New Tithe Analysis Shows Increases
in Southern Africa, South America
Though unofficial, tithing index offers perspective on giving patterns
BY EDWIN MANUEL GARCIA, Adventist News Network
ou wouldn’t know there’s a global recession by the increase in tithe some countries have experienced lately.
Seventh-day Adventists in the tiny Central American nation of Belize have boosted their tithing by 41 percent. In Asia, members in the nation of Bangladesh recorded a nearly 36 percent increase in tithe. And in the African country of Angola, Adventist Church tithing has skyrocketed 489 percent in the past five years.
These findings are among the highlights of the recently released Global Tithe Index 2009—a database that compares tithe returns of about 100 countries after adjusting for economic factors specific to those nations.
Created by Claude Richli, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who serves at the General Conference and enjoys analyzing complex data, the index seeks to explain how Adventists respond to their responsibility toward tithe-giving.
“The report tells the story of faithfulness around the world, in good times and in bad times,” said Richli. “I believe that in some countries that have been blessed by extraordinary tithes, people’s commitment has been deeper—or even rekindled—through the economic challenges the world has gone through.”
STUDY AUTHOR: Claude Richli, associate publisher of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, compiled a country-
by-country global tithing index of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [PHOTO: AR]
Richli, director of marketing and associate publisher of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, has produced the index in his spare time since 2003, when he was associate executive secretary for the denomination’s East-Central Africa Division, based in Nairobi.
The index can be a valuable tool for church leaders hoping to make decisions regarding policy making and planning, said Kenneth Swansi, chair of the Business Department at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
The significance of the index, Swansi said, is that “it puts a common denominator in the tithing behavior,” which can lead to useful comparisons.
“We’ve had some very good discussions in the classroom; we have looked at and dissected and discussed the tithing behavior from around the world,” Swansi said, “and it is surprising sometimes that the most affluent people maybe are not the best when it comes to giving and tithing.”
Richli, who among his academic degrees holds a master’s degree in business administration from church-owned Andrews University, compiles the index by relying on reference tools, including the Seventh-day Adventist Annual Statistical Reports and The World Factbook from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He also compares each country’s per-capita gross domestic product with tithe per capita, and assigns a GTI ratio to each nation.
The best tithe-giving countries are those with the lowest GTI ratios. The index shows Zimbabwe with the lowest ratio, 1.5, and India with the highest, at 127.4 (India’s tithe dropped 5 percent).
The United States is ranked forty-first of 103 countries, with a ratio of 5.9 and continuing to trend toward a higher ratio. Richli suspects the weakening state of giving may be a result of church members diverting tithe to independent ministries.
The latest index, a 48-page report, analyzes giving patterns in 2009 and attempts to draw conclusions about why Adventists in some countries are tithing more, and why in other countries they appear to be tithing less.
Some trends, Richli notes, don’t seem to have a logical explanation at first glance.
The Adventist population in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, for example, lost a significant number of members because of membership audits, yet all three South American countries logged a marked increase in tithe compared to the year before. How is that possible? Richli believes that faithful members, though much smaller in number, have become even more faithful.
The denomination’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, the index found, shows robust tithing, most likely because of systematic evangelism, strong management, and a faithful membership in recent years, Richli said. Of particular note is Angola, where the post-civil war economy continues to improve. “I see that Angola, toward the end of [the] decade, will become a financial powerhouse,” Richli said, predicting that tithing levels may potentially be as strong as those in Germany, Korea, or Brazil.
Other nations that stand out in the index: France, Switzerland, and Hong Kong experienced double-digit tithe increases. Papua New Guinea logged a 41 percent increase.
The index notes there were 15.3 million Adventists in 2009, who gave nearly $1.8 billion in tithe.
—to view the 2009 Global Tithe Index document, visit the project Web site at www.aiias.edu/gti/index.html.