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Giving among Church Denominations

Historically, Christians have been the most generous givers, as their overflowing joy of salvation “welled up in rich generosity” toward God (2 Corinthians 8:2). But as fewer churches recognize man’s need for salvation, both gratitude and giving have declined together. Consequently, churchgoers today give only slightly better than adherents to the many world religions that deny the biblical Christ. After reviewing the specific denominational beliefs and trends below, see how the major Christian traditions approach giving collectively. More importantly, be sure to compare all this with the lavish generosity that Jesus taught and early Christians practiced. The table below is neither authoritative nor scientific. Because space does not permit us to include variations in orthodoxy, fervor or practice within each group, this table should serve only as a helpful starting point in your study.

African Methodist Episcopal Church
American Baptist Churches U.S.A.
Assemblies of God
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren
Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends United Meeting
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
Presbyterian Church in America
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Reformed Church in America
Roman Catholic Church
Southern Baptist Convention
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

How Giving
Is Viewed or Taught
% Income
African Methodist Episcopal Church African Methodist Episcopal churches hold to the motto “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Man Our Brother.”37 Arminian in its theology, this largely black denomination subscribes to the Twenty-Five Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church. The church originated in the 18th century because of social oppression in Philadelphia; thus, it is not surprising that social work, including “a strong tradition and emphasis on education and self-help,” figures prominently in its mission statement; worship is marked by active vocal participation in “call and response, prayer, song, shout and testimony.”38 An AME statement on giving reads: “Every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally, to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.”37 While teaching materials concerning stewardship are not readily available on denominational Web sites, opportunities such as church debit cards provided by The Storehouse, an affiliated ministry, enable members to donate money while making standard purchases. In 2000, this denomination reported 2.5 million members.33 About 2 percent in 1987-89.22
American Baptist Churches U.S.A. More liberal than the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. is “characterized by [an] ecumenical posture,”41 participating in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and the World Council of Churches.42 The denomination ordains women43 and favors social issues like affirmative action and gender equality; on the other hand, the denomination officially opposes abortion44 and homosexuality (though division on this issue exists).45 Stewardship is viewed as the wise use of what God has given us, done out of thankfulness for and in response to God’s grace: “Through intentional and proportional giving, we are able to give thanks to a Creator who has given us far more than we could ever repay.” This task includes taking care of the environment as part of the resources God has entrusted us to manage.46 The tithe, in direct contrast to and serving as a remedy for today’s culture of accumulation, calls us to give rather than to get; the tithe is not obligatory though it is stressed as an expression of thankfulness to God. The tithe is to be considered merely a starting point in one’s giving; the goal is to give sacrificially, at levels which in our affluent society could easily exceed 10 percent.47 In 2000, the 593,113 full or confirmed members of this denomination gave $359 million in congregational finances and $63 million in benevolences for a total of $422 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $712.1 About 2.5 percent in 1987-89.22
of God
This conservative Pentecostal denomination teaches the Old Testament tithe as an obligatory7 part of Christian discipleship but not the cause of one’s salvation.12 “If a person becomes a member, he pledges to tithe.” Tithing demonstrates that one trusts in God to provide for one’s needs. Giving is motivated by the fact that God owns everything; tithing is the implication of Christ’s sovereignty extending even over one’s financial life: “When we accept Christ, we acknowledge that He becomes the Lord of our life, including our resources”15 In 2002, the 1,585,428 members of this denomination gave $338 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $213.32 Members’ family income is among the lowest of any major U.S. church.35 About 5.25 percent in 1987-8922; 5 percent in 199331, a percentage higher than any other major U.S. church.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) This denomination has historically avoided creeds because the founders saw them as divisive. There is a preference for action over words. No official stewardship literature is available, but some sermons are known to emphasize a motivation to give out of gratitude to God as a reminder of how He has saved us. God gives us the ability to give freely, not under compulsion, because He has already given freely to us. In 2000, the 527,363 full/confirmed members in this denomination gave $434 million in congregational finances and $49 million in benevolences, totaling $483 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $915.1 About 1.75 percent in 1987-89.22
