Saturday, February 15, 2003

E-tithing helps donors
forgo the collection plates

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> For Sally Hanneman, church giving has gone high tech.

The 47-year-old physical therapist used to scramble to write a check as the collection plate approached on Sunday mornings. Not anymore -- now she contributes through an automatic withdrawal from her bank account.

"It just makes life a lot easier," said Hanneman, a member of St. John's Lutheran Church in Nashville.

In an era when an estimated 60 percent of Americans get their paychecks through direct deposit and half of U.S. households pay at least one bill electronically, some religious leaders see "e-tithing" as a logical step.

It works like this: Members fill out a form providing a bank or savings account number and the amount they want the church to withdraw weekly, semimonthly or monthly.

"It's just keeping up with what's available at this point and time technologically," said the Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis, assistant chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Others, who disapprove of e-tithing, say it sells out the idea of consciously making a gift to God.

"It's a way to be out of sight, out of mind," said Jack Wilkerson, the Southern Baptist Convention's vice president for business and finance. "Mainline denominations are using it today because ... they're looking for any way to prop up sagging giving."

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