One member of the General Conference ad hoc committee dealing with the use of tithe was Jerry E. Bartram, an Adventist certified public accountant who spent considerable time studying the question of how the tithe should be used. He recruited a retired minister to help him in his research. After reading his personal testimony and studying our present policy, others may have convictions as to whether or not any further changes are needed. We invite you to send in your succinct comments and we will publish as many as we have space for.—Editors.
Although the invitation to be on the Use of Tithe Committee came during a crucial time in my practice—the middle of tax season—I took off a couple of weeks and dived into this thing head first. I searched the Loma Linda University library for everything I could find on tithe. I read materials from the General Conference archives. The more I got into it, the more convicted I became that this was an area of tremendous importance. One historical study showed that in the late nineteenth century tithe reform seemed linked with financial crises in the world and/or within the church.
My understanding is that the Ellen White statements regarding the use of tithe and the diversion of tithe funds were intended to ensure that there would always be ample funds in the treasury to pay the ministers adequately and to support a strong evangelistic thrust throughout the world. For instance, she wrote: "There should be an abundant supply in the Lord's treasury, and there would be if selfish hearts and hands had not' withheld the tithes or made use of them to support other lines of work.
"God's reserved resources are to be used in no such haphazard way. The tithe is the Lord's, and those who meddle with it will be punished with the loss of their heavenly treasure unless they repent. Let the work no longer be hedged up because the tithe has been diverted into various channels other than the one to which the Lord has said it should go. Provision is to be made for these other lines of work. They are to be sustained, but not from the tithe. God has not changed; the tithe is still to be used for the support of the ministry. The opening of new fields requires more ministerial efficiency than we now have, and there must be means in the treasury" (Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 249, 250).
Statements such as these led me to vote, along with some others on the committee, for revising the current tithe policy. I believe, for example, that neither literature evangelists nor teachers who do not teach Bible full-time should be paid from tithe. How ever, the majority felt that making these changes would destroy the system. They repeatedly asked, "Where will you get funds?"
But the more I studied, the more evident it was that the little lady who penned so many words on tithe either had an incredibly perceptive mind or she was inspired. Her concepts had the potential to bring a subtle balance and control to the church.
After the first committee meeting, I put in a night of soul-searching. The next day I didn't even show up until noon. Basically I couldn't handle it. When you deal with tax controversies, you keep smiling and banging away; you don't get totally carried away. But this struck a nerve in me. I realized how deeply I cared for my church. What bothered me was that an action was about to be taken that I perceived to be contrary to inspired counsel. Ellen White made statements beginning with the words "I was shown" or "I was shown by the Lord"—specific things. It appeared to me that some committee members were saying, "We are going to have to qualify Ellen White's statements on the use of tithe."
In my opinion, Ellen White never varied from the position that tithe was to go to support the ministers. That might include the ministers' wives who were involved in Bible work. It might include the publishing directors. You have to study her statements carefully.
According to Ellen White, using tithe for purposes other than supporting the gospel ministry would detract from the ministry. Because there was no chance for employment, qualified men would leave the ministry . or not take up ministerial work in the first place. Certainly that has happened. And that makes you sit up and think! This little lady was predicting something way down the street.
As to tithe exchange, I believe Ellen White's concept was that tithe belongs to the ministers in the entire world field. It is not proprietary to a conference, for if a conference was flush and had a lot of tithe, they could put in a lot more men than they could use. Rather than a tithe exchange, there was to be a tithe sharing—the tithe from a rich field was to be shared with a poor field [see letter 81,1897—Eds.]. But it was to be used for one purpose and one purpose alone: to provide financial support for ministers. This would include anything that would go under the support of the ministers.
No conference could use that money for any other purpose than direct evangelistic work and paying the ministers' salaries. And when they had as many ministers as they could handle, the excess tithe money was to be shared with whatever field needed it. Basically it would be up to the General Conference to allocate it to the world field.
(I understand that tithe sharing on the part of the local conferences in North America used to be on a voluntary basis. For several decades now, 20 percent of the local conferences' tithe has been sent on to the General Conference for its use. Undoubtedly, part of this is involved in the tithe sharing.)
Incredible system of checks and balances
How should the church pay for its support system: secretaries, office buildings, and so forth? From what Ellen White says about the Battle Creek church I infer that she believed these needs should be met out of nontithe funds (Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, Series A, No. 10, p. 19).
A council action taken in South Lancaster (found in the Atlantic Union Gleaner, Aug. 2, 1905) says: "We recommend that a general fund be allocated to meet the general expenses of the conferences." Clearly someone back then said that there is a difference between what funds pay a minister and what funds support a minister.
When that first hit me, I said to myself, "That will never fly. We can't do it!" And then it suddenly struck me— this lady was under inspiration. It brings in an incredible system of checks and balances.