Church of the Brethren This pacifist group of Anabaptist descent stresses simplicity and concern for developing a pure life of the spirit. Working globally for social justice is a priority. “Christians are stewards of their possessions, and should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately and liberally for the advancement of Christ’s cause on earth.” 5 The tithe commanded in the Old Testament (giving 10 percent of one’s income to the church) is believed to be in force for Christians today.6 In 2000, the 135,978 full/confirmed members of the Church of the Brethren gave $67 million in congregational finances and $25 million in benevolences, totaling $93 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $681.1
Episcopal Church While formally holding to certain orthodox positions shared by other Protestants, in practice and in belief the Episcopal Church today is one of the most theologically and socially liberal churches in America; their Third World Anglican counterparts, however, tend to be much more conservative. Historically a church of great wealth and affluence, a financial squeeze in the 1970s motivated an extensive stewardship campaign (the Alabama Plan), and the American church passed a resolution on tithing. An organization specifically devoted to stewardship was formed (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship, or TENS).3 In 2000, the 1,806,185 full/confirmed members of the Episcopal Church gave a total of $2.23 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $1,234.8 About 1.75 percent in 1987-89.22
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Larger and less conservative than the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, this denomination holds differing opinions within itself about the specific definition of the tithe. “The Old Testament describes God’s economy thus: God gives us everything we have, and we give a normative 10 percent back in gratitude—neither as church dues nor as a bribe for God’s favor. Few Lutherans do this today, and ‘proportional (percentage) giving’ has been stressed in recent years. Still, many Lutherans accept the tithe as an important spiritual goal.”9 Opportunities to tithe electronically have arisen.10 Luther Seminary sponsors a denominational program, Stewardship in the 21st Century, designed to “help congregations and individuals develop their call to stewardship,” uniquely encouraging them to “experience the joy of giving.”11 In 2000, the 3,810,785 full/confirmed members of the ELCA gave $2.07 billion in congregational finances and $231 million in benevolences for a total of $2.30 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $603.1 About 1.5 percent in 1987-89;22 1.6 percent in 199331.
Friends United Meeting Among the various congregations of the Society of Friends, or “Quakers,” there is no unified creed; each individual meeting has its own statements of belief. Listening more to the “inner light” than to specific doctrines, many contemporary meetings are marked by silence and spontaneous sharing of insights, though some do contain elements of programmed worship. Quakers see God in everyone—thus they are attuned to social injustice. Founder George Fox (1624-91) argued vehemently against the modern-day application of the tithe, whose practitioners he calls “Antichristian, and [who] do deny Christ come in the Flesh.” Still, giving is encouraged as it arises from a heart right with God.13 In 1997, the Society of Friends reported 108,000 members.19
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Smaller and more theologically conservative than the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not as geographically confined as its name suggests. This denomination subscribes to the inerrancy of Scripture and has taken conservative positions on various social issues. A major report emphasizes that because God owns everything, including the steward, stewardship applies to all of life. We are only the stewards who manage God’s resources, acting in response to God’s love that obtained our salvation through Christ:
“[S]tewardship flows out of God’s act of love for [Christians] in Christ which empowers them, in turn, to love others in acts of Christ-like love.”21
In 2002, the 1,907,923 confirmed members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod gave $1.2 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $631.23 About 2 percent in 1987-89.22
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Theologically conservative, the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., holds beliefs similar to other Baptist denominations.48 It is the largest body of black Baptists in America.34 In general, Baptists do not consider any creeds to be binding but nonetheless adhere to a few basic principles: the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, believer’s baptism, autonomy of local churches, equality in church government (each member carries equal weight), and separation of church and state.50 In addition, activism that promotes civil rights is stressed:51 “Protest has its place under the supreme law of the land and will and must continue as long as there is one vestige of racial discrimination and segregation in this fair land of ours.”52 In the late 1990s, the denomination suffered some financial difficulty in the wake the imprisonment of its former president, Henry Lyons, for embezzlement.53 The denominational Web site is new; thus, teaching materials on stewardship were not available at the time of writing. In 1995, this denomination reported 7.5 million members.34 About 2.75 percent in 1987-89.22
Presbyterian Church in America More conservative than its mainline counterpart (the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), the Presbyterian Church in America believes in the inerrancy of Scripture; the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for salvation and life; infant baptism; covenant theology; the doctrine of unmerited election. It takes a conservative stance on homosexuality, abortion, ordination of women, creation (though some room for differences of interpretation); and subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. In stewardship education, by and large, God is acknowledged as Owner of all things while His people are merely caretakers. Stewardship involves not just 10 percent of our money but 100 percent.27 In 2000, the 247,010 full/confirmed members of the Presbyterian Church in America gave $385 million in congregational finances and $99 million in benevolences for a total of $484 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $1,957.28 About 3 percent in 1987-89.22
