The Board of Stewardship was instructed by the General Synod in June 2003 to respond to a memorial from Catawba Presbytery regarding “financial support and fund-raising in the local church.” Reporting in 2004, the Board of Stewardship recommended its response to be received as information and printed in the Minutes of Synod. General Synod recommitted the Response to the Board of Stewardship due to the fact that it was not presented as a “Position Paper.”
The Board of Stewardship reported back to the General Synod in 2006 and General Synod concurred with the conclusion of the Board of Stewardship:
“Inasmuch as the Bible does not explicitly speak about fundraising, the Board deems a “Position Paper” inappropriate. We believe that each Session must exercise wisdom in judging the propriety of fundraising. Furthermore, in light of the Board of Stewardship and the General Synod’s historical emphasis on tithing, we believe that each Session should promote tithing in the church and consider the merits or demerits of fundraising in its local context.”
General Synod 2006 directed the following: “that the historical Statements on Stewardship which Synod has adopted and/or received as information as printed in the 2004 Minutes of Synod pp 528-531, be posted on the Associate Reformed Presbyterian website.” (2006 Minutes of Synod, p. 491). Accordingly, the Response to the Catawba Presbytery Memorial is posted, with links to referenced documents.
RESPONSE TO CATAWBA PRESBYTERY MEMORIAL
Submitted to 2004 Meeting of the General Synod
…The Board identified two main themes in the memorial, namely tithing and fund-raising. Of the seven whereas statements in the memorial, statements 1, 3, 4, and 5 address tithing; statements 2 and 6 fund-raising, and statement 7 addresses both. The Board thought it best to address the two themes separately.
Tithing and the Tithe
Regarding the first theme of tithing, the Board reiterates that tithing is an agreed upon principle of Scripture, and the Synod approved method of “securing finances necessary for the work of the church.” This approval has been repeatedly emphasized not only by the Board of Stewardship since its inception and appointment in 1962, but also by the General Synod in both the past and recent years.
The very first Board of Stewardship report to the General Synod in 1963 included recommendations to the local church. The report was adopted by the General Synod including the first recommendation which was:
“We urge our ministers to preach yearly on the truth that tithing is the Scriptural minimum of Christian stewardship of money…”
(1963 Minutes, page 679)
The Board of Stewardship still believes this and urges/encourages the teaching of tithing on at least an annual basis. There are other good recommendations in that report as well that reflect the concerns in our denomination about biblical giving. The initial Board believed the concern was significant enough that it directed the following comment to Synod:
“We hope that someday, in the not-too-distant future, the Synod may have a full-time, trained director of a Department of Stewardship.”
(1963 Minutes, page 680)
The present Board agrees with the original Board that there is a need for a full-time, trained person to assist presbyteries and churches in this important area of Christian responsibility.
The very next year, 1964, the Board report to General Synod included feedback from a questionnaire. The report addressed two areas of stewardship: the organizational-educational area, and the spiritual area. There are some excellent findings in both areas that the current Board believes are still valid today. For example, under the heading of Organizational-education we find the following points:
- “It is found that most churches do not bother to have a stewardship campaign…”
- “There is strong evidence that the deacons, personally and as an organization, are not giving the calibre of leadership needed in the area of stewardship. Elders, generally, are brought into question at the same point, and ministers themselves sometimes admit their lack of force in relation to this emphasis.”
- “Reports show that very few church officers receive any instruction whatsoever, beyond a few words at the time of their installation…”
- “Stewardship is a subject that necessitates continued educational effort. Little can be accomplished in one year or by one successful campaign; but consistent effort over years will produce abundant fruit.”
(1964 Minutes, pages 77, 78)
Given the nature of man, these findings no doubt still contain validity for our own day. There is a definite need for the leadership of local congregations to biblically step up to the ongoing stewardship challenge.
Moving on in the same report to the heading of Spiritual, the very first statement gets at the real issue.
“Most of those answering the questionnaire placed their fingers precisely on the source of our stewardship difficulties. They indicated that our real problem is a spiritual ill… a half-hearted commitment to Christ and an inadequate knowledge of His Word produces token givers. When one has a personal encounter with Christ and understands His sacrifice on his behalf, then the love, gratitude, obedience, and worship, in response, produces a generous heart.”
