In an effort to increase giving, congregations across the U.S. are taking donations automatically out of members’ bank accounts, reports the Detroit News (April 13).
The Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal organization, has signed up more than 600 Lutheran congregations for such “e-bank” offerings. Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal and nondenominational churches are also experimenting with electronic-funds-transfer programs. This convenience, however, is causing new social and theological dilemmas.
“There’s a stigma when the offering plate goes by and you have nothing to put in it,” says Jeanne Rose, president of Vanco Services Inc., which provides e-bank offering programs for many churches. In more liturgical churches, giving offerings is a form of thanksgiving which preludes communion. The Lutheran Brotherhood gives church members bright stickers to affix to empty envelopes to signify they have already given.