Monday, 17 June 2013

To tithe or not to tithe?

Come ye into His courts, and bring an offering with you – Psalm 96

Now that the conservatives in the Church of Scotland are stirring themselves gently in a schism-ward direction, with Holyrood Abbey the latest congregation announcing its desire to leave the fold, there’s been a story in the Sunday Herald about the potential loss in income from congregational offerings.

That set me a-googling. The Kirk helpfully provides a whole bunch of stats in its Supplementary Reports, showing that in 2011 its income from offerings (before tax recovery) was £60,488,000, and this from an enrolled membership of 432,343 souls. I'll admit to being a bear of very little brain when it comes to arithmetic and accountancy, but I've got a clever calculator, so here goes . . . 

If we divide the total “givings” by the total membership (which does not include regular adherents or casual visitors), the result is £139.91 per annum, or a measly £2.69 donation per person per week.

Okay, so maybe it’s expecting too much of them all to attend every week. Let’s say that only half of them attend regularly, or that they all go but only once a fortnight. They’re still only giving a fiver a week each … and that ain’t no tithe.

My sums could well be wrong, and if so I’ll stand corrected. But I’m really surprised people are giving so little. I have wondered throughout the year whether I’ve been putting enough in the plates at the various churches I’ve attended, especially since I’d be writing about them all (and not always to praise them), but by these standards I feel positively munificent.

On the other hand, maybe the membership figures are seriously overinflated. Who can say?

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