Throwing out a question

A few days ago, I put the following question out on my Facebook page:

In the interests of social and economic justice, Christians would not think it acceptable to send people with insufficient training to provide medical care to impoverished communities.  We would find it appalling to allow low-income people to be represented in court by anyone who is not a  qualified attorney.  It wouldn’t matter that these people were volunteering their services–we would still insist that they be properly educated to meet publicly recognized standards before they provided these services, even at no cost to the beneficiaries.  And we certainly would require that those who provide professional services on a pro bono basis complete ongoing education in their fields.

So why do we think it’s okay to say that churches can only have the clergy they can afford, and ordain those who have not met the standards of their denominations to “minister” in underprivileged locations, without adequate support and continuing learning in this work?

(Happy to have you share your thoughts…)

3 thoughts on “Throwing out a question

  1. Hmmm – these hypothetical Christians seem to find it perfectly acceptable to send no one at all to fulfill those medical, legal & educational needs. We say that we can’t afford to send anyone because the qualified usually have minimum acceptable stipends. So the poor do without.

    Churches seem to find it more important that there be someone there, however ill-qualified, rather than no one. We claim to trust God to supply any deficiencies. Mind you, I’m not saying that this is good thinking (!!).

  2. In the Church of England,all paid clergy at parish level are paid the same. That way, there is no financial need for a family man or woman to seek out the more properous parishes.

  3. I know (I worked in the Church of England for four years, two doing research on clergy, and two TRAINING clergy). Here in the US, it’s almost entirely a “free market” system. A congregation can pay whatever it is able, and attract whoever it can. Which means a less-prosperous congregation is left with whoever it can get, or with nobody at all.

    And in a way, because contributions to the congregation are counted as tax-deductible charitable donations, this is WRONG. Only the portion of the tithe (or other amount paid) which does NOT benefit the donor, should be deductible–that means, pretty much, only the outreach that goes to support things outside the congregation. So, the portion of the contribution that pays for the minister’s stipend, maintenance on the building, the music director’s salary, worship or Sunday school materials–none of that should be counted as a “charitable contribution” because it directly pays for the benefit the donor is receiving.

    If I buy a ticket to the symphony, that is not tax deductible (even though the orchestra is usually a nonprofit charitable institution), because I get a benefit for my money. If I make a donation above and beyond the price of the ticket, THAT is deductible (minus the value of any “thank you” incentives that I may receive).

    It’s a little upsetting that we’re willing to tell our less-affluent brothers and sisters in Christ “too bad, so sad” that you don’t have a well-trained minister (even one who is willing to work on a voluntary basis) because you can’t afford it. There needs to be some way of redistributing the wealth to make sure that all congregations have appropriately qualified ministers. And good training (both prior to licensing/ordination, and continuing education afterwards) Costs Money.

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