Every year the church administrative and departmental personnel on all levels would have to go around and hustle appropriations to pay their own secretaries, to pay the utilities for the office, and to cover the necessary operating expenses, just as the local church congregations have to do.
This would mean that our presidents would have to be out in the field; the church ministries director and everyone else in the office would have to justify to the people who are going to fund them for the next year's operating budget why they were needed. But never at any point would their job be in jeopardy in terms of their salary, because it would be paid for out of the tithe. The subtlety of that check and balance hit me as one of the most beautiful revelations that I have ever heard.
On this point, no one else on the committee agreed with me; I stood alone. I think one agreed that in theory that is what she said. They all agreed it would be a tremendous balance.
I would like to make it clear that I feel there should be no cutting back on our educational system. Rather, a greater part of our schools' financial burden should be carried by our members. This would have the positive effect of causing our schools to be more responsive to the needs of the members who are funding the major portion of their budgets.
Use of Tithe Policy Revision
Voted, To adopt a new policy NAD T 20, Use of Tithe, to read as follows:
T 20 Use of Tithe T 20 05 Seventh-day Adventist Plan of Church Finance—1. Sources of Funding— God's plan for the support of His work on this earth is through the tithe and freewill offerings of His people. The tithe is the main source of funding for the total proclamation of the gospel to all the world by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This includes a balanced and comprehensive evangelistic outreach to the public and the spiritual nurturing of church members. Because the tithe is reserved for a special purpose, freewill offerings must provide the funding for many functions of the gospel work.
2. Tithing Plan—Through benevolence and liberality the Lord sought to teach His people that in everything He must be first. Building on this in his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul gave the believers instruction regarding the general principles underlying the support of God's work on earth (1 Cor. 9:7-14; Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 65-79; The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 335-337). Ellen G. White confirmed that the tithing plan is of divine origin, is for all time, and is anchored in the biblical plan of tithes and offerings.
3. Financial Support—The world task entrusted to the Advent movement calls for both sacrificial and systematic financial sup port. In recognition of this fact, the church in its formative years was divinely led to adopt the biblical plan of tithing as the financial basis of its outreach "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."
4. Storehouse—Only conference organizations are authorized to make allocations from tithe funds. The tithe is the Lord's and should be returned to the storehouse, the conference treasury. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3:10). "The tithe is sacred, reserved by God for Himself. It is to be brought into His treasury to be used to sustain the gospel laborers in their work" (Gospel Workers, p. 226).
T 20 10 Use of Tithe—1. Philosophy- Through the Bible and the ministry of Ellen G. White, God gives inspired counsel and valuable guidance on many matters. This enables the church to develop sound policies, the application of which will be in harmony with our understanding of God's revealed will.
2. World Mission of the Church—It is essential that the leadership of the church carefully study and apply the principles and concepts involved in the use of the tithe so that the church can effectively meet the needs and challenges of carrying the gospel and in proclaiming the three angels' messages to the whole world. In planning the use of these sacred funds, conferences must continue to regard the gospel outreach in soul-saving evangelism as a priority of the greatest importance. In pursuance of this ideal, this policy for the use of tithe has been adopted.
T 20 15 Purposes for Which Tithe May Be Used—1. Support of Pastors, Evangelists, Ministers—The tithe shall be utilized to support salaried personnel directly engaged in pastoral and evangelistic soul-winning endeavors. "The tithe is to be used for one purpose—to sustain the ministers whom the Lord has appointed to do His work. It is to be used to support those who speak the words of life to the people, and carry the burden of the flock of God" (Manuscript 82, 1904).
2. World Missions—The Sharing of the Tithe Policy (T 10) shall be followed. This policy is the church's response to the biblical principle of the strong helping the weak, and Ellen G." White's counsel on sharing tithe. "More and more we must come to realize that the means that come into the conference in the tithes and gifts of our people should be used for the support of the work not only in the American cities, but also in foreign fields. Let the means so zealously collected be unselfishly distributed. Those who realize the needs of mission fields will not be tempted to use the tithe for that which is not necessary" (Manuscript 11, 1908). The benefits to worldwide missions under this plan have been considerable. Because of the church's worldwide operations, determination of the percentages of tithe contributed as tithe of tithe and additional tithe percentages shall continue to be set by the General Conference/division committees. It is not the prerogative of churches/missions/conferences/unions to decide these percentages unilaterally.
3. Soul-winning Support Personnel— The tithe may be utilized- to sustain other personnel who, in a supporting role, directly relate to the work of soul-winning agencies, whether directed by the General Conference, the division, the union, or the local conference/mission. Included with such personnel are departmental directors and their staffs that are engaged in evangelistic and nurturing ministries.
4. Conference/Mission Operating Expense—The tithe may be utilized for operating expenses of conferences/missions and the facilities used by the personnel outlined above (see paragraph 3).
