A Contrary Response to Loren Seibold’s Article on Tithe Withholding
I have many reasons to agree with Pastor (and Adventist Today Editor-in-Chief) Loren Seibold. Mostly because his spiritual insight is usually spot on. And his ability to express his ideas has not recently been surpassed in this denomination. I look forward to, and am often blessed by his printed and on-line editorials.
I practice and have advocated some sort of “Tithe Boycott” as an appropriate response to financial, moral, or administrative malfeasance in the Seventh-day Adventist church organization not otherwise being addressed by responsible parties in the church. So I would like to respectfully challenge some assertions in Seibold’s recent “keep on tithing” online editorial.
- “First…(it) is just never going to happen” — OK, then why are you wasting your time and our Adventist Today space about a non-issue?
- “Some of our faithful folk…would find (it) too complicated…” On one level I find this to be the first of two broad and perhaps demeaning generalizations in this editorial that I find beneath Loren about the mental and spiritual competencies of Seventh-day Adventist tithe payers. However, if he wasn’t just being condescending about “some of our faithful folk” but instead said even very well educated and highly positioned Adventists placed on committees or writing editorials for Adventist Today, “find it complicated” I might not object to that statement! Because frankly I’ve been in committees for years and it’s very hard to understand the tithe system. It’s terribly convoluted … and then you add things like the accepted practice of tithe laundering. It’s a mess.
- “My suspicion is that the loudest grumblers don’t pay tithe anyway” is the second generalization I object to. This kind of statement is the fallacy exposed in the article he just had printed in the Summer 2018 Adventist Today magazine (“A Fallacy Primer”) that said–attacking the character of your opponents, instead of their ideas is called an “Argumentum ad homineum” and is characterized as “abusive.” As a lifelong second-tithers (20% givers), my wife and I agree.
- “Only about 15% of your tithe funds budget other organizations…only about 4%…makes it to the GC.” Perhaps in Loren’s Conference, but in my Upper Columbia Conference I have been told that:
50% of the tithe is used for church ministry (salaries and benefits of pastors/a few Bible teachers/evangelists/conference ministry departments and their families),
26% goes to the General Conference, Divisions, and Unions
(1/3 of that comes back to conference projects the upper levels wish to support/control),
and the other 24% supports the Conference administrative costs.
- “if tithe dropped by half, it would indeed pinch…union, division, and GC offices. But it would also mean that half your conference’s pastors will be out of a job.” This might be true if what was being advocated was for SDA church members to stop tithing. But a coordinated “tithe boycott” that for example suggested all church members withhold tithe in October, and then resume the tithe in November by paying both months then, would not harm any local pastors but could send a powerful message to all church administrators reminding them the church members are not docile sheep to be fleeced, and that change of harmful policies and practices must be made.
Lastly his opinion piece ignores the bloated elephant in the Adventist room—the scandal that we spend MORE for administration in our church than we do on ministry! More money goes to the administrative structure than to all the world’s Adventist pastors, teachers, and evangelists combined. The Ted Wilsons, Dan Jacksons, John Freedmans, and Minervio Labradors with their shiny (they call them “representative”) well-staffed offices, consume more of the church’s resources than all the world’s pastoral Loren and Carmen Seibolds doing ministry to people through local churches or schools.
Pastors like Loren surely are aware that there is plenty of pain being felt right now by church members and employees, their children, and their grandchildren based on the gender discrimination and the suppression of the freedom to study and discuss openly debatable doctrines now trying to dominate this church.
It is true holding recipients of tithes accountable for their actions will lead to transmission of that pain to employees of a local Conference and demands the Conferences pass this pain on up the hierarchy. Sadly, there is no other effective mechanism available for local church tithe payers unwilling to support abuses by our denomination’s legions of administrators. The current GC president has abrogated to himself the title of “President of the SDA World Church” but none of us in the world church have had any chance to vote to put or keep him in that office, except when we write monthly tithe checks and send them on into his complicated system of “storehouses.”
I don’t know if Loren’s first assertion is true or not—perhaps “it will never happen?” But I do know that business as usual is no longer acceptable. As a committed tither I have recognized my personal moral obligation since 2015 to not support organizations involved in anti-Christian practices and attitudes. So, our tithe is still diverted to Adventist and Christian organizations, ministries, conferences and of course our local churches, openly opposed to the perpetuation of the abuses of male headship.
What does my local Conference need to do to get back our first tithe? Simply publish an action stating that they will treat and credential all ministers and employees on a gender-neutral basis with the goal of racial and gender parity. And that they reject any attempt to enforce 100% compliance for members or employees with any particular creedal statement. I am not opposed to some system of systematic benevolence. But I am opposed to letting it support spiritual abuse and a bloated overhead-heavy system of misuse of the Lord’s tithes.