Christian Life 

He who pays the piper calls the tune...

Christian organisations which depend on funding from secular sources could be leaving themselves vulnerable to funding cut-backs and pressures to water-down the essential Christian component of the work.

by Watchman

PiperMANY Christian organisations are turning to secular sources of money to finance their operations.  And Mr. Greer Johnston [Ed note: Greer is a well-kent Christian living in the Highlands] has commented on this web site regarding recourse to Lottery funding:

"It is a sorry day when Christians see nothing wrong in funding His work from the proceeds of gambling; especially when He has promised to supply all our need out of His fulness."

And allied to the fact that the Lottery makes its money on gambling and by exploiting the "get rich quick" mindset of the poor and the not-so-poor, there is a wider - and equally important - principle at stake here; that of accepting money from non-Christian sources at all.

Tainted money

General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, felt that there was no such currency as 'dirty money'. All gifts, whoever the donor, were gratefully received to help on his work of alleviating the sufferings of the needy. Sinners and saints alike were welcome to contribute to Army coffers. He had a ready answer for his critics. On one occasion he accepted a donation from a man in high society, but one known for his agnosticism. Although some of his friends frowned on his action, the Army Founder's conscience was not uneasy. 'We will wash it in the tears of the widows and orphans' he replied, 'and lay it on the altar of humanity.'
On another occasion when he was accused of taking 'tainted money', he reputedly replied: " 'Tain't enough."

Whilst the money offered to Booth in his day might have come without strings attached, it is very rarely in our contemporary age that this is the case for any significant sums. Funders invariably place terms and conditions on how their money is spent.

It would be interesting were the SA founder alive today to invite his comment on the fact that the Salvation Army hostel in Inverness was recently closed when the Highland Council withdrew the funding for that operation.

And more recently the Roman Catholic Church has been placed in a dilemma when the Government refused to accept the operating principle of the  RC Church's adoption arm which refuses to place children for adoption with non-heterosexual couples.

In the Highlands, some years ago, a group of Christian young people on the west coast were denied public funding to continue the "helping hand" work they were undertaking amongst their peers. The reason given was the fact that the organising committee was composed entirely of Christians.

Compromise and drift

Many organisations which were started by Christians and with Christian principles are now, in terms of what they believe, far away from Christian ideals and moral values. Much of the Scottish school network was were set up by the Christian church, but most are now - in terms of moral and religious education - teaching a multi-faith morally-relativistic message.
And a very well known telephone helpline which was started by a Christian minister disclaims any religious affiliations and will not allow Christian volunteers who man their helplines to speak of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other national and notable examples of a similar nature to this.

The 'departure process' can happen very slowly and insidiously: but it happens nevertheless. It might stem from accepting unbelieving people into decision-making  positions on otherwise-Christian bodies, but the deviation from Christian beliefs and practices can often arise when sources of secular funding impose certain conditions before financial support will be given or maintained.

And it is not just parachurch organisations that are at risk of pressures to compromise from secular funding sources and the value-systems of our age.
Many churches are now built using loan funding; and rely on reclaiming tax from the UK Treasury based on their charitable status to repay the mortgage. However, new charity law falls short of guaranteeing continuing charitable status to Christian churches. Concerning discussions on the framing of new legislation, the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship reports:

The [Charity] Commission [for England and Wales] announced that they will be “building on the findings of a two year programme of workshops with representatives from over 800 faith-based organisations across 11 different faiths. Events were held with Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist communities as well as special meetings with the UK's smaller faiths such as Baha'i and Zoroastrianism, and a special multi-faith event for women only.”

It is of great concern to note that over the last 2 years no specific mention at all is made of any consultations with Christian organisations or faith groups apart from in the development of a model governing document for independent evangelical churches in 2004.

Imagine the problems that could arise if a church which was paying off a loan were pressured to either modify its teaching on sexuality or the uniqueness of Christ in order to accommodate the political correctness of our relativistic age or otherwise lose its charitable status and, in so doing, sacrifice a considerable chunk of income.

'Sing off the humanist / pluralist / PC hymn sheet or your money will be cut......'

All this of course gets back to whether or not we trust in God for our provision. And underlying that question is whether or not all our schemes, programmes and building works are really in the will of the Lord. Are all our plans and activities by nature 'Kingdom building'; or are they just 'empire building'? Take away the secular funding and we will soon see! Is God setting our agendas, or are we building castles on sand?

Compare how we often operate today with that man of great faith George Müller. He never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five children's homes cost - at 19th-century prices - over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children.