(1964 Minutes, page 78)
Again, the current Board concurs that the stewardship dilemma is an issue of spiritual growth, or the lack of it. Resolution of this issue rests directly upon the local session, diaconate, and pastor. As the report previously noted there is strong evidence that deacons, elders, and ministers are “not giving the caliber of leadership needed in the area of stewardship.”
The Board of Stewardship issued a challenge in their 1964 report that included this:
“A continuing program of stewardship is needed. A thorough and detailed plan of budget-making, promotional work, personal contact, business procedure in record keeping, and follow-up are essential to success. The lay leaders are the only persons who can put across such a program.” (underline added)
(1964 Minutes, page 79)
In addition to the leadership difficulties on the local level, the Board’s 1965 report to the General Synod diagnosed another difficulty. That report started this way:
“The Board of Stewardship of the ARP General Synod was created by an action of the General Synod at its meeting in 1962… The Board of Stewardship began to function according to its concept of Presbyterian Law in which a board or committee of Synod works with the several presbyteries, and not directly with the local congregations. However, it soon became evident that with few exceptions, the presbyteries were not willing to take seriously their responsibilities in the area of Christian stewardship.”
(1965 Minutes, page 322)
Until presbyteries and local sessions provide serious biblical leadership in the area of stewardship, the church will continue to struggle with not only a lack of tithing but with non-giving Christians as well. This same point was made in a paper prepared by the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns on “The Tithe,” which was received as information by the 1978 General Synod.
(1978 Minutes, pages 718-720)
That position paper was prepared in response to a Synod-approved motion in 1977 that read:
“…that our Committee on Theological and Social Concerns be instructed to prepare a position paper on the matter of tithing, with all of its ramifications, in view of Malachi 3:10, and other related passages.”
(1977 Minutes, page 431)
In 1988 the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns in responding to two referrals on Capital Fund Campaigns made several statements as well on the tithe (reference 1988 Minutes, pages 572, 573).
In 1997 the Board of Stewardship prepared a one page “Concise Statement of Biblical Stewardship,” which was adopted by General Synod in which paragraphs VI and VII addressed tithes and offerings. (1997 Minutes, pages 581 – 582)
In view of all of the aforementioned reports and papers on tithing and biblical stewardship the Board of Stewardship believes another position paper would be redundant, but sincerely hopes that calling attention to these prior efforts will be helpful to the presbyteries and churches of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
The only added point the Board would emphasize at this time is that the matter of generous and sacrificial giving with the tithe as the minimum standard is NOT a choice between to tithe or not to tithe, BUT rather a choice to obey or to disobey God’s direction and command. Many previous reports and papers point out the benefit of faithful tithing, such as:
“…our personal commitment to God gives us the opportunity to see the blessings of God and to obtain a closer walking relationship with Him.”
(1991 Minutes, pages 732, 733)
While these benefits are clearly true, so too is the other side of the coin, which is that we disobey at our own peril. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7
The second theme in the memorial from Catawba Presbytery is whether fund-raising is a proper means for securing the finances necessary for the work of the local church. Since there is not an abundance of study nor reports on this particular subject, and because biblical principles are being sought, the Board of Stewardship requested at its fall meeting that the Executive Board of Synod authorize the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns to act as a resource committee to the Board regarding this issue.
The Committee on Theological and Social Concerns reviewed the memorial and made the following observations.
“The term fund-raising is very general and could cover many activities. Whatever the definition, fund-raising is still governed by the biblical principles and policies discussed previously in this report and its various attachments.”
In particular, the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns believes that paragraph 9 of the Synod-approved 1965 Statement of Policy of the Board of Stewardship is a concise and strong statement, yet one that avoids a rigid legalism. This statement is also included in the memorial and reads:
“The Board of Stewardship shall continue to express its opposition to fund-raising schemes such as bazaars, bake sales, etc., recognizing that in most (if not all) such cases, such efforts represent an effort to escape our responsibility to adhere to the principle of stewardship presented in the Bible.”
(1965 Minutes, page 325)