My Church History professor from seminary, Dr. Robert Pritchard, has a fine article up on The Episcopal Cafe today in which he describes the changing practices of "Financing the Church" through US History. A good read.
Episcopal Cafe: THE MAGAZINE
by Robert W. PrichardAlthough it might not always be clear from stewardship sermons, Christian attitudes about Church finance have changed frequently over the centuries in response to changes in the cultures and economies of the nations in which Christians lived. In the case of the Episcopal Church in United States, there have been multiple overlapping patterns of church support.
During the colonial era, patterns of support depended on the colony in which a church was located. In those states in which the Church of England came to be established (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) the legislature designated land for church buildings and glebes (land that could be farmed by clergy or rented to produce income) and gave the church vestry the right to levy a tax (called a tithe but actually a flat tax on everyone who had wealth above a certain level). With the right to tax came also the responsibility for social welfare; churches supported orphans and widows, and other impoverished persons, and assisted with the care of the sick. (The move to give these duties to the vestries began when Parliaments in Elizabethan England realized that no one had assumed the public welfare responsibilities once exercised by the non-longer existing monastic orders.) The combination of glebe lands and tithes was at times sufficient to support the church, but it generally was not big enough for major capital projects, such as the construction of church buildings. That was often financed by soliciting subscriptions from church members and staging fundraising events such as lotteries.
This system in the colonies with Anglican establishment did not produce uniform returns or lead to a uniform clergy salary structure. Eighteenth-century clergy salaries in Maryland, where the governor selected the clergy, were, for example, higher than those in other colonies. Church finance also differed within individual colonies. In Virginia, for example, clergy were paid in pounds of tobacco; where soil was rich—in the Tidewater area—the tobacco brought a higher price...
Read it all HERE