Mr. Johnston's remark raises very real issues regarding compromising our ethical standards, laying ourselves open to accusations of hypocrisy, and placing our dependence on man rather than God. And in the process, Christian churches and other Christian agencies could be putting their necks into a Godless noose.

Watchman, 16/12/2007

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Chris Hyslop (Guest) 27/12/2007 14:36
I wonder if the real issue here is not really whether or not to accept money from 'non-Christian' sources, but whether or not we really believe that God is in control.

- Do we forget that God owns everything, and we are only stewards of the resources he entrusts to us, just as the people in the 'world' are only stewards of the resources they have, though they don't yet realize or recognize that? Perhaps we should allow that God might use a 'non-Christian' source to provide money for a particular ministry. He has certainly used non-believers to provide for God's people in the past (ie. Joseph in Egypt).
- Once we've started some ministry with help from 'secular' funding, are we willing to let it go if the source of that funding starts to insist on adding restrictions we find untenable? Or do we fall into the trap of thinking of it as 'our' ministry, and let our egos lead us to compromise in order to keep on getting the funding we want so 'our' ministry won't come to an end?
- Perhaps we need a reminder that we should be careful not to let money make our decisions for us, but it seems a rather big jump from that to the notion that it is wrong to use 'secular' funding to help pay for ministry. (In fact, I'm more uncomfortable with the 'religious' tendency to try to make rules about who we can and can't accept money from, than with the challenge of dealing with the pressure to change what we're doing under the threat of having funding removed. I'm actually inclined to think that sometimes God might use someone from the 'world' to ask good questions of us, so that the ministries we want to run are challenged to actually address real needs, and not just provide us with a platform to preach at people. Of course we need to communicate the gospel to those around us who don't yet know Jesus, but both Jesus' example and instructions for us were to do that by serving the needs of those around us, and in the process demonstrate this new Life that he gives his followers. When they hear us speak of the difference it makes to know Jesus, they ought to be able to see through their experience of how we've treated them that its true.
- I'm a sinner - forgiven because of my relationship with Jesus, but a forgiven sinner, all the same. When I put money into the offering at church, a sinner has just given money to help fund ministry. If the church refused to accept money from sinners, there would be nothing in the offering at my church, and I suspect the same deplorable situation exists at all the churches I know of.

I do have to take exception with one line in particular in the article that sparked this whole discussion. The author states "The 'departure process' can happen very slowly and insidiously: but it happens nevertheless." I do not agree that the 'departure process' happens in every organization that accepts funding from secular sources. I'm not disagreeing that it may sometimes have happened, but I think this is a rather sweeping generalization.
Editor 12/01/2009 14:43
A Brighton care home for elderly Christians has lost thousands of pounds of funding from the local council because of its religious beliefs on homosexuality.

Brighton Council – renowned for its political correctness – wanted the home to ask its elderly Christian residents about their sexual orientation every three months.

Residents at the Brighton home are made up of 39 single Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a retired church minister.

The council also wanted the home to use images of homosexuals in its promotional literature and show a Stonewall presentation on ‘gay rights’ to staff.

Managers at the care home explained that to comply with the demands would unduly distress the elderly residents and undermine the home’s Christian ethos.

But council officials accused the home of “institutionalised homophobia” and pulled £13,000 of funding which was being used to support a warden.

Read on in the Christian Institute -
Editor 12/01/2009 14:47
A stay of execution against faith-based adoption agencies ran out on New Year’s Day, with opponents claiming they must bow to ‘gay rights’ laws or face crippling legal action.

It is claimed that the Sexual Orientation Regulations make it unlawful for religious adoption agencies to place children only with married couples and single people.

But others point to exemptions in the Regulations and other laws protecting religious liberty.

Five Roman Catholic agencies have decided to go against the Church’s teaching and change their policies to allow applications from homosexual couples.

One Roman Catholic agency is to close down altogether.

But a number of other agencies believe the law does allow them to operate in accordance with their religious ethos and are seeking alternative legal options.

Read on in the Christian Institute -
Editor 16/02/2009 20:00
Christian groups should only be able to access funding for social work if they promise not to evangelise, says communities secretary Hazel Blears.

Speaking at an Evangelical Alliance (EA) conference on Christian debt-counselling services Mrs Blears spoke of a new charter for faith groups involved in social work.

Under the charter, developed with the help of the Faithworks group, religious organisations will be offered public funding for projects serving the community.

