Henry Brinton's Oct. 10 Outlook piece didn't examine one of the major points complicating church donations -- the amount of money that goes to support the national bureaucracies of mainline Protestant churches. My own United Methodist Church (UMC) is one of the worst offenders. The bloat in its bureaucracy can be seen in the church's 1997 (the latest date available) financial disclosure statement.
In her recent book on the corruption of the American political process, Elizabeth Drew stated that 11,500 registered lobbyists were in Washington in 1998. Contributing to this is UMC's lobbying group, the General Board of Church and Society. In 1997 the UMC paid $1.94 million in salaries and benefits to its lobbyists, who also spent another $1.6 million on conferences, travel, postage, etc. For this amount of money ($3.5 million) the Salvation Army could provide a year's lodging with two meals a day for about 2,800 people.
Our churches should focus on their basic mission of preaching the gospel and making each church a center for charities that involve church members personally. The last thing we need is a huge, bloated bureaucracy patterned after the inefficient federal government. It's time that mainline Protestant churches did a little downsizing and outsourcing themselves. In this way they would truly become the wise and generous stewards that Mr. Brinton extolled.
DONALD R. BAUCOM