Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Tithing Trip

Living under grace, according to Michael Morrison of Grace Communion International means the end of all sorts of laws found in the Hebrew Bible.  He's probably right.

So it's bye bye Sabbath and dietary restrictions.  But what will Michael make of tithing?  Surely there's no possible confusion here.  After all, no Levitical priesthood, no temple, no New Testament precedent... no tithing. 

We might reasonably expect Michael to give us a clear message about stewardship though.  Things like; be generous, but take care where you send your money, support a variety of worthy causes, make sure they all have transparent financial accountability; you know, stuff like that.

Dream on.

In chapter 20 of Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing Morrison gets around to tithing.  Considering how he ripped so lustily into the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments, readers may be surprised at how coy he now becomes.

Abraham "may have tithed regularly, but we cannot prove it."

Darn tootin'!

And Jacob?  "Tithing may have been a part of common worship practices of that time and culture - or it may have expressed an extra level of devotion."

Do tell!  The cautious tiptoeing continues.  Multiple tithes could be a misreading of the relevant passages, but "this assumption may be wrong."

May indeed!  Do we detect the slightest hint of prevarication on these issues?  But Morrison is just warming up, here comes the heavy guilt trip.
The Israelites were required to give 10 percent - and their blessing was only a physical one!  Christians in the new covenant have much better blessings - spiritual ones.  How much more willingly ought we to give in thankfulness for the eternal blessings we have in Christ Jesus? ...  Should we give less than a tithe when the blessings we have are so much more glorious than those of the Israelites?
Michael goes on to remind us, lest we've somehow overlooked the fact, that Christians are meant to be generous, and "shouldn't we be willing to give more than the minimum?"  Indeed, supporting the clergy is "a command for all of us."
Elders, especially those who preach and teach, should be honored financially as well as with respect... people who believe the gospel should provide a living for some who preach.  There is a financial duty and there is a promised reward... [Christians] have a duty to support the preaching of the gospel, to give financial support to their spiritual leaders...
Well, okay, but do you notice that there's nothing here, absolutely nothing, about the duty of 'spiritual leaders' to be accountable to the membership both financially and in other senses?  Nothing about church members having a responsibility to make wise, informed choices about which ministries and other good causes they choose to support?

On the other hand there is an awful lot of harping on about duty from the bottom up.  Morrison seems to think duty only flows one way, up to those 'spiritual leaders' from the lay members.  Those good folk get soundly whacked around the head by Morrison.  And the unmandated leaders of sects like GCI?  They apparently get a free ride.

Last time I checked (and please, someone tell me if it's all now changed) the sect that pays Morrison's salary consistently refused to open its books to public scrutiny.  The official line was that members could request financial statements, but strangely nobody seemed to know anyone who actually got hold of one.  I do know of one US member who naively took church PR at face value and did indeed request a copy.  Result?  Church HQ contacted the local pastor who informed them that this gentleman had been irregular in attendance for a while.  The luckless member then received a terse letter back rejecting his application and indicating that he was effectively in a state of disfellowship!

If Michael and his ministerial mates want to "be honored financially as well as with respect", wouldn't you think it might be a good idea to clean up their act first?  Honor and respect need to be earned, and GCI's record of transparency and accountability over the years (decades!) has been, to put it politely, dismal.

To throw money at an organisation which isn't totally up front with financial disclosure, or is run by a self-perpetuating cabal (including a non-elected "president-for-life") and without visible systems of checks and balances is, at least in my view, completely irresponsible, and worse, makes donors into enablers of a dysfunctional structure.  That's not tithing, it's just stupid.

Sorry Michael, this chapter is a definite 'fail'.


  1. This one touched a nerve Gavin.

    "Should we give less than a tithe when the blessings we have are so much more glorious than those of the Israelites?"

    So he's still harking back to Tkach Sr's sermon that we should give more than 10%? I remember that sermon and feeling even more beat down over the church financial demands.

    I'm going to rant a bit at this point so forgive me and ignore if it seems tiresome.

    Isn't it ironic that now they are named "Grace" Communion International they are still trying to put a price tag on salvation.

    Maybe if they would sell a brand that people wanted they wouldn't have to act so much like bill collectors for salesmen of second rate goods.

    I'm so sick of people who want to conditionalize my being a believer in Christ by in effect stating, "if you were truly a Christian, you would want to...."

    To me it smacks of a lack of faith in God to relate to His children in a way He finds appropriate. Are they putting themselves in the position of being cosmic baby sitters or public welfare agents who have to justify their paycheck by declaring some sort of martial law regarding God's parenting?

    I know this has no relevance to non-believers and I'm cool with that. I'm just looking at it from within the framework of a believer who finds some forms of corporate church behavior very distasteful.

  2. Oh, paleese!

    No mention is made about "tithing" on fruit trees was there?

    There seems to be no mention of tithing on wages in Scripture.

    If there is physical tithing, what are we to make of "spiritual tithing". OK, I promise to tithe one tenth of my spiritual increase -- no money involved, mind you, just spiritual capital. I'm not certain how to define that, but no matter.

    Does this lying piece of garbage wish to find New Testament Scriptures about tithing, beyond Jesus saying "these things you should have done and not leave the others undone"? It is necessary to look at the venue: The people to whom he was speaking were under the ceremonial law, and if they were going to keep it, they should also look at mercy and judgment.

    But once the temple and priesthood went away, what then? There would be no place to take your tenth to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Are we to assume that the GCI ministers are of the order of Melchisidek? There's no indication they are even necessarily godly.

    Again, we get the tired old arguments from the Old Testament. The bottom line: They lie to you; then they take your money.

    Even if anyone does believe in tithing, should anyone spend it with GCI, which has no record of spiritual success, merely filled with empty arguments. Wouldn't you be better off attending a local Lutheran congregation? At least they have a church building.

  3. Abraham "may have tithed regularly, but we cannot prove it.".

    There is a reason "we cannot prove it" and that reason is that Abraham didn't regularly have spoils of war to divvy up among priest/kings of Canaan.

    Then, it was the priest/kings that divided the spoils among themselves - but Abraham was not a priest/king during the war of the kings in Genesis. Therefore, Melchizedek gave "tithes of all" to Abraham - not the other way around.

    After Abraham was given the spoils, "the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself." But, Abraham refused to take any of the spoil, "lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:"

    So, there were no tithes paid by Abraham to a priest/king at all - in spite of the traditional Xian interpretation. They were going to give Abraham his fair share but he refused it.

  4. Most people who read the Bible don't realize that there were several editings of the basic manuscripts at different historical junctions. This often meant "backwriting" revisions, and could have included the superimposing of Old Covenant law into certain narratives, as in Abraham's tithing prior to the OC, a God who requires no rest resting on the sabbath and hallowing it at the close of creation, and other events.

    Biblical historians have speculated that some of the edits could have occurred during the Babylonian captivity, or, later, by Ezra the scribe, preparatory for the post-exilic restoration of the Temple.

    Of course, nobody ever alluded to such things in WCG sermons or literature, not even the illustrious Dr. Herman Hoeh!


  5. I wonder what they plan on doing with all the money from the Pasadena campus sale?

  6. I wonder what they plan on doing with all the money from the Pasadena campus sale?

    The money has been going to Joey and some of the other coconspiritors. It is being dribbled away.

    If you recall, it was supposed to go to take care of minister's separation and caring for those who worked there.

    There hasn't been much integrity over at GCI, just a bunch of double-speak.

  7. You know, researching and analyzing mental illness is so much fun.