Giving Down by Half in Church of God in Christ

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New presiding bishop says budget is top priority for the black Pentecostal denomination.

Giving to the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) fell by nearly 50 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The church’s new presiding bishop, who took office on March 20, said he will have to make finances a top priority his first year.

J. Drew Sheard Sr. has a full agenda for the 8.8-million member global church, which is the fifth largest denomination in the US. He has to fill vacant leadership roles, wants to develop programs to strengthen marriages and families, and hopes to unify COGIC after an unusually competitive election, with several bishops vying to lead.

But because of the coronavirus, Sheard will have to focus on the budget first.

Sheard, 62, is nonetheless confident that God chose him for this moment of leadership. Among other thing, the seasoned minister—who is the son of ministers and grandson of a man ordained by COGIC founder Charles H. Mason—is good at math. Sheard is a former math teacher, with a master’s of education in mathematics.

“I believe the favor of God has been on my life since I was a younger preacher, and he has blessed me in every facet of my life as far as my ministerial career was concerned,” Sheard told the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where the historic black Pentecostal denomination is headquartered. “I believe over the years, and I say this very humbly, I believe God has taken note of me that he could trust me.”

According to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, about 42 percent of churches have seen giving decline during the pandemic. While the majority of evangelical churches in the US saw tithes remain steady or even increase, one out of five churches had to tap into cash reserves and reduce staff to make it through.

Pentecostal …

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