Digital tithing – Critics fear disengagement

Houses of worship are beginning to embrace e-commerce, with a growing number of churchgoers arranging for their weekly offerings to be deducted automatically from their bank accounts, The New York Times reported Nov. 19.

Congregations of many denominations are turning to the same type of electronic fund transfer system that lets individuals pay their bills or invest in mutual funds.

Christianity Today magazine estimates that 5 percent of religious congregations in the U.S. are using electronic-giving programs, with many others planning to do so, the Times said.

Digital giving has been instituted mainly by Christian churches, but some synagogues are beginning to use or consider the technique.

Many religious groups say automatic payments help overcome sluggish giving over the holidays when members take vacations. Digital giving also reduces the time to count cash and checks after services.

But some critics worry that electronic donations could dilute the religious significance of giving, reducing it to a routine act.

While various denominations use electronic giving programs, only the Lutherans – through the Simply Giving service of the Lutheran Brotherhood financial services firm — have adopted it on a national level.

For full story, go to The New York Times.

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