By Ron Nicola, Chairman of the Department of Stewardship of the Antiochian Archdiocese
From The Word, October 2005
The concept and practice of tithing is being talked about more frequently throughout the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. To some, this is a positive and long overdue development. For others, discussion of tithing within the context of the Orthodox Church is both confusing and unfamiliar. It is true that the practice of tithing has not been common within most Orthodox communities in North America, but this does not mean that a discussion of tithing is out of place. In fact, just the opposite is true. There is nothing about tithing that places it out of the realm of the Orthodox Church, other than the fact that it has not been part of the tradition of our churches for the past few generations. There are countless individuals and some entire parishes within the Antiochian Archdiocese who currently tithe. Their example is a beacon for the rest of us to learn from and follow.
Primate’s Message Delivered at Biennial Parish Council Symposium
By Metropolitan Philip
From The Word, December 1994
Esteemed members of Parish Councils:
On behalf of the entire Archdiocese, I would like first and foremost, to welcome you to the Antiochian Village and especially to the Heritage and Learning Center. While here, I am sure that you will have the opportunity to see our camping facilities where your children spend some of their summer. You will also see our library which now houses more than twenty-five thousand volumes. Moreover, you will see our museum and School of Iconography, our beautiful dining room and the rest of our fine facilities. Surely, without your cooperation, the Heritage and Learning Center would never have existed. I am most thankful to you.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
by John Truslow, Archdiocesan Stewardship Team
from The Word, January 2008
Historian of Church Doctrine Jaroslav Pelikan once remarked, “Before Constantine [in the 3rd century A.D.], stewardship might have meant giving your life; after Constantine, stewardship consisted of paying your taxes” (“Orthodox America,” p. 193, in Good and Faithful Servant: Stewardship in the Orthodox Church, edited by A. Scott). This meant that Orthodox Christians were weaned away from biblical disciplines of giving over a millennia and a half of various (Christian and later Muslim) governments authorizing the collection of tax money, a portion of which supported the Church. Why “give” when the money will be taken from you to support the Church anyway, whether you want that or not? Quite so!
You will look in vain today in the (mostly 4th century) Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for a rubric that specifically directs the collection of tithes or offerings at a particular point in our worship, even though sacrificial offerings have been very much a part of worship as long as there have been records of worship, biblical or extra-biblical. Why? Why bother to have offerings when we have already given at the tax office? Quite so!
by Fr. Thomas Zell
from AGAIN Magazine, Fall 2005
One of my earliest childhood memories is of piling into the back of our family car on Sunday morning and heading off to our little Baptist church in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Along with ensuring that my brother and I were properly cleaned and dressed for the occasion, my father would always drop several coins into our hands, so that we in turn could drop them into the offering plate at church. Tithing was something Dad faithfully practiced all his life, and he wanted to make sure his sons followed suit. Having lived with this tradition for so long, and loving it so much, it is hard for me now to stop and look at it objectively. But since the concept has become somewhat an object of debate today, I would like to examine both the myth and the realities behind this practice, and to follow the trail of the tithe.
Tithing in the Old Testament
In English, Greek, and Hebrew, the word “tithe” comes from a derivative of the number “ten,” and means the setting aside of a tenth of one’s income for a specific, often religious purpose. Tithing is an ancient practice—very ancient.
Patterns of giving in Orthodox parishes tend to be influenced by three key factors. The first one is custom and tradition. For many people, especially those who are Orthodox by birth, their approach to giving to the church is often influenced most by practices their families and their parishes have followed for years. For long-established parishes, systems of giving may have been in place for generations within the community. As much as parish councils talk about encouraging people to give more, the customs and traditions of the past work to perpetuate an ongoing mind-set. The faithful of the community become locked in to giving what they have always given, often without thinking much about the amount in relation to other considerations.
Second, giving is often influenced by parish needs. The parish council builds a budget for the coming year, publicizes the information to parishioners, and encourages the faithful to offer their “fair share” for the coming year. In this same vein, a parish building program or some other special parish project can inspire parish members to give a one-time donation or a multi-year pledge toward the advertised campaign. This kind of need-based giving is a very common guideline used by individuals to decide how much to offer at a specific point in time.
by Ron Nicola
from The Word, October 2003
“Money and the Church” is the title of an article the Department of Stewardship has used in its parish workshop programs for many years, and the phrase is also the focus of an initiative being launched by this department. The author of the article, Fr. James Worth, is identified in the article as the pastor of the Transfiguration of Christ Church in Denver, Colorado. The former codirector of the Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Stewardship, the late George Dibs, introduced me to this article in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and its clarity and style fit beautifully with the workshop materials we were developing. I never had the pleasure of meeting Fr. James, but if his pastoral skills were reflective of this beautiful article, I am sure he served the Lord in a manner befitting our Orthodox teachings and traditions.
Christ is in our midst!
I would like to thank all of you for the holy ministry you are performing in your parishes. May God reward you abundantly.
Let me talk to you as children, friends, parishioners and Parish Council members. I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some thoughts on the ministry of the Parish Council in the life of the Church. When I say ministry, I am not saying this to “spiritualize” an otherwise secular job. A Parish Council member, through the acclamation of the community in which the Holy Spirit resides, has a charism, a special gift and responsibility to represent and serve the community. This ministry comes forth from God, who is the center of all things. This is why Council meetings are held in the Church, begin and end with prayer, and always are conducted with the priest present.
Like organs in a body, each Parish Council member has a special function. All of you have different talents and skills that you bring together to form a single body. The Council meeting is not an arena in which we do battle with others. We do not seek to defeat our enemies and compete with others. Each vital organ of the body works together for a common goal, and so Parish Council members must support one another. The aim is to speak with one voice.
by Christopher Holwey
I would like to offer a few words here concerning the difference between volunteerism and stewardship, and how it correctly pertains to our life in the Church. Over the years, I have seen many of us in the church struggle to get more and more people to participate and “volunteer” to do what needs to be done to keep our churches going.
Giving is only truly giving if it is done in the love of Christ. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, to love our neighbor as ourself, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Giving for any lesser reason (to control others, to get glory for yourself, to escape false guilt) is a perversion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:7). These commands can be called Christ’s law of love. (Note that neither “law,” “rule”, “standard”, nor “precept” is a “dirty word” when rightly used and understood.)
St. Basil the Great said that this life is no accident, but is a training ground so that we rational beings may learn to know God. This is relevant to our stewardship of what we have, and to our giving, especially during the period from September through December, our annual “Giving in Stewardship Emphasis Season.” How shall we apply Christ’s law of love to our giving in Christian stewardship?
Let us review what we have considered together over the years. God’s word written, Holy Scripture, and Holy Patristics, our chief Orthodox sources, address three major topics in giving: motives, methods, and results. If we internalize what our sources have to say on these themes for our lives and our parishes, we will do well!
Before you roll your eyes, be glad that we have largely reviewed motives already. God loves us. For God so loved the world – us – that He gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is good news (gospel), and it is good news that motivates us to give!