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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.
1 John L. Ronsvalle and
Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of
Church Giving through
2000, 12th ed. (Champaign, Ill.: Empty Tomb, 2002), 126.
Is Viewed or Taught
|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
||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
affirmative action and gender equality; on the other hand, the denomination
officially opposes abortion44 and homosexuality (though division on this issue
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
includes taking care of the environment as part of the resources God has entrusted us
to manage.46 The
in direct contrast to and serving as a remedy for today’s culture of accumulation, calls
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
||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
||About 2.5 percent in 1987-89.22
|This conservative Pentecostal denomination teaches the Old
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
|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
||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
||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
||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
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
|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
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
that obtained our salvation through Christ:
“[S]tewardship flows out of God’s act of
for [Christians] in Christ which empowers them, in turn, to love others in acts of
|In 2002, the 1,907,923 confirmed members of the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod gave $1.2 billion. This suggests per-capita giving of
||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
the Bible, believer’s baptism, autonomy of local churches, equality in church
(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,
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
||About 2.75 percent in 1987-89.22
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.
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
||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
||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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
||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
||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
||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
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
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.
2 Catechism of the Catholic
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.
Lutherans Tithe Electronically, The Business Journal, Milwaukee, Wis., August 9,
11 Stewardship in the 21st Century,
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.)],
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
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),
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
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
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
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
51 The Religious Movements Homepage Project, s.v.
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,
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.