Katherine Burgess 10-25-2013
RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Offering plates passed at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

WASHINGTON — Collection plates are growing even lighter as Protestant church member giving reached new lows in 2011, and tithing probably will not recover from the recession, according to a new report by Empty Tomb, a Christian research group.

“Is the issue that the church is not providing an authentic alternative to the consumer mindset?” said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb. “Over a period of time, if the church isn’t providing more of an authentic alternative, the church will lose.”

The percentage of a church member’s income given to the church dropped to 2.3 percent in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), down from 2.4 percent in 2010, according to the Empty Tomb study.

Timothy King 09-14-2011

A new study says that might just be how it works, as long as the taxes are progressive. The study was conducted in 54 nations with over 59,000 respondents. The polling tracked the expressed well being of respondents and then checked for correlations in taxation systems. The end result? On average, those who lived in a country with a highly progressive tax system reported a higher level of quality of life, more positive daily experiences, and fewer negative ones. Overall, people are happier the more progressive their tax system is.

It's an academic paper and the authors don't jump to any political conclusions, but they do provide at least one plausible explanation. The study notes that simply increasing government spending does not increase overall happiness. But people are happier in countries with higher levels of progressive taxation because they are more satisfied with basic government services, such as quality of education and health care.

Cathleen Falsani 09-13-2011

More than 15 percent of the U.S. population now lives in poverty -- the highest rate in 18 years, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released this morning.

Poverty has risen for the third consecutive year in a row, the new census figures show, with perhaps most distressing are the child poverty numbers, which rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010.

"The results aren't good," the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States focused on the biblical call to social justice, said upon reviewing the census report today.

Jeannie Choi 08-05-2011

1100805-moveHere's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • These videos will surely make you want to travel the world: Move, Learn, Eat.
  • Any Bon Iver fans? I missed their D.C. concert, but here it is recorded.
Timothy King 08-01-2011

Late last night it was announced that the president and congressional leadership reached a deal that should ensure that our country does not default on its debts. Now Congress is in the midst of making their decision on the plan. Already the media is trying to hash out who won and who lost, who is up and who is down, and what kind of effect the events of July 2011 will have on how the country votes in November 2012.

Jennifer Kottler 07-27-2011

Where has all the sanity gone?

I, for one, never expected in my wildest dreams to pine for the days of Ronald Reagan. But I'm there.

And for everyone who is blaming "everyone" on this debt ceiling debacle, you're just dead wrong. The Democratically controlled House and Senate in the 80s did not hold President Reagan hostage when he had to raise the debt ceiling. And that is exactly what is happening. And the problem is that this is a train wreck that has been months in the coming. The only thing that we don't know is how bad the carnage will be.

As the time shortens for Congress and President Obama to agree to the contours of legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, I am reminded of the story of King Solomon and his judgment regarding two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child (I Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon ordered that the living child be cut in two and half a dead child be given to both women. The woman who was the true mother insisted that the living child be given to the false mother. She was willing to give up her righteous claim to save the child's life.

Nadia Bolz-Weber 07-25-2011

He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

--Excerpts from Matthew 13

It's been a rough weekend. Watching the devastation that the combination of mental illness and fundamentalism brought to the people of Norway. Watching what the combination of drug addiction and fame brought to a talented singer, who, like so many who went before her, is now dead at the age of 27. Something they don't tell you when you get clean and sober is that if, by the grace of God, you manage to stay that way -- you get a much better life -- but year after year you also watch people you love die of the same disease. So yesterday when I heard that Amy Winehouse had been found dead in her home, it brought me back to nine years ago when my dear friend PJ was also found dead in his home.

Jim Wallis 07-20-2011

'Barack and Michelle Obama on election night' photo (c) 2008, John Althouse Cohen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Today, I, alongside other faith leaders, met with President Obama about the critical budget debate. We are grateful and hopeful leaving this meeting. Please pray for us as the conversation continues.

Since early this spring, Sojourners, with your invaluable help, has strongly advocated with the president and Congress, asking for a responsible plan to reduce our nation's deficit -- a plan that protects the poorest and most vulnerable. We have asked, "What Would Jesus Cut?" We have prayed and fasted, and now thousands of you have signed on to the Circle of Protection: a statement on why we need to protect programs for the poor.

Betsy Shirley 07-19-2011

oh yes I amphoto © 2007 Laura Askelin | more info (via: Wylio)Though I like a rousing round of ave maria's as much as the next person, the past few centuries of church prayer trends have eschewed Latin in favor of the vernacular -- that is, the language of the people. And to the tune of 450 million copies in more than 70 translations (and counting), it's clear that people the world around speak the language of Harry Potter. Or rather, the story of Harry Potter speaks to them.

So as I watched the final Hogwarts Express depart from Platform 9¾ in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II this past weekend (slightly teary-eyed, I confess), I started to wonder: What might it sound like to pray in the language of Harry Potter -- language that clearly resonates with folks around the world? Would it be cheesy? Probably. Profane? Perhaps. But I figured the God who relied on earthly parables about wineskins and fig trees to explain the Kingdom would understand.

Debra Dean Murphy 07-07-2011

I couldn't bear to watch any of the coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial. I heard snippets of information on occasion: intimations of incest; a car that "smelled of death"; fist fights breaking out as the curious and obsessed (or the profoundly bored?) tried to get a seat in the Florida courtroom.

Elissa Elliott 06-08-2011
Not too long ago, a family member told me in hushed sad tones that he was praying for me. I wasn't ill. I wasn't going through a tough time. No.
Hannah Lythe 05-18-2011
On April 14, Jim Wallis attended a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Rev. Peg Chemberlin 05-10-2011
Years ago, the member communions of the National Council of Churches declared that a budget is a moral document.
Almost three weeks ago I stopped eating and started fasting, calling people of faith and conscience to do the same.
Jeannie Choi 04-15-2011

Weddings. T-Shirts. Taxes. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • Looking into the past, from the present.
  • Do you believe in living more with less? Do you design T-shirts?
  • We continue to pray, fast, and act for the budget. Join us.
Tracey Bianchi 04-14-2011
I'm a Midwestern girl coming out of her winter shell this month. Flip flops are lost companions just now crawling out from under beds and hidden closet shelves.
In the tradition of the church, the season of Lent was observed through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Jim Wallis 03-30-2011
"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Jake Olzen 03-23-2011

In a country torn by 30 years of war, where the promise of peace continues to be broken, despair and resignation seem to be the norm for Afghan society. War -- and its corollaries of social decay, poverty, corruption, and trauma -- does not discriminate.