A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the Eastern District Synod. As is always the case, there was legislation and the like, but this Synod was quite different. The focus was on ministry: not only talking about it, but actually doing it.
I was assigned to serve food to employees of one of the nearby Moravian Senior Communities. Then the Synod body gathered and concocted over 30,000 bags of dried food products into a yummy meal that was being sent to Haiti. Finally there was a panel discussion of churches where the focus was on hearing their stories about ministries each had undertaken in response to a Call.
It was fun. And to be able to say a Synod was fun and inspiring is not very commonplace in my nearly 20 years in attending Synod.
When we returned to our groups, we all reflected on the experiences and discussed our response. In my role, I talked about how we need to try to build a more vibrant culture of giving to support our collective calling to serve and minister. I used the word “philanthropy” and refreshed people’s memories of its roots and meaning – loving mankind. So a philanthropist is a lover of mankind. If this isn’t what a Christian is supposed to be, then I need to find a new faith.
The discussion ensued and a subcommittee began work on a document.
When we presented the results of the work, the reaction to using the word “philanthropy” was amazingly negative. One person said, “We can’t talk about money!” There wasn’t a mention of the word money in the document. It was about giving – all forms – and storytelling, as we heard in general sessions and created through our good works. I listened and watched and then suggested the proposal be withdrawn.
After almost 20 years, I am still surprised how money and church, and how we need money to do church is seen as almost unholy. For Moravians, this should not be the case given the church’s history. We know that one of the purposes of the original Bethlehem Moravian community was to organize itself and sustain itself via its economic life. Money, as long as it is well-earned, was used to support the community, the Church and its ministries. They embraced this and it allowed this small band of believers to do great things because it was their calling.
What is also funny – not humorous funny – is when I talk with donors, they see things this way and wonder why it is not more fully embraced. They don’t see the money they are giving as bad or unseemly. They see it as well-earned and a gift to help the ministries they love.
I ask you to think about money and your faith. In particular, would you like to think of yourself as a “faithful philanthropist”?