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) The largest and most affluent Presbyterian body today is increasingly divided along ideological lines. In general, the PCUSA tends to lean to the left on issues like authority/inerrancy of Scripture, multiculturalism, gender neutrality, evolution, etc. This mainline Presbyterian denomination considers stewardship an integral part of Christian discipleship that includes political action and social justice, requiring participation by every member working together as a community. One insider writes: “It has been said that no two Presbyterian congregations are alike, but we do share some common characteristics. One of these is that we do poorly in the area of stewardship. One of the basic reasons most churches have such poor stewardship is that they think stewardship is fund-raising. It is how you pay for the church’s budget; it is the awful code word church officers and pastors use for money. Stewardship for many churches is what they do only one Sunday a year, usually in November. When church leaders and pastors make stewardship a taboo subject, poor stewardship results.”14 According to the denomination’s official stewardship theology (2001), stewardship is the necessary response to gospel. Because Christ has redeemed us, He owns us and every facet of our lives, which “leads us to a new calling ... to give ourselves in reconciling ministries.” Stewardship is thus not “about financing the local church” or “gathering up resources in order to establish programs and projects.” Rather, stewardship is “the responsive practice of Christians making proper use of the gifts God has given them for the sake of God’s work in the world.”54 In 2000, the 2,525,330 full/confirmed members of the PC-USA gave $2.52 billion in congregational finances and $399 million in benevolences for a total of $2.92 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $1,155.1 However, in 1997, “On average Presbyterians give 1.5 percent of their annual income to the church—an average of about $580 annually, which results in a total amount of $1.5 billion.”14 About 2.5 percent in 1987-89;22 1.6 percent in 1993;31 1.5 percent in 1997.40
Reformed Church in America This denomination maintains “strict theological orthodoxy” and rationalism.20 It subscribes to the authority and sufficiency of Scriptures for salvation; covenant theology; the doctrine of unmerited election; infant baptism; and takes conservative social stands. Giving comes out of gratitude and flows toward a focused mission: “First, people give generously when they understand clear biblical teachings about stewardship and see this as a part of their spiritual development. Giving is our response to God, an expression of our gratitude and a response to God’s grace. We give because we, and all the world, belong to God. Second, people give generously when mission is clear, concrete, and compelling. When people’s hearts are genuinely engaged in a cause of mission, their dollars will follow. Most of us look for some direct connection to the mission that we support. That’s why volunteer and short-term mission opportunities are on the rise.”30 Question 111 of the Heidelberg Catechism, the church's doctrinal standard, recognizes that giving is commanded in God’s law. The 177,281 members of the Reformed Church gave $227 million in congregational finances and $37 million in benevolences for a total of $264 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $1,488.1 About 3.25 percent in 1987-89.22
Roman Catholic Church In this, the largest Christian denomination in the world, the Old Testament tithe is seen as God’s means for providing for the poor. The tithe was not negated by Jesus but, rather, made clearer. The motives for giving to the poor should be the opportunity of serving Jesus Himself. Giving to the poor is a work of both justice and mercy that pleases God.2 Pope John Paul II reminded Christians that the care of the poor is theirs: “The Son of God loved us first, while ‘we were yet sinners’ (Romans 5:6), with an unconditional love which asks nothing in return. If this is so, how can we fail to see the season of Lent as a providential opportunity to make courageous decisions inspired by altruism and generosity? Lent offers us the practical and effective weapons of fasting and almsgiving as a means of combating an excessive attachment to money. Giving not only from our abundance, but sacrificing something more in order to give to the needy, fosters that self-denial which is essential to authentic Christian living.”4 In 1987, the Catholic per-capita giving rate was $96.29 In 1991, Catholic giving totaled $5.48 billion. In 1995, the Roman Catholic Church reported 59 million members.16 By 2000, this number had grown to 62.4 million members.18 About 1.25 percent in 1987-89;22 1.2 percent in 1993.31
Southern Baptist Convention Bucking the late 20th-century trend of other mainline denominations such as their American Baptist counterparts, the Southern Baptists have largely retained (and in some places, reclaimed) their heritage of theological orthodoxy and social conservativism. A neglect to teach stewardship to younger generations has left the denomination suffering financially, but recent efforts are underway to correct that teaching deficit17; giving must come from heart that recognizes God’s ownership of our possessions and patterned after God’s example of the free gift of His Son. Great emphasis is placed on giving financially to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, and the denomination missions-sending arm is the world’s largest missions agency. The 15,221,959 full/confirmed members of the Southern Baptist Convention gave $7.04 billion in congregational finances and $937 million in benevolences for a total of $7.97 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $524.1 About 3 percent in 1987-89;22 2.7 percent in 1993; 31 2 percent in 200239.
