Bishop King embraces the "Final Tithe"
Bishop James R. King, Jr. has served as the episcopal leader of the South Georgia Annual Conference since 2008. In this interview, Bishop King celebrates the impact of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation’s ministry in equipping United Methodists to leave a lasting legacy.
GUMF: How does the Foundation impact the life and ministries of the South Georgia Conference?
BISHOP KING: After watching a presentation by Foundation Senior Vice President Rev. Wayne Racz on the concept of the “Final Tithe,” I grew excited over this powerful tool for ministry. My definition of tithing involves giving one-tenth of our income or possessions to the church. Less than 3 percent of Americans, including United Methodists, leave a gift to God after death. However, many remain unaware of the ability to continue giving after death. The Foundation empowers an individual to continue tithing beyond this life. The Final Tithe enables the church to reflect and respond to the kingdom of God far into the future.
GUMF: Why do you consider the Final Tithe a timely subject for the church?
BISHOP KING: The general population of the United States is aging. Many of the faithful tithers will pass into the glory of heaven. A great need exists to educate the approaching generations on the importance of tithing. The Final Tithe allows the church to maintain and grow in its ministry during the years required to teach coming generations the important Christian discipline of tithing.
GUMF: Do you believe the Final Tithe concept to be theologically sound?
BISHOP KING: Yes! Jesus said, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ The heart of a Christian is an eternal reality. The ministries dear to our hearts will be touched by our involvement now, and beyond this life. Allowing our treasure to continue supporting these ministries of the heart beyond our death is theologically consistent. Heart and treasure are eternally linked! South Georgia United Methodists possess big hearts. Repeatedly I have witnessed God’s people engaged in remarkable ministries through their giving. The Final Tithe allows these remarkable Christians to continue their involvement in remarkable ministries. We need to help South Georgia United Methodists grow in their awareness of the beauty and power of the Final Tithe. The Foundation serves as our instrument for helping educate people and churches concerning this amazing and eternal opportunity.
GUMF: Practically speaking, how can United Methodists participate in the Final Tithe?
BISHOP KING: United Methodists can leave one-tenth, or a greater percentage of their estate, to the Foundation to establish an endowment fund. This endowment is permanent and can be designated to support their local church or other cherished ministries into the future. The principal of the fund is held in perpetuity, allowing it to generate income for the ministries they hold dear. The Foundation administers this fund in concert with the desire of the donor.
GUMF: Should my local church establish an endowment fund with the Foundation?
BISHOP KING: Absolutely! A church involved in perpetual tithing is a church engaged in transforming the world for God’s kingdom. However, if the local church does not offer an endowment fund, the members are denied access to participating in this powerful mission. North Central District Superintendent Dr. Rick Lanford states, ‘People cannot give to a fund the church doesn’t provide!’ I would like to add to Rick’s assertion. A church can provide a fund, but if the congregation remains unaware of its existence, few legacy gifts will be given. Education about the fund must accompany its establishment.
GUMF: How does my church start an endowment fund?
BISHOP KING: The Foundation has created a tool that allows a congregation to establish its endowment fund. This tool is the “Legacy Ministry Webinar.” The webinar consists of twelve 45-minute sessions. Participating in one session per month will empower a local church to create an accessible and understandable fund in only one year. A church can contact Rev. Wayne Racz at 912-972-1089 for more information concerning the webinar program.
GUMF: How does this help fulfill our mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”
BISHOP KING: To answer that, I want to paint you an image. One day when you get to heaven, a young person approaches you and says, ‘Because of your generosity in leaving a Final Tithe, I received a scholarship to go on a youth trip with my church. During that trip, one of the leaders invited me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I did, and it changed my life. That’s why I am here today. Thank you!’ That young person could be someone you never met. Or, it could be your grandchild. Either way, through your generosity, you continued to impact lives for Jesus Christ even after your life on earth was over. That is truly a lasting legacy.
GUMF: Are there other ways that the Foundation is having an impact in South Georgia?
BISHOP KING: I believe that the Foundation’s Development Fund and Loan Program are real blessings. The Development Fund offers a CD type of investment at rates that are usually better than bank rates. The money invested in the Development Fund is used to make loans to United Methodist churches in Georgia, usually at loan rates that are less than what the banks charge. I know of churches in South Georgia that have greatly reduced their interest expense in their budgets through a loan with the Foundation. If any United Methodists in South Georgia have bank CDs that are maturing, I would encourage them to contact the Foundation and consider a Development fund certificate. They may get a better rate and help to support United Methodist churches at the same time. That’s a win-win for them and God’s kingdom.