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