Tithing: the New Test of Employment

Speaker: Categories: Oct 11, 1986


[57min, 27sec / 25min, 11sec]


North American tithe giving has not kept pace with inflation. In other words, Seventh-day Adventists are supporting the church less today, in real dollars, than in times past. Interpretations of this trend include a suspicion that, since Davenport, members have chosen to divert the funds to agencies of their choice rather than funneling the funds through the "approved" channels.


Perhaps it would be of interest to note that in the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists tithe giving for the month of August, 1986, amounted to more than fourteen million dollars. The members gave an average of $319 per person. Per capita giving by congregations ranged from a high of $827 to a low of $55, for those churches reporting. The Conference church reported $1696 per capita!

Last year's Autumn Council addressed the matter of tithe diversion and adopted a resolution that such diversion of tithe funds be prohibited. Considerable questions persist as to the denomination's Biblical support for interpreting just how tithe funds can and should be used. For instance, if a conference office secretary may be paid from such funds, may not a church office secretary be paid from the same source?

That 1985 Autumn Council took further action which revised existing policy and approved a policy whereby credentialed and licensed church employees who do not pay a regular tithe may be terminated, according to information reported in Spectrum, Volume 16, Number 5, page 42.

This policy further stipulates that, when hired, church employees shall be informed that "their tithing practices will be audited annually." Should such practices be not in keeping with denominational expectancies and should counseling efforts prove unsuccessful, "discontinuance of employment will result." (ibid.)

And it's at this point where denominational employees and laity alike have found themselves confronted by a major challenge. Specifically, does the church have the right, as a test of employment, to impose non-workplace behavior standards on its employees -- standards which it does not apply to its members as a test of fellowship.

According to Doug Welebir, "The laws of the United States and the State of California grant broad latitude to employers to establish conditions and criteria for employment, including the type and color of clothing worn, smoking, and haircuts." (Workplace behaviors!) "Should or does that include the right to mandate involuntary withholding of funds from paychecks . . . ?"


"How does the church," continues Welebir, "as both employer and the employee's spiritual community, exercise this right of setting employment criteria without encroaching on the process of developing Christian maturity?'"


Doug Welebir is a 1962 honors graduate of La Sierra College, majoring in history. In 1965 he earned his J. D. degree from the Law School of the University of Southern California. His professional experience has included: research assistant for California Court of Appeals, Deputy Public Defender, and civil litigation attorney as a partner in the law firm of Welebir and Lister in San Bernardino. From 1970 to 1974 he served as major of the City of Loma Linda.

(Ronald) Bruce Wilcox earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Pacific Union College in 1957. Graduate studies in biochemistry led to a Ph.D. degree from the College of Medicine, University of Utah, in 1962. He has served as a research fellow with both Harvard Medical School and Huntington Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital. At present he serves as Professor of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University. He is an active researcher and has received numerous fellowships and awards.

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