Step I: Withholding Tithes, Offerings, and Special Gifts
The Continuing Challenge
During the year 2000, Soulforce volunteers (working together with solidarity groups within each church) conducted silent vigils and acts of civil disobedience at the national meetings of the United Methodist, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches. These carefully planned direct actions were not the end, but the beginning of our Soulforce campaign to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE.
On January 1, 2001, we launch Stage II of that campaign. For at least thirty years, our friends and allies within each religious body have warned church leaders that their anti-homosexual policies lead to wasted lives, broken families, ruined relationships, discrimination, suffering and even death. For the past three decades our friends and allies in each denomination have conducted all kinds of creative and courageous direct actions to change the minds and hearts of their church leaders. Unfortunately, with the rise of fundamentalism in all our churches, church leaders (even those who want to be our friends) have sacrificed the needs of their GLBT members for the sake of church unity.
Some progress has been made as religious leaders have taken notice of the growing body of knowledge – scientific, psychiatric, psychological, medical, historical, pastoral and even Biblical – about sexual orientation. They also have witnessed the commitment and "voluntary redemptive suffering" for the past thirty years of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, their friends and allies working relentlessly to end their own denomination’s policies against their GLBT members.
Unfortunately, however, Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, United Methodist and other churches still have in place policies that discriminate against GLBT people. Official church policies declare us "sick and sinful" (Southern Baptists) or "incompatible with Christian teaching" (United Methodists) or even "objectively disordered" and "intrinsically evil" (Roman Catholics). Most have refused us the rites of marriage. Most prohibit us from being ordained. And a few even prohibit us from active church membership.
Minds and hearts are being changed, but there is more to be done. There are those within the church who are dismayed by their church’s discrimination against GLBT people but who are not certain how they can best help to confront it. The Soulforce "Withholding Tithes and Offerings Campaign" has been designed to "step up" the level of spiritual resistance against churches that discriminate and to provide an opportunity for additional supporters to join us, who till now haven’t known "what they could do."
Gandhi said it succinctly: "It is as much our moral obligation not to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good." For thirty years GLBT people and our allies have been helping to support our own oppression with every dime or dollar we contribute to our local church treasury. It is time to take a stand.
If your local church is a "welcoming" or "affirming" church, needless to say you will go on supporting that church in every way you can. Even if your local congregation is in the process of becoming a "welcoming" or "affirming" church, you may want to support that church financially until the vote is in. Of course if your church is NOT "welcoming" or "affirming" and isn’t even discussing the possibility (or if the discussion has gone on endlessly as a way of avoiding a decision), then why not consider joining our campaign?
If you are in a "welcoming" and "affirming" congregations but your denomination is officially on record condemning us or limiting our participation, then you might withhold the percentage of your offering that your local church sends to denominational headquarters.
[You probably know the policies of the church with which you are affiliated, but if you don’t, begin to do some research. Go to the church library and obtain a copy of the denomination’s doctrine and policies. Visit the denomination’s web site. If your local church is inclusive and welcoming but the denomination overall has discriminatory policies, find out what percentage of your contribution goes to the national governing body and consider withholding that percentage.]
By the way, the goal of this campaign is NOT to "punish" the churches that discriminate against us. Withholding our tithes, offerings, and special gifts may not even make a small dent in the overall church budget. This campaign is NOT against the local church. It is FOR the local church and FOR the individual church member who wants to see his or her congregation open its doors to all God’s children.
Our loving Creator calls us "to do justice…" This campaign provides us an opportunity to do justice right where we live. By ceasing to fund our own oppression, we empower ourselves first. Sure it will take courage. But with every courageous act your own spirit will be renewed and your own life transformed.
The process is simple. Once you’ve decided to withhold some or all of your regular tithes, offerings, or special gifts, just write a brief note to your pastor or priest explaining why you can no longer support an institution that oppresses GLBT people. Writing that note is an act of personal liberation (even if you can’t sign it yet). Taking this small stand is really about you. It’s an opportunity to work for justice where you live.
If you don’t want to write your own note, Soulforce is providing a sample "Withholding Card" that you can use to communicate what you are doing and, importantly, why you are doing it. It’s an important initial step. Make a copy of the card, fill in the blanks as appropriate, and drop the card in the plate during the offertory. Soulforce encourages you to do that every week, and to encourage others to do it as well.
To help those of you who want to participate in the Withholding Campaign, Soulforce will soon make available additional resources, including talking points and a contact person familiar with your denomination. Our goal is to have those resources available to you by mid-February.