QUESTIONS OF FAITH
A recent article in the newsletter of the UK based NPC is thought provoking and in terms of our traditional alignment to what is still regarded by some of us of British decent deserves our attention. The article deals with faith-based charitable entities that embody some form of religious belief in their mission, founding history and service content. New Zealand like Britain is an increasingly secular society with fewer people than ever professing a religious faith. Yet the number of faith-based charities has grown during the same period both in terms of the total and as a proportion of all charities. They are found across all parts of the sector. The majority (85%) are Christian, but Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish groups are also represented more or less in line with national demographics with notable changes between 2001 and 2011 that are as follows:
33.2 m Christians – down 4.1m
14.1m faithless – up 6.4m
2.7 m Muslims – up 1.2m
817,000 Hindus – up 1,000
817,000 Sikhs – up 87,000
263,000 Jews – up 3,000
In keeping with current immigration patterns it can be assumed that a similar trend could be observed in our emerging ethnic mix. The growth of faith-based charities in our country like the UK has much to do with the preferential status accorded to religion as one of the founding tenets of charity enshrined in Elizabethan law, which makes it easier for entities claiming to be based on principles of faith to achieve donee status and with it being absolved from paying tax. In our case, the requirement as an organised religious community to incorporate as a charitable trust, has added a proportionate number of new registrations. We define a faith-based organisation as one that embodies some form of religious belief, which can manifest itself in its founding history, mission, governance and staff.
However, it also raises many questions. Many faith-based charities work in deprived and difficult to reach areas of society and are recognised for their hard work. Does faith play a role in their services? How does a common faith enable them to help some of the most difficult to reach beneficiaries? Can their profession of faith also limit their appeal on sectarian grounds?
Most faiths provide guidance to their members on charitable giving for example 2.5% Zakat in Islam, 10% Tithe in some branches of Christianity and 10% Tzedakah in Judaism. Several well-resourced individuals with known religious orientation are known to contribute considerably more. What are the differences in how faith-based charities use their religious background to fund raise? Are there any special preferences that are facilitated by the faith of donors?
All these are important questions at a time when our congregation is challenged by a funding shortfall that will make increasing demands on our ability to find new income sources, while staying true to our religious principles in the face of greater competition and a decline in Christian congregations.