An increasing number of influential churchmen seem determined to put the denominational investment dollar to work in the social arena.
For years now, liberal clergy have set their sights on political power as the dynamism whereby the Church influences society. Now they apparently are convinced that money talks the loudest. This is not to say that the main leadership of the big denominations is sold yet on the use of wealth as a weapon. Many doubt the propriety and wisdom of it—and the criticism comes from both left and right.
But here and there church agencies are experimenting with the impact they can achieve by throwing around their collective financial weight. And there’s plenty of it to throw around: church-owned real estate in the United States alone has been estimated as worth more than $80 billion. That’s ten times the value of all iron and steel plants in America.
The American Association of Fund Raising Counsel estimates that religious institutions in this country are now taking in about $6.5 billion by voluntary offerings. That figure puts the Church into the category of the nation’s leading “industries” (see chart).
Despite churchmen’s vociferous expression of concern for people everywhere, it is doubtful that much more than 1 per cent of total church income finds its way into foreign economies. All available figures indicate that the vast portion of the money is pumped back into affluent American society.
Of growing significance is the amount of money being spent on bureaucracy, entertainment, meetings, and travel. Most church meetings are held in fancy and expensive big-city and resort hotels—the National Council of Churches’ General Assembly last December and this year’s Southern Baptist Convention were both held ...1
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