A 92-year-old Georgia woman and her nephew say she was recently kicked out of her church, where she has been a member for than 50 years, because she was not tithing.
“Josephine King is no longer considered a member of the First African Baptist Church of Bainbridge, Georgia,” her nephew, Gerald Simmons, read aloud from the letter that he told WALB News his aunt received recently.
The letter, signed by Senior Pastor Derrick Mike, said King “has shown non-support” by failing to keep up with “constant and consistent financial and physical participation.”
Simmons said his aunt has been sick and unable to leave her house for several months.
“She was stunned,” her nephew said of her reaction to the letter. “She was disappointed. She was shocked.”
He added that his aunt had shown plenty of support for the church in the past, and the church might now be too aggressive in collecting money. Tithing is the practice of giving a set percentage of income, traditionally 10 percent, to a church or organization.
“You shouldn’t chase the individuals down,” Simmons said. “You shouldn’t do that. If that’s the case you’re money hungry.”
“You got to have money to make these churches run,” he conceded. “But it’s not about money. It’s about God. You have to put God first.”
WALB says it tried several times to reach officials at Bainbridge's First African Baptist Church for comment but didn’t receive a response.
King’s story follows, by nearly a month, a similar story from Florida.
Candace Petterson told WFTS News in July she received a strange letter from Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, saying she would have to pay more than $1,000 in annual donations in order to “be a member in good standing.”
“People were really friendly there, and I really enjoyed being there,” Petterson, a single mother, said of finding the church about six months before she received the letter.
But the letter said she would have to contribute a minimum of $50 a month. Other items listed in the letter included a $150 fee for what was referred to as “Mount Moriah Day” and another $250 for a church anniversary celebration.
She said she would even have to pay an additional donation for her daughter.
“My child don't have a job, I'm her parent,” Petterson said. “She's 11 years old. Why would you charge a child $5 a month to be a member of a church?”
Petterson said she was going to look for a new church.
WFTS reportedly spoke to church leaders who confirmed the letter had come from the church but declined to offer further comment or explain the letter.