soil for other evangelistic efforts of the local church.

There is also a new certificate program for Adventist history teachers, and it comes with tuition

sponsored by the General Conference. It is a post-master’s level program with half of the credits transferable to a doctoral program. The plan is to offer the three-week intensive on four different Adventist university campuses. The first will be at Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, the second at Peruvian Union University, the third at Adventist University of Africa, and the fourth at Polish College of Technology and Humanities.

There was no mention of the Compliance Committees voted at Annual Council in 2018. So, with the good news of the 2018 tithe and other reports received, it was time to practice the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan theme “I Will Go.”

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image: Juan Prestol-Puesan delivers the Treasurer’s Report at the 2019 GC Spring Meeting. Image courtesy of Flickr.com / Adventist News Network.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated. The increase in United States giving has been corrected. It increased from $1.022 billion to $1.077 billion. (It previously stated $1.22 billion to $1.77 billion.) The name of the Associate Director of the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department has also been corrected. It is Jim not Ron Howard We apologize for the errors.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9541

(George Tichy) #2

Based on the report that the money keeps pouring in so freely, maybe the GC understood that people are already being compliant enough. If they comply with their monetary obligations, this is what matters the most anyway. Therefore, let’s just leave the “other compliance” alone for a while - not to disturb what is going so well now… :roll_eyes: :innocent:


(Elmer Cupino) #3

Perhaps the GC should add another Compliance Committee to make certain our GC officers adhere to “Working Policy.” LOL!!!


(George Tichy) #4

Maybe they are already working too much… :innocent:


(Elmer Cupino) #5

Too much money in the coffers is a seductive factor that fuels a sense of entitlement that constituents are supportive of any actions officers place in their agenda, even when it is against their own Working Policy.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #6

TW will take this as a validation for his ultra right conservative policies.

The real truth is that another conservative person is at the root of this augmentation in tithe income : DONALD TRUMP!

Our splendid President has created a roaring economy.

Our Caucasian, more wealthy members, mostly retirees, have seen huge boosts in their pension funds / investment holdings / IRAs , due to an incendiary stock market. And the value of homes / real estate is also in an uptrend.

Blacks, Hispanics, Asians have the lowest unemployment rates in history. Since Adventism in NAD today, is heavily weighted to minority groups, the economic boost for this demographic is now reflected in stellar tithe receipts. Even teenagers are reveling in great job opportunities.

Salary growth, particularly for the lower earning groups, is in an uptrend.

Bottom line : When people feel more economically secure, they open their pocket books.


(George Tichy) #7

Isn’t that called “abuse of power by exploiting people’s stupidity?”
I thought so.


(Steve Mga) #8

I wonder what Administrative costs are in real $$?
I’m sure TOTAL Administrative costs combined for all conferences, unions,
divisions and the home office at Silver Springs is probably astronomical.

Is there a lot of redundancy that could be consolidated and cut staff?


(Steve Mga) #9

Strategic plan theme – “I will go…”
GO WHERE? WHAT will they DO when they get there???
And, WHO is going???


(Kim Green) #10

Such pertinent questions, Steve! Perhaps they will have to form new committees to decide. :rofl::innocent:


(Steve Mga) #11

“GO”
Maybe they are stealing a slogan from the Atlanta Diocese of Episcopalians!!
“The Go Guide: 10 steps for innovations in ministry from Luke 10”. Was created
and published in September 2016.

  1. Read Luke 10:1-42. 2. Appointed. 3.Sent. 4. Go Together. 5. Pray.
  2. Travel Light. 7. Stick With It. 8. Ask Questions. 9. Check the Ditches.
  3. Bandage Somebody. 11. Keep Listening. 12.Epilogue – Get Going.
    Except it is OK to partner with other E. churches in and out of the Diocese.
    OK to partner with Non- E. neighbors for the common good.
    Consult the community BEFORE deciding on a project.
    Potential of becoming self-sustaining in 3 years.
    Does not have to reach huge numbers of people – and is not “charity” or “help”.
    Has to have built in ways of measuring how well the experiment is successful or not.
    Has a detailed budget.
    What is your idea of getting the church [the people of God] outside the building?
    Should have the potential for mutual transformation and growth – of all involved.

