Following the news of an American church refunding tithes paid by its members over the course of three years as COVID-19 palliatives; some Nigerians have called on pastors, priests and heads of churches in Nigeria to do same.
Indeed, a sampling of the views of Nigerians on the subject reveals that; a significant majority of respondents believe this is a useful way for churches to alleviate the strain of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic on members.
1st News can report that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah; United States, had reportedly taken the unusual step of directing that members be refunded of their three years of tithe.
In a letter dated May 3, 2020, which has gone viral on social media; the President of the Church directed that members who have been paying tithes since May 2017; be refunded to serve as help during this COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘The ongoing pandemic has created serious challenges for many members of Church, especially for those who suffered loss of employment and other financial setbacks due to economic problems. Our hearts go out to all members of the church during these trying times,” the letter read.
“The Lord has blessed his Church greatly during prior years of prosperity. We have felt impressed to consider what more the Lord would have us do to care for those in need. After much discussion, earnest pleading and heartfelt prayer to know the will of the Lord; we feel strongly that Lord’s storehouse should be opened for a season for the blessing of His saints.
“We are pleased to announce a general Tithing Refund Program to serve as a help in these difficult times. The Church will refund up to three years of tithing payment directly to members who have contributed in the past.”
Furthermore, the church said both active and former members who have paid tithes in the last three years; are qualified to receive the payment. It asked them to contact their Bishop or branch president to request the refund.
Please see a copy of the letter from the church to its members below.
In separate interviews with 1st News, a number of Nigerians have hailed the move by the American church; even as they clamoured for churches in Nigeria to borrow a leaf.
One of the respondents, Adewale Akin, an entrepreneur; is emphatic that this is a path that should be toed by Nigerian churches.
‘‘The move by the church in America is a commendable one. But do our pastors here in Nigeria need to be told before they do the same? People are suffering. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown commenced in Nigeria; many tithe-paying members of several churches have undoubtedly been affected. So, for churches in Nigeria to decide to refund tithes paid by members as a form of palliative is not a bad decision. In fact, we are not saying they should refund up to three years as the American church is doing. Just one year’s tithe would be a more than enough sacrifice,’’ he declared.
Another respondent, Sandra Bassey, is also adamant that Nigeria’s men of God ought to do better.
‘‘Since the COVID-19 pandemic started; I am yet to see enough evidence that churches in Nigeria are doing enough to help out suffering members. That is not proper. I am aware that people who believe in tithing do so regularly. Some organizations did not pay staff salary in April. Yet, I know that churches have never stopped collecting or demanding tithes even in this COVID-19 period.
‘‘Therefore, I think that Nigerian churches can actually copy the step taken by that American church. Refunding tithes to members would indeed be a very good way for churches to identify with their members during this tough period. After all, one of the purposes of churches is to bring succour to worshippers,’’ she said.
Quizzed on whether refunding tithes would not affect churches; many of whom rely on such donations by members for sustenance; Bassey insisted otherwise.
‘‘The apostles of Jesus Christ were the forerunners of modern-day pastors. Their conduct was exemplary as they all led simple lives shorn of any form of flamboyance. This made it easy for them to carry on the propagation of the Word of God or the task of evangelisation without relying on sustenance from members or converts. Most of them even held down regular jobs and were responsible for feeding their members.
‘‘The problem today is many Nigerian pastors are living large and depend hugely on contributions from members,’’ she intoned.
Also speaking to 1st News, Francis Agu, a teacher, disclosed that it would be a very commendable move for Nigerian churches to refund tithes as a form of COVID-palliatives to their members. However, he stated that very few churches in Nigeria can actually do this.
‘‘Even as the private sector has come out to support the government in reaching needy Nigerians this period; Nigerian churches have hardly done anything. Yet, we cannot rule out the fact that churches are one of the most thriving enterprise in Nigeria. They should indeed do more to help the plight of hungry Nigerians this period.
‘‘Many have had their businesses under lock and key for several weeks. Hence, it would not be out of place if Nigerian churches follow the example shown by the American church. I am sure many members will be grateful.
However, considering the excessive commercialization in Christianity today, it is going to be very difficult. As a matter of fact, tithes, offerings and other contributions by members remain the major source of income for most churches. It will be very hard for many to refund these tithes,’’ he concluded.