This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Rely on government?

I wonder why there is not much discussion about the implications of conferences and churches taking Paycheck Protection Program money (“Groups Rise to Meet Fiscal Challenges of Pandemic,” May 4). I was disappointed to hear my church’s leadership took it. Here is why I think churches taking government money is wrong.

The government doesn’t have any “extra” money. We are borrowing this money from our children and grandchildren, and they will have major problems dealing with it. The government will soon complain about the enormous budget deficit and use that as an excuse to cut education, health and social budgets.

The money is coming from the Small Business Administration to help small businesses. Large companies that have taken money have rightly been shamed and given it back. When churches take money from this pot, there is less for small businesses.

Those businesses need the money because they have been closed. My church is not “closed for business”; we are meeting online. And we are not customers but members who have pledged our time and money. If we can’t support our church, maybe we should temporarily scale it back.

I don’t think my church needs the government’s money. Even if some people’s income has gone down, each adult is getting $1,200 in the relief package. Our church members will probably get almost a quarter of a million dollars. If we would each tithe our $1,200, this $20,000 would make up for smaller offerings and allow us to meet our payroll. Can we call our people to tithe this extra money?

When the Anabaptist idea of separation of church and state went mainstream and was put in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the United States became the first country to not have a state-supported religion. No government agency has ever given money directly to faith-based organizations, until now.

This quote from the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective speaks to our situation: “In times of suffering as well as tranquillity, the church depends on the Spirit’s presence and power, rather than on the power or benevolence of government, for its preservation and mission.”

Who are we relying on for our preservation and mission?

Gary Oyer
Hesston, Kan.

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