United Church of Christ This merger of four American denominations (including the Congregational Church of Puritan heritage) holds the Bible to be a witness to the Word of God (Christ) and is suspicious of any creed or authority that tries to bind the individual’s conscience apart from submission to Christ.25 Member churches are especially prevalent in New England. “Every dollar in a church budget is a dollar that someone has given freely, under no compulsion, driven by a wish for the church to exist.”26 The apparent absence of foundational teaching on stewardship may be due to the UCC’s de-emphasis on creeds. Though resources are available for organizing stewardship campaigns, material that addresses the heart motivations for giving is not generally available. The 1,377,320 full/confirmed members of the United Church of Christ gave $745 million in congregational finances and $79 million in benevolences for a total of $824 million. This suggests per-capita giving of $598.1 About 2 percent in 1987-89.22
United Methodist Church With some notable exceptions, the mainline United Methodist Church is generally liberal on social positions and biblical doctrine, but this can vary widely by congregation. The focus of stewardship is more on wise money management than on giving; resources are available to help church members get out debt in order that they will be able to give more (efficient use of money increases ability to give). Giving is regarded as a means to support the good works of the church24. The 8,340,954 members in the United Methodist Church gave a total of $4.76 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of $571.8 About 1.75 percent in 1987-89;22 2.1 percent in 199636.

1 John L. Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2000, 12th ed. (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2002), 126.
2 Catechism of the Catholic Church.
3 A. Theodore Mollegen, Jr., Experience of the Episcopal Church in Improving Stewardship: One Person’s View, 2001.
4 Pope John Paul II, Annual Lenten Message, sermon delivered at the Vatican, February 6, 2003.
5 Basic Beliefs within the Church of the Brethren, no. 5.
6 Manfred Schreyer, Was Jesus Tax Exempt?, sermon preached at Church of the Brethren, West Alexandria, Ohio, April 6, 2003.
7 Dean R. Hoge, Charles Zech, Patrick McNamara and Michael J. Donahue, Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 86.
8 Ronsvalle, 133.
9 Rob Blezard, For Extra Credit, The Lutheran [the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], March 2003.
10 Lutherans Tithe Electronically, The Business Journal, Milwaukee, Wis., August 9, 1999.
11 Stewardship in the 21st Century, Luther Seminary.
12 Hoge, 103.
13 George Fox, Concerning Tythes, chap. in “Some Principles of the Elect People of God: Who in Scorn Are Called Quakers: For All People throughout All Christendome to Read over, and Thereby Their Own States to Consider” (London: Robert Wilson, 1661), W.H. Jenks Collection, Magill Library, Haverford (Pa.) College.
14 Robert Bohl, Stewardship: The ‘S’ Word, Presbyterians Today [the magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)], May 1997.
15 Hoge, 104.
16 Mary J. Oates, The Catholic Philanthropic Tradition in America (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995), 166.
17 Charles Willis, Two Generations of Lost Stewards Must Be Replaced, Aylor Says, Baptist Press, July 9, 1997.
18 Benevolences Up, Membership Stable, 2001 Yearbook Reports, press release issued by National Council of Churches, February 16, 2000.
