EDITOR, THE MINISTRY:
Following a recent funeral which I conducted, the daughter and son-in-law of the deceased, who- were both Adventists, wished to know what they owed for my services.
"You owe me nothing," I assured them. "Adventist ministers do not accept money for such service." They urged me to accept, but I insisted that that was not our policy. When the son-in-law was assured that I was serious, he exclaimed rather emphatically, "Well, that isn't the policy of all Seventh-day Adventist ministers."
"I think it is," I tried to convince him, "for' as I remember it, the Manual for Ministers advises us accordingly."
"I don't know what your handbook says," he countered, "but I do know that my wife's nephew was charged, yes charged, $5 by the Adventist preacher for a funeral in their immediate family. I was there, and I know. It didn't help the young man's Christian experience either. He's almost out of the truth now. And a sister in our church was also charged when her mother passed away.
"I always thought that we laymen supported the ministry by our tithes," he continued, "and then when we needed help it was rendered free."
We were agreed on that. I had been of the opinion that Adventist ministers were not to accept any fee for funerals. Needless to say it was shocking to hear of some of our ministers who asked for money for such a service. Was not that layman correct when he said that the ministry is supported by the members ? In time of grief, when those same members need comfort, consolation, and every aid that their pastor can give them, should not that service be rendered freely?
To my mind it is out of harmony with our message, contrary to the principles of Christ, and not even ethical, to charge for conducting a funeral service. But you say, "When people offer money for the funeral service, isn't it all right to accept it ?" To my mind it is not. Suppose we trade places with the bereaved. Wouldn't we, if we were in their place, appreciate having our minister refuse to accept money for the funeral ? Would we not like to feel that his sympathy and conduct were not being influenced by thought of money? And if the minister who served us was not of our belief, yet refused to accept money, would not our opinion of the message that minister represented rise immediately?
If the funeral director insisted on paying for our services, and we knew that refusal to accept the money would mean that the family would be charged anyway, perhaps we could take the money from the director saying, "It is my policy to accept no fee, but I shall be glad to return this to the family."
Says the Manual for Ministers, "It is not the practice for ministers to expect or receive a fee for conducting funerals."—Page 84. It continues with this exception : "If a trip of some distance is made to conduct such a service, and the family desires to pay the traveling expense, it is proper for the minister to accept such. If this is not offered, the minister should report the expense to the conference."
Why should there be any need of exceptions ? Remember we receive mileage for the traveling necessary in our ministerial duties. It has been my experience that if fees are refused, and some distance has been traveled, the local conference is glad to pay the extra mileage. How much better this plan is than that of accepting money from the heartbroken members, who have troubles enough at such a time. And what if the conference does not pay the few dollars it may cost us to make the trip to the funeral and back?
As one of our leading evangelists puts it: "Don't take money for a funeral. I know many will disagree radically on this, for they seem constrained to reach for money whenever it shows its head. This is no time to be taking rewards. Preachers already have the nickname of 'ambulance chasers.' Let it not be so among us." Would not this policy make our ministry more benevolent—more like the Master?
ROBERT L. OSMUNSON. [District Leader, Almena, Kansas.]