Unanswered Questionsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread
Our local church was recently "scolded" by our Presiding Elder for declining to contribute to a "gift". I do not want to present myself as a rebellious A.M.E. but it seems that there are too many instances in which we are called upon to give by anonymous assessors who are unwilling to answer any questions we may have.
We are a fully tithing church. We give as Paul directed the new churches to give. Consequently, we take our financial stewardship very seriously. We are frustrated that despite calls and e-mails to the First District there are questions about assessments, etc. that go unanswered. Is our church the only church who asks questions about such matters?
I am grateful for this forum. I have submitted several questions on the First District website during the course of the year. To date, I received no response.
-- Anonymous, February 28, 2000
Ms. Moorer, I can understand your puzzlement for unwarranted reprimands concerning financial giving or the lack thereof. What I don't understand is why you or other members should expect your financial obligations are met solely thru tithes. The "connectional" feature of this denomination and byzantine-like hierarchy will always require financial obligations above and beyond normal tithing. You see this is why the current teaching [dogma] about tithing needs to be reformed. People of very good intention [like yourself] sincerely believe that tithing should be sufficient to meet all connectional related expenses. Yet, the reality is far different. To support the bureaucratic objectives of the AME Church requires financial resources which will exceed tithing. If every AME member tithes I can assure you that expenditures will still exceed revenues and the deficit would have to be covered via alternative means. I hate to sound so pessimistic but until someone can show me different this is the reality of our financial picture. Still, this does not excuse the type of gruff behavior handed down by your PE.
-- Anonymous, February 29, 2000
I pastor in the same District that you refer to. We too were assessed for the gift..although I did not take the time to do the math to see what it amounted to in its fulness.
You question why there are all of the supplmental obligations along the way.
In the closing moments of Convo IV a similar question was raised, although this questioner not only raised the pall of additional gifts and honorariums but also the spectre of misappropriated funds.
Much to my surprise there were no gasps from the audience as all this was said. Only a tired look of perhaps business as usual..with an air of "What else is new?"
The ressolution to his question, and the thrust of his inquiry, was that the Bishops of the A.M.E. Church should first be paid fair market value (as determined by the salary of leadership in similar positions of authority in other denominations) and secondly, once such a salary is established, they should be precluded from honorariums, speaker fees or other forms of outside fundraising that directly or indirectly taps back into the local church's already strained financial pool.
I realize that this does not address your current situation but..it does show that your position is empathized with, to the point some people are trying to address it as a real issue of the church in the upcoming General Conference.
-- Anonymous, February 29, 2000
I appreciate the responses I received. They were enlightening. Thank you Rev. John, in particular, for making me aware of the comments made at CONVO.
I understand it is our responsibility to provide for our Bishop, and I am happy to do so. However, the idea of a few anonymous people assessing "gifts" brings to mind back room deals and unseemly church politics. This type of behavior is archaic.
As for tithing. I chose my words very carefully. Our Pastor supports tithing as do the overwhelming majority of the members in our church. Although, I respect those who God puts in place to shepherd me, I have been uncomfortable with the term "tithing" for some time now. It seems Paul's new testament instruction offers a better guideline for redeemed givers. It does away with an adherence to the letter of the law that can get believers into trouble. Our giving should be a worship experience and should be given out of the sheer joy of knowing that God is our Father and Christ is our Redeemer! It is an opportunity to say, "Thank You" to a father who supplies all of our needs. So, yes, I do believe that the collection and accumulation of individual gifts (and the godly use of same) -- given in support of God's kingdom -- is enough at EVERY level of the church.
-- Anonymous, March 01, 2000
Don't challenge the authority verbally. Just do what you think is best and let the chips fall where they may. We serve a God who is aware of our situation. If you support such "assessemnts", then you become part of the problem. God will help those who help themselves. He gave the Children thier inheritance in the promised land, but they had to go in and take it away from the current inhabitants.
-- Anonymous, March 06, 2000
I think that better and more realistic budgeting would solve all of these issues of surprise assessments and the need for extra gifts to support the clergy. If the church as a body would budget more realistic salaries for Bishops and Presiding elders, and even pastor's (let's face it the salary they officially earn is quite low for the position and work they are assigned to do), then all of the EXTRA's could be cut out. I think that the official salaries are so low, because the people tend to not want to pass large salary increases for them because the official assesments will rise, but in reality it is hurting the church by making the clergy have to beg and ask for extra money at every turn and the people of the church become very cynical about the clergy. I was quite shocked the first time I saw the salary of the Presiding Elder's. For the task they have if they went into a corporation they would be making 2 - 3 times the salary at least. The same is true for our pastors and Bishop's. I think it is time that the church sets up a realistic salary structure and doesn't expect the servants of God to settle for so much less than the rest of us. When this is done, then there should be no real need for the extra's and all the gift giving. If we pay them what they are worth officially, then we don't give the devil a foothold by having to do it under the table so to speak.
-- Anonymous, March 10, 2000
I am so pleased that I found this website. I too question all the additional assessments. First, I do believe that tithing is only the beginning, in fact we really have not given anything as the first fruits(tithe) belong to God. But the question is not about tithing.It relates to requests above and beyond what has already been required of the local church(Church Budget which there are legitimate questions concerning it management or lack thereof. There were discussions at one point that the connection was on the verge of filing bankruptcy). I do agree the Salary of Bishops, General officers, and connectional officers should be performance based, and in line with the job responsibilties of similarly situated professional or business executives who run day to day operations of major operations(government or corporations. )I truly think we should pay our leaders comparable salaries, with good fringe benifits packages, with their knowledge and consent. Ministers should not be put in the position that their job stability depends on whether or not they support these ninth hour efforts. To require this is almost the equivalent of "extortion". Again,this does not include disaster situations or where the common effort of a church as large as ours could be instrumental in carrying out the message of Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked or to set the captives free.(Shouldn't we as a connection be assisting with the Mozambique situation right now?)
Memberships throughout this connection are tired, though many are silent and eventually they will become tired of being exploited and stop participating. Sometimes I feel like the handwriting is on the wall, and we just won't believe it. If this A.M.E. Church is to survive, much will have to change and soon. Many of the smaller local churches can't do any Ministries beyond Sunday morning because of the over taxations. And we question why so many of our memebers are going over to other Worship centers? We have not done a good job Connectionally making Jesus real in the lives of people. We've been too busy electing Bishops and having meetings. Members are made to feel bad if they ask questions, or to feel that they don't love the Lord or the Church.(Thank God through Salvation I can Love his Church and him, and still witness to this great Institional Church of Richard Allen when it is not lining up with Gods word.) Sis. Mooerer thanks for being bold and saying, "it is time to stop the exploitation of Gods children". Let's no longer be a church of the Pharisees and Saducees, but a church of Jesus Christ. Although Jesus knew when to turn the other cheek, he also knew when to get angry and to turn the moneychangers out of the temple. the Word of God, not the Discipline reigns supreme.
-- Anonymous, March 11, 2000