19 The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1997 (Mahwah N.J.: World Almanac Books, 1997).
20 Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 10th ed., Samuel S. Hill, rev. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995), 261.
21 Department of Stewardship of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Biblical Stewardship Principles, report commissioned by the annual convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1995.
22 Charles E. Zech, Why Catholics Don’t Give ... and What Can Be Done about It (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000), 12.
23 LCMS Membership Reported at 2,512,714 for 2002, news release by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, September 12, 2003.
24 United Methodist Church, What Our Gifts Enable Us to Do Together.
25 Mead, 296.
26 United Church of Christ, The Budget Is the Heart of the Church, from 2003 Stewardship Theme Materials.
27 Presbyterian Church in America Foundation, Stewardship, 2002.
28 Ronsvalle, 127.
29 Zech, 13.
30 Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Living a Life of Stewardship, The Church Herald, February 1999.
31 Dean Hoge, Charles Zech, Patrick McNamara and Michael Donahue, American Congregational Giving Study, report commissioned by the Lilly Endowment, 1993.
32 General Council of the Assemblies of God, Statistics on the Assemblies of God (USA), 2002.
33 Eileen W. Lindner, ed., The Year 2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2001).
34 Mead, 69.
35 Hoge, 53.
36 Connectional Ministry Funding Patterns Task Force, Family Giving among Protestant Denominations, appendix 1 of Connectional Stewardship: Our Charge to Keep, Our Calling to Fulfill, report no. 16 commissioned by the General Council on Finance and Administration at the annual general conference of the United Methodist Church (1996), 19.
37 African Methodist Episcopal Church, Beliefs.
38 African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) Profile.
39 Melissa Deming, Paris Church Discovers God’s Faithfulness As They Give, Southern Baptist Texan, December 2, 2003.
40 Robert Bohl, Stewardship: The ‘S’ Word: Stewardship Is a Spiritual Matter Not a Code Word for Raising Money, What Presbyterians Believe series, Presbyterians Today (May 1997).
41 American Baptist Policy Statement on Christian Unity, adopted by the American Baptist Convention, July 1967; affirmed by the Executive Committee of the General Board, June 1978.
42 Mead, 58.
43 American Baptist Women in Ministry Report (American Baptist Women in Ministry, 2003).
44 American Baptist Resolution Concerning Abortion and Ministry in the Local Church, adopted by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches, June 1988; modified by the Executive Committee of the General Board, March 1994.
45 American Baptist Resolution on Homosexuality, adopted by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches by Mail Vote, October 1992.
46 American Baptist Policy Statement on Ecology: An Ecological Situational Analysis, adopted by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches, June 1989.
47 American Baptist Policy Statement on Encouraging the Tithe: Growing and Giving in Grace, adopted by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches, June 1992.
48 Elliott Shaw and Michael Pye, eds., Overview of World Religions (Taiwan: Museum of World Religions; Lancaster, England: Department of Religion and Social Ethics at St. Martins’ College, 1998/9), s.v. National Baptist Convention of the USA Inc.
50 Elliott Shaw and Michael Pye, eds., Overview of World Religions (Taiwan: Museum of World Religions; Lancaster, England: Department of Religion and Social Ethics at St. Martins’ College, 1998/9), s.v. Baptist Church.
51 The Religious Movements Homepage Project, s.v. National Baptist Convention, USA, by Kelly J. Templeman.
52 J.H. Jackson, A Story of Christian Activism: The History of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (Nashville, Tenn.: Townsend, 1980), 12.
53 David Barstow and Monica Davey, Lyons’ Crisis Cuts Funds for College, St. Petersburg Times, February 7, 1998.
54 Living Grateful Lives: Stewardship Theology in Our Time, statement of stewardship theology approved by the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky., June 9-16, 2001.

This is a non-scientific table, not intended for republication or distribution to general audiences. It is designed only as a study aid for teachers and researchers for research purposes only. It is not authoritative and, therefore, its contents must not be cited in any published work. Copyright © 2003 Generous Giving. All rights reserved.

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