'God loves a cheerful giver' will be a verse increasingly familiar to worshippers involved in Stewardship campaigns which hope to persuade congregations to give more in their struggle to keep up with costs as their numbers dwindle. I can't say I found this phrase helpful. Far better, I used to think, if the verse read 'God loves a grudging giver' but that is ruled out in the full verse: "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion".
It is hard not to feel under compulsion when church politics get in the way. In the current debate on same-sex marriage the ink was barely dry on the paper for the first reading of the Bill before the Church in Wales was putting together a Press Release showing a clear intent to be open to a resolution from the Church’s Governing Body to allow ministers to marry same-sex couples, from previous utterances a position almost certainly insisted on by their Archbishop and well-know disciple of the ultra-liberal Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, an example of ecclesiastical destruction to come which should be obvious to all but the blinkered but congregations are still expected to pay for this political posturing.
The February edition of 'The Bell', The Magazine of the Cathedral and Parish of Llandaff, where the Archbishop is acting Dean despite being unable to fulfill his duties as Archbishop adequately without the assistance of an Ass Bishop, there is a plea for people to up their giving. The note says: Have you seen the notice on the back wall of the Cathedral indicating the revised 'cost' per worshipper per week that we are required to pay to the Diocese in our Parish Share for 2013? It is now £8.56 and so, if your contribution (whether paid weekly, monthly, or occasionally) isn't reaching that level you are implicitly expecting someone else to subsidise your attendance! Please think and pray about this when deciding on the amount that you, as an individual or a family, decide will comprise your offering. A fair point even if not strictly within the spirit of St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians. It is not unreasonable for the better off to contribute more based on contributing 5% of disposable income which still leaves those on the margin contributing relatively more - the widow's mite - but the message is clear enough bearing in mind that there are many other expenses to consider including heating, lighting and general maintenance as well as charitable giving to the many who are even less fortunate.
Clearly this situation cannot continue indefinitely with fewer and fewer worshippers contributing more and more to sustain an organisation which appears to be completely out of touch with reality. Both in England and in Wales, those who now find themselves on the fringes are expected to pay their share regardless of the episcopal care they receive, if at all. Of first importance should be cost-cutting. In Wales, the good parishioners of Llandaff have to endure a dictatorial regime while, like others in the Province, being threatened with massive changes under the Church in Wales Review. Their priority must be to reduce administrative costs (Section 15 of the Review) now, not wait four years so that worship in its present form becomes unsustainable; otherwise it will be impossible for the few who are left to keep the hierarchy in the style to which they have become accustomed. The lessons of the High Street should not be lost on the church when their main desire today is to be relevant to society.