Friday, June 12, 2009

Pledging versus Tithing

What should I do with my tithe while I am stationed cross-culturally here at Shaw in Grahamstown? I've been asking this question for the last five months as I have tried to truly understand the spirit of giving in the black African Methodist Church.
I spent an hour or so yesterday signing 'pledge cards'. These cards are held by each 'full member' of the church and are filled in by the class leader whenever a pledge donation is made to the church. Most people seem to give R30 a month. A very few give R50 a month. Many give R10 or R20 a month. There are other opportunities to give to the church - in Sunday collections and also to the organisations.
I thought that I would try to do the same. But at the end of five months, I doubt if I have given even R100 to the church. I don't have a class or a pledge card - I don't actually know how the minister fits in to this system!
So yesterday, I gave up and returned to my culture and did an internet transfer into the church's bank account for five month's tithe. Culture or otherwise, I feel so much better for doing this. The only thing that bothers me is that I prefer my giving to be anonymous, but I have to acknowledge what I have done to the church treasurer or the transfer will keep bothering them.
I wonder how they will view my desire to tithe? They might quite possibly think that if I can give so much to the church they are paying me too much!


Steven Jones said...

I have to admit that this is something I really struggle with, especially when having one's child baptised or relative buried becomes a matter of one's pledge card being up to date, rather than an act of grace on the part of the Church. For this reason I have steadfastly refused to even look at pledge cards.

Besides, I have always believed that what one gives is a matter of commitment between us and God, not something for public consumption and definitely NOT something that should determine whether a person is entitled to certain "favours" from the Church or not!

As for my own giving, I'm somewhat caught between the "planned giving" system (which I am accustomed to) practiced by some of the congregations I serve, and the "pledge" system practiced by others (which is totally foreign to me culturally). And like you, because I have other sources of income my tithe is large in relation to my stipend as a Phase One, which would make it stick out like a sore thumb. My "solution" has therefore been to pay my tithe directly into the Circuit account, which the Circuit Treasurer shows as "donations and legacies". I'm just praying now that should anyone ask what the source of these amounts are, this will happen after I've left!

Is this wrong of me to feel this way? Should congregations know what their minister is giving? On the one hand it could be a powerful example - putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak. On the other hand, I'm trying to overcome a culture where people are valued according to what they give, not who they are, and hence my desire to keep things as quiet as possible.

Life was in many ways SO much easier when I was still a lay person!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Stephen. I do mostly agree with you. But there is part of me that feels that there might be something in the pledge system. Something maybe that doesn't like 'cheap grace'?
By the way, I don't for myself have much other income. My husband works and tithes on his money to his church! But even a tithe on my stipend is much more than R50 a month!