St. Francis partners with 6 community groups and contributes to their budget needs,
and members also volunteer with them. We also partner with a group who supports
the education of 250 Haitian children, grades 1-6 every year. It was originally begun
by a St. Francis Sunday School class with a budget of $1000 per year. Now the
Budget Needs is $60,000 a year. And LOTS of Macon businesses contribute to it,
in addition to 3 Macon Episcopal churches.


(Cfowler) #13

But, but, but…remember "

And yet,

And, it’s “The Biggest Story of the Year”.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #14

STEVE MGA:

You rightfully ask:

IS THERE A LOT OF REDUNDANCY ?

Absolutely, since the multi layered administrative structure of Adventism was set up in the “horse and buggy “ age
—pre freeways, pre automobiles, pre planes, pre telephones, pre internet. In those days travel was arduous and slow, so it was appropriate to have conference offices close to congregations.

Nowadays a stockbroker on a Caribbean island can compete with his colleagues on Wall Street thanks to instantaneous electronic communication.

Simarlarly, moving our administrative offices further apart will have no adverse impact on congregations nor constituents.

Our church structure, in NAD, first put in place more than one hundred years ago, demands drastic overhaul and diminution to be cost effective.

But as long as the tithe dollars roll in, there is no incentive for reform.

Plus multiple entrenched interests, protect their own turf!


(Kim Green) #15

Now, Carol…God doesn’t need OUR money…but the Adventist Church sure does! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

However…if you indocrinate early enough in life those tithe dollars will still be rolling in regularly. :grinning:

I do feel cheated, however, that I didn’t get to work on a “Tithe” honor. :crazy_face:


(Cfowler) #16

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with tithe…

There is tuition to pay for
Building funds (church, school or both) to contribute to
Church expenses
Various other fundraisers going on

I’m probably forgetting something. It can be a financial hardship for some, especially the people who are motivated by guilt. It can be brutal.


(Cfowler) #17

This takes the cake! Who thought of this new gem? Oh dear…it never ends. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


(Frankmer7) #18

The tithe was part of the OT temple system. It was given in terms of produce, not money, in order to support the Levitical priesthood. Now, there is no more temple…nor Levitical priesthood. The NT gives not one single direction to the post- resurrection church that tithe is to be paid in money or any other form. Where would they have stored it anyway? However, the gospel was preached and people gave willingly of their goods and belongings in order to take care of those among them who were needy, and those who preached the gospel. It was not a law. It was an outgrowth of grace received.

Paul conducted a collection among his Gentile congregations to help the poor Jewish believers. It is the only systematic giving of which he spoke. It was voluntary, and meant to show solidarity between Gentiles and Jews as the one people of God.

In Adventism, giving has been made into law. The GC or local conferences are now the storehouses? Tithing is imposed on New Covenant believers for entrance into the body of Christ? But, not imposed to continue in fellowship?? What doesn’t add up in this picture? A confused and unscriptural mess.

Oy veh!

Thanks…

Frank


(Cfowler) #19

Agreed. Money collected in the NT was to care for the poor in the local church/churches, not a “priesthood”.

In the SDA system, the poor, the widowed, the struggling, are still required to pay tithe to the organization.


(Kim Green) #20

Of course, those are all on the list.

However…SDA school attendance is waning and more schools are closing every year. Demographics are changing and results are being seen.

When I was in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago there was a sermon by one of the Elders about tithe. In her sermon, she said that she paid tithe despite not being able to buy groceries for the week (?!?).

The Elder related a story of going to work without breakfast. One of her employers asked her to lunch and this was attributed as a “miracle” and her leftovers were the next day’s breakfast!

We were all admonished in the sermon to not “steal from God”. However, it sounded crazy to me to think that God would desire her to go without food so that her tithe could go to pay Pastor’s salaries for the month, etc.

I just don’t respond to the guilt anymore…especially when you have to throw common sense out the window.


(George Tichy) #21

Why would they do that if the money is pouring so easily into the coffers?