Research Shows Half of Protestant Churchgoers Tithe to Ministries Outside of Church. “Most churchgoers say the Bible commands them to give. But their tithes don’t always go in the offering plate. Half of Protestant churchgoers say their tithes can go to a Christian ministry rather than a church. A third say tithes can go to help an individual in need. And more than a few (18 percent) say tithes can even go [to] a secular charity, according to a new study by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. ‘For many churchgoers, tithing is just another term for generosity,’ said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. For the study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend services at a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month—as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Most churchgoers believe they are commanded to give. And many believe in the idea of tithing, which is often understood as giving away 10 percent of a person’s income. Eighty-three percent agree when asked, ‘Is tithing a biblical command that still applies today?’ Eight percent say it is not. Ten percent aren’t sure” (“Churchgoers Say They Tithe, But Not Always to the Church,” LifeWay Research).
Is giving outside of the church okay? This infographic shows evangelical leaders’ responses.
Southern Baptist Leader Issues Apology for Comments About Women, Abuse. “Paige Patterson, the Southern Baptist leader under fire for his past comments regarding women, issued an apology today [May 10]. ‘I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity,’ said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). ‘We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.’ His statement . . . comes a day after Southern Baptist men released an open letter calling out Patterson’s controversial remarks. An initial petition launched by Southern Baptist women on Sunday now has nearly 3,000 signatures” (“Paige Patterson Apologizes ‘Especially to Women,’” Christianity Today).
This story was initially covered in last week’s News Roundup.
Political Sign Removed from Colorado Church Property. “A sign on the property of Freedom Outreach Church in Sterling showing support for a political candidate has been removed after being told it violated tax exemption laws pertaining to churches. The red, white and blue Chris Fiegel for Logan County Sheriff campaign sign was on displayed only a few feet from the church's sign. . . . Pastor Gilbert Gutierrez said on Thursday he was not aware that his church was violating any law by displaying a political sign on their property. He said he wasn't even sure how the sign ended up on the church's property or how long it had been there. . . . It should be noted that churches may participate in limited political efforts including nonpartisan campaign events or activities primarily around voter education and voter registration drives. Churches may also place signs and campaign for or against issues they support or oppose” (“Campaign sign removed from Sterling church lawn; violates tax exemption rules,” Journal-Advocate Local News).
With this downloadable resource, learn the tax and legal guidelines churches need to know before getting involved in local politics.
Court Dismisses Priest’s Lawsuit Due to Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine. “In Diocese of Palm Beach, Inc. v. Gallagher . . . a Florida state appellate court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine requires dismissal of a defamation suit brought by a Catholic priest against the diocese in which he served. Father John Gallagher was not offered the position of pastor at Holy Name Church, and was reassigned. He rejected the transfer and instead took a leave, contending that the reassignment was punishment for his attempt to expose inadequacies in the way in which the diocese handled sexual abuse claims. In response to his going public with these charges, diocese officials made comments that led to Gallagher's lawsuit. . . . Rejecting the trial court's conclusion to the contrary, the Court of Appeals held: ‘. . . We are not permitted to look behind the diocese’s ministerial employment decision because doing so would necessarily entangle us in questions about the religious reasons why Father Gallagher was not promoted under canonical law’” (“Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Requires Dismissal of Priest’s Defamation Suit,” Religion Clause).
Read a case study about the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine—and what it means for churches.
Emily Lund is assistant editor for Church Law & Tax.
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