But this money will, Mrs Blears said, only be available to groups “promising not to use public money to proselytise”.

Read on in the Christian Institute
a h 20/02/2009 10:54
A couple of points

Iain L wrote
"I guess part of the point I was trying to make is that there is no such thing as the "pastoral office". The word "pastor" in only mentioned once in the NT and yet the church has created a huge industry out of it. There is more biblical warrant for the office (sorry "ministry") of snake-handing which I think is mentioned twice."

Ian, without making a big thing about this may I just say, that Abraham, was a Pastor, so was Moses, so was David and so was the Lord Jesus. To name but a few. The apostles were also all Pastors.

If the word Pastor is only mentioned once then how many times is the office referred to or inferred?

Jeremiah 3:15
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Pastoring is absolutely vital in the Body of Christ and the main reason why it should be a title is that people will then recognise those who can be trusted to pastor others. In your world where 'capable' people pastor others and there is no structure or recognition (which is Biblical) I have witnessed the wolf amongst the sheep on many occasions. Dangerous and devastating.

My other point regarding funding; for years I was in the rehabilitation of offenders, drug addicts and alcoholics ministry. Many similar ministries in the UK had set themselves up for social-work funding but had to compromise their stated beliefs. Then they had to actually tell lies to maintain that funding, purely by teaching what they were not allowed (by social work) to teach.

That is what you call paying the piper - social work liberalism is imposed on Christians.

On the other hand, I had a friend who, years ago, gave hot-drinks and clothing to prostitutes in Glasgow. One of the volunteers saw a prostitute giving a £10 donation to help with the work. Criticism followed. "How could you touch that filthy money?"

So, my point is - Money has no character and holds no record of ownership. If it is given freely by whomever and you know it wasn't stolen, it shouldn't be rejected. Even if you burn it afterward because you know it was the proceeds of prostitution for instance, then at least you haven't offended the giver.

However if it is given with the intention of compromising you or giving you conditions contrary to your belief, then it is filthy and will ruin a ministry in no time and should be rejected.

I refused to compromise and through lack of funding I eventually quit. If God wasn’t going to provide then it was obvious He didn’t want it to continue.

Maybe it’s time some other ministries did likewise.
Penny Lee 20/02/2009 11:48
'So, my point is - Money has no character and holds no record of ownership. If it is given freely by whomever and you know it wasn't stolen, it shouldn't be rejected. Even if you burn it afterward because you know it was the proceeds of prostitution for instance, then at least you haven't offended the giver.'

I agree, Alan, but would go further. It is clearly wrong to pursue money which has been gained through immoral means. However, a gift given freely and in good faith should be accepted and that advice is Biblical.

You cannot undo the deed which earned the money but you can ensure that it goes towards helping those caught up in this practice to find a better way to live.
a h 23/02/2009 09:43
Spot on Andrea. I would have said that but when I'm ranting I get very focused on one point! :-)
Editor 14/11/2009 10:56
Colin Rous (who worked with the Salvation Army Hostel in Inverness until it was closed) writes:

It is just over two years since the Highland Council did the same thing to The Salvation Army's Centre Huntly House. At that time, and following much prayer, we realised that this was a move to close all establishments that carried the banner of a Christian faith.

How long will Christians sit in their pews protesting verbally about these outrages before the Highland Council closes all places that show professional excellance under the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

My prayers are with you all for a successfulconclusion to this disgraceful action of the Council.

My wife and I suffer with you as we try to maintain our Christian faith in this Muslim country (Turkey)and we know, only too well, the thoughts and prayers that you will be having for the well-being of all of those people who have benefitted from your service, as they did with ours at Huntly House.

God Bless you all and we will keep you all in prayer.

Colin & Sine Rous
Editor 17/03/2010 09:41
With the withdrawal of funding to the Beechwood House 'drying out' centre in Inverness this is yet another example of a work with Christian origins and ethos facing closure when secular funds are withdrawn.
David (Guest) 17/03/2010 13:59
The notion of the lottery funding source is an interesting one as its deemed as accepting 'gamblers' money.
However ponder this reality.
All of us own bank accounts or savings accounts. These accounts are 'managed' by account managers who in turn 'invest' our money on the stock market. The stock market is in effect gambling as you are hedging whether the price rises or falls. This is a fact, and as we have recenly seen to real dire effect! The interest we receive from any investment or any share dividend is gained from this stock market activity.You then withdraw your money on a Sunday morning from an ATM and drop that into the church collection bowl... gambled money??
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