5. Literature Evangelists' Benefit Fund— The tithe is considered to be an appropriate source of subsidy for the conference portion of the Literature Evangelists' Benefit Fund.
6. Subsidies for Specified Activities—The tithe may be utilized for conference/mission operating subsidies for such programs as youth camps and camp meetings, as part of the evangelistic thrust of the church.
7. Evangelistic and Conference/Mission Office Equipment—Tithe funds may be used for the purchase of evangelistic equipment and conference/misson office equipment. All other equipment shall be purchased with nontithe funds.
8. Bible/Religion Teaching and Support Personnel in Schools—(see T 20 20 below).
9. Retired Employees—The tithe may be used for the retirement benefits of denominational employees (except those who are otherwise provided for, e.g., health-care employees).
T 20 20 Use of Tithe for Education— 1. General Principles—
a. In view of the Ellen .G. White counsel restricting the use of tithe "for school purposes," our system of education must be funded largely from other sources. Mrs. White does, however, make an exception in connection with Bible teaching in our schools. In the chapter entitled "School Management and Finance," in Testimonies for the Church, volume 6, pages 206 to 218, there is a section about the opening and operating of schools. It was written about the year 1899 and specifies certain individuals who could be paid from the tithe:
b. "Our conferences. . . should give the schools a most hearty and intelligent support. Light has been plainly given that those who minister in our schools, teaching the Word of God, explaining the Scriptures, educating the students in the things of God, should be supported by the tithe money. This instruction was given long ago, and more recently it has been repeated again and again" (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 215).
c. Our total school system is religious in its motivation, but it is recognized that Bible teachers exercise a more specifically spiritual and ministerial role by instructing their students in the Word of God and by leading them to the Saviour. Such service is worthy of tithe support.
d. In her practical counsel for the administration of the church, Ellen G. White often reveals deep concern lest a variety of ways be found to divert the tithe from the special purpose for which it is designated, namely the support of the preaching, pastoral, evangelistic ministry; the priestly duties of the minister of the gospel; and the support of Bible teachers.
e. On the other hand, a careful consideration of the Scriptures and of the Ellen G. White writings seems to indicate that as long as the sacred tithe, which God has reserved for Himself, is faithfully employed for the support of His work, such use is not contrary to the divine precepts of the Scriptures. It has also been concluded from the Ellen G. White writings that she broadens the use of tithe to permit the support of certain aspects of the educational program.
f. By applying the lessons to be learned from the Bible and the statements of Ellen G. White, we believe that under properly established guidelines, which would safe guard the support of the work of the ministry, tithe funds could be used to support certain activities of selected individuals. These are individuals who serve in- a clearly identifiable support role in educating in the things of God and who sustain a relationship to the work of the gospel minister.
2. Use of Tithe in Schools—The tithe maybe used in support of the various levels of the church's schools, as follows:
a. Elementary Schools—Subsidies of up to 30 percent of the total salaries and allowances of principals and teachers may be granted by conferences from tithe funds. It is believed that this figure should be a maxi mum because it represents a reasonable basis on which to evaluate the time devoted by elementary teachers to Bible instruction and spiritual nurture. To increase this percentage would detract from the use of tithe for its primary purpose, the evangelistic ministry.
b. Secondary Schools—The equivalent of the total salaries and allowances of Bible teachers, residence hall deans, and principals may be granted by conferences/missions/unions from tithe funds.
c. Colleges and Universities—An amount equal to the total cost of Bible departments, residence hall deans, presidents, and deans of students may be granted by unions/divisions/the General Conference from tithe funds.
T 20 25 Purposes for Which Tithe Shall Not Be Used—1. Capital Expenditures for Buildings and Facilities—Capital expenditures for buildings and facilities shall be drawn from nontithe funds. This includes such items as conference/mission offices, camp meeting facilities, youth camps, elementary schools, academies, church buildings, welfare centers, and college and university facilities.
2. Equipment—All equipment except evangelistic and conference office equipment shall be purchased with nontithe funds.
3. Local Church Operating Expense— Maintenance and other operating expenses, including the local church employees, such as secretaries, maintenance personnel, bus drivers, and others whose remuneration is being funded by the church, are to be provided from church expense funds. "The tithe is not to be consumed in incidental expenses. That belongs to the work of the church members. They are to support their church by their gifts and offerings" (letter 81, 1897). All tithe shall be paid into the conference/mission treasury, and under no circumstances is it to be retained in the local church for its use.
4. School Operating Expenses—The maintenance and other operating expenses of elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions shall be funded from nontithe sources.
T 20 30 Continuous Monitoring of Tithe Use—Administrators on General Conference," division, union, and local levels, accountable as they are to God for their stewardship, shall give continued earnest study, in the light of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy counsels, to the purposes and proportions in which tithe funds are being used in the organizations for which they are responsible.