Sunday, August 23, 2009
Soli, levy, tithe, first-fruits
There seems to be a confusion over words used in recent articles in the Fiji papers, words such as soli and tithe.
A tithe (from Old English teogoþa "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products.
Sometimes the word ‘levy’ is used in the Methodist Church in Fiji as a translation of soli. The levy suggested for the annual solevu (large meeting) is $10 per person in the church. Now that is not even one tenth of the usual annual income!
And as we all know, this year the annual Fiji Methodist solevu, choir, and meetings are off! However, the Fiji brothers and sisters in USA and Australia have already collected their contributions and representatives flew over to Fiji to formally present their donation - as you can read in the article below from the Fijivillage website.
I think there is a connection between the Methodist custom of soli and the ceremony or custom of offering first fruits to the chiefs which has continued in Fiji. Instead of giving an agricultural product - e.g yams, the people give money in a ceremonial way – in a procession, and often connected with dance and singing. This is done as a community not as an individual and within the context of an annual festival. There is an aspect of reciprocity in a solevu - perhaps an exchange of mats, masi, salt, magimagi, some specially of the donor, etc. from visitors to host, and in exchange fine food, gifts and a good time had by all!
In traditional Fiji the first-fruits ceremony was held when a clan or vanua group gave to the chief a gift of yams, etc. at the beginning of harvest. The Fiji Methodists have been continuing – in an evolved form, this kind of ceremony.
The word 'tithe' also grew out of an agricultural context in the Middle East and was not cash at all. Some of the newer churches in Fiji request a tithe of one-tenth of income from their members, often giving the number of an account for direct debit. A tithe would be considerably higher than the requested levy of the Methodist Church.
New Testament scriptures are seen as teaching the concept of "freewill offerings" as a means of supporting the church: Many Christians today support their churches and pastors with monetary contributions of one sort or another. Frequently these are weekly offerings given in ‘anonymous’ envelopes and sometimes one-tenth of income is suggested, though not often fulfilled as people give also to various charities.
The principle of giving in money or kind or time or talent to a church always needs to be set alongside other concerns such as justice, mercy, honesty, as suggested in this quote from Matthew 23:23
Away with you, you Pharisee lawyers! You give to God a tenth of herbs, like mint, dill, and cumin, but the important duties of the Law — judgement, mercy, honesty — you have neglected. Yet these you ought to have performed, without neglecting the others.
From Fiji Village today
People should not be burdened with church solis
Publish date/time: 24/08/2009 [07:50]
More than $300,000 was given to the Methodist Church yesterday morning by the delegations from the United States at a service at the Centenary Church. Acting General Secretary, Rev Tevita Nawadra said they were delighted at the large sum presented from church members overseas which also proved to them that even though the church is going through difficult times, they always have support. Nawadra said three million dollars is needed for church operations.
Meanwhile, the New Methodist Church will be having a church crusade from tomorrow at the TFL Stadium.
On constant solis, Head Pastor, Atu Vulaono and former Methodist said the church should not burden its members.
When questioned whether the New Methodist Church was also collecting money, Vulaono said they use the tithing system.