Friday, December 04, 2009

Would Jesus Withhold Mission Support?

That's always a good question, right? What would Jesus do?

Some of those who stand in great certitude about what Jesus would do are withholding their money from their ELCA congregations. Whole congregations are withholding mission support from the ELCA churchwide organization.

Forty-five people lost their jobs at churchwide, in part as a result of this withheld support. Budget cuts are more complex, of course--it's a bad economy and we continue to decline overall.

But a whole bunch of those people lost their jobs because of financial blackmail. Maybe that's harsh, but I don't think so, and if it is, then it is deservedly harsh. Our congregation disagreed with decisions made by churchwide for years, and never once voted to withhold funds. We would have considered it unjust. I would have considered it immoral. A good portion of the money that goes to churchwide funds disaster response, water programs in the 2/3 world, the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.

If we're going to call ourselves members of the ELCA, then we should commit to the organization, and that means supporting it with our dollars. It's no different than being the member of a congregation. If you commit to the organization, you are expected to support it. That's part of the commitment.

So, congregations withholding your money: please stop. Or withdraw altogether, as would be more honest and fair.

Money is a tool and we should definitely allow our values to direct our spending. But just as I don't shop at Walmart, I don't park in their parking lot, either.

11 comments:

Erik said...

Excellent post. It's good to hear people express outrage at the hypocrisy of withholding funds. Personally, I think that some of the churchwide "layoffs" were going to happen regardless. When we have to bring home missionaries or stop funding clean water projects because we've opened the doors to homosexual pastors, it's a true shame.

The Old Geezer said...

interesting post and comment by Erik

Don said...

The tension between “unity” and “purity” will continue until Christ comes. Those who hold to their perception of “purity” are using their giving (or withholding of giving) to communicate its importance to them. I trust that most will find new ways to support missions though different large church organizations once the decision processes now beginning are complete rather than simply hide it under the bed.

Further I suggest that the ELCA has only just begun to feel the financial pain and that the withholding of mission support has only just begun. Two quotes from the same article on the ELCA website bear this out. “The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) acted Nov. 15 [2009] to reduce the 2010 churchwide current fund spending authorization by nearly $7.7 million, 10 percent less than the budget authorized by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.” and “The council's action follows a similar reduction in March of this year [2009] when it cut $5.6 million from the 2009 churchwide current fund spending authorization and another $1.9 million from the church's World Hunger Appeal [a total of $6.5million].” Thus even well before the convention vote, the giving was already dropping; the recent reductions will likely not even come close to keeping the budget in the black as the “purity” choice gains traction and it financial impact is felt.

Anonymous said...

Jeff says:

As one of those congregations who has redirected funds, let us be clear-most of us are in the process of leaving. I would agree to stay and redirect is wrong. But most congregations are not witholding funds and keeping them, they are redirecting them to ministries and away from Chicago.

We still support individual ELCA missionaries, hunger, and missions, but wont' give one dime to support leadership that pushed an agenda 65% OF the laity opposed.

People vote with their feet and pocketbooks. The ELCA was warned for years this would happen, and now it has. It could have been avoided.

For the record, we don't see ourselves as pure, we are sinners, as are we all, gay and straight. We just don't believe 550 people had the right to leave the Great Tradition and the vote the church of sola scripture to join the .5% Christians (UCC and TEC) who support this travesty.

Anonymous said...

I do find it interesting that while we (Abiding Peace) spent years and years working within the ELCA and trying to maintain a relationship with a church body that rejected us at every turn... other congregations have, just like petulant children, stomped their feet and said "fine if you don't do things the way we want we wont send you money!" Maybe this is what is wrong with our entire world... there are less people trying to work with each other and more stubbornness, more hate, more disregard for how things evolve and change. If those congregations are more interested in having their own way rather than trying to work as one Christian body maybe they should as Donna says... stop parking in the lot.
Niki

Anonymous said...

The ELCA has a history of withholding and redirecting funds from groups and companies and even countries they don't agree with. Using financial pressure was agreed upon at the 2007 CWA, as a means of dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. So, before people start acting all self-righteous, take a look at yourself (and/or your denomination).
Zach

Donna said...

These are very interesting comments. I see Zach's point about the ELCA withholding funds, though I find "self-righteous" to be a harsh designation.
I think there is a difference here, though. My objection is to congregations continuing to call themselves ELCA members and refusing to support the denomination. It is a different thing for me to refuse to put money in a Salvation Army kettle than it is for me to refuse to support my church. I've made a commitment to my church, which implies certain fiduciary responsibilities on both sides. If either of us want to break that relationship, then fine. But the relationship is broken then, just as the ELCA has a broken relationship with Israel due to behavior we will not abide.
Maybe the relationship with these withholding congregations will be mended in the future. I hope so. As long as it doesn't require the return to an outdated policy of exclusion to mend it.

City Slicker said...

Yay Niki! Two thumbs up - beautifully said.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be a sign of the times. I am pastor in another denomination,but it seems the sickness is pervasive across our connection. I serve a small urban Native American ministry that will never be self-sufficient. Our Judicatory has cut our budget (read my salary :-) ) $10,000 for 2010. It is a sad fact that our front line missional churches are the ones that suffer the most during these times. Glad I ran across your post. Blessings for a fruitful new year.

A Day With Dan said...

I find this whole issue truly Ungraceful. Where did the Grace go in the congregations that are withholding funds and even leaving the ELCA. I have been a member of the Lutheran church my entire life. I have lived through several mergers and seen the body grow to become the most Grace filled church I know. I am happy to be a member of the church as it is. I just have no understanding of those congregations, and members who believe their faith does not include the accepting of all people created by God. Who are we to set ourselves above and better than others. Where did I read, "Love your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself"? I love myself and would never want to be treated as so many of our church are treating not even neighbors, but ourselves.

Let us return to living together in love of God and each other who ever we are, all created by our God.

A Day With Dan said...

I find this whole issue truly Ungraceful. Where did the Grace go in the congregations that are withholding funds and even leaving the ELCA. I have been a member of the Lutheran church my entire life. I have lived through several mergers and seen the body grow to become one of the most Grace filled church I know. I am happy to be a member of the church as it is. I just have no understanding of those congregations, and members who believe their faith does not include the accepting of all people created by God. Who are we to set ourselves above and better than others. Where did I read, Love your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself"? I love myself and would never want to be treated as so many of our church are treating not even neighbors, but ourselves.

Let us return to living together in love of God and each other who ever we are, all created by our God.