Flower Funds- A Response
In the October 7, 1971 issue of this magazine Brother Bob Crawley wrote on "Flower Funds and Church Treasuries." He correctly declares that many brethren across the land share misgivings about use of the church treasury to supply flowers for funerals and for the sick. Furthermore, he states a vital truth as follows: "We need to be discriminating in our understanding between that which is the work and the fund of the church collectively, on the one hand, and that which is the work and the fund of a person or group of persons acting individually, on the other hand."
But then Brother Crawley argues that if a group of Christians in a certain congregation give money to one person, authorizing him to act in their behalf in supplying flowers for funerals and for the sick, this becomes a church treasury action. I believe he is mistaken.
To illustrate his point Brother Crawley says that if a number of churches give to a common treasurer who then acts in their behalf "to receive general contributions from any and all of them and to spend those funds in behalf of all of them in such a manner that they lose their individual identity and become simply an association of churches, they are no longer acting as individual churches but as a society in which the churches themselves are but contributing members."
With the above argument I would heartily agree. However, I believe churches may participate in a cooperative activity, each giving to a common "messenger" who distributes the funds in their behalf without the various churches doing so "in 'such a manner that they lose their individual identity" and without thus becoming simply an association or a society. The New Testament shows clearly that a number of churches did indeed give money to a certain messenger, who actually then became a treasurer of that temporary fund and who did then disburse that fund by the authority of the giving churches and in their behalf. Yet the giving churches did not lose their separate identities nor did they cause a society to be formed. See Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. chapters 8 & 9. In other words, the churches of Macedonia and Achaia sent money, using common messengers who distributed the funds in behalf of those several churches. There was no human society formed. The messengers did not make the distribution in behalf of a society or an association of churches. The work of each church was carried to its very conclusion by that church as its chosen messenger made distribution, even though that same messenger may have served in the same capacity and at the same time for another church.
So, using Brother Crawley's own illustration, we see that several churches may use the same messenger for a certain designated time and purpose without becoming an entity. And I believe that a number of individuals may likewise contribute to a common treasurer for a specified and limited purpose without becoming an entity -- that is, without this becoming a church treasury action.
In other words, one person may gather funds, voluntarily given by various members of a congregation, and he may use those funds in their behalf and according to their desires, and this may not necessarily be a church treasury. The intent of the donors must be considered. Do they intend the fund to be used in behalf of a corporate body-a congregational entity -- or do they intend that it be used in behalf of a group of individuals who, for this action, have no corporate entity?
Suppose, for instance, that in our travels in evangelism, my wife and I pass through Lexington and visit the Crawley home. While there an urgent need arises - a destitute family calls from the bus station. The four of us-the Crawleys and the Diestelkamps may consult together and each gives $5.00 to Brother Crawley. He then will give the $20.00 to the needy people in our behalf. This certainly would not he a congregational action. Furthermore, if the four who give are all members of one congregation, it would still not be an action of that church. And if it were forty who give, the principle would be the same, and it would not be changed even if the forty gave to a common messenger inside the meeting house.
The action of two or more Christians does not become the action of a single entity unless the participating Christians intend it so. We express our intent when we give into a fund. That is, we may give into a treasury which is to be used by a corporate body. There will be no individuality. The whole group acts as one individual. But on the other hand, we may also give into a treasury which does not belong to a corporate body. The collected fund may be used in behalf of individuals.
We may cooperate without forming a Corporation (or even "A Co-operation"). We may organize a work without forming an organization. And we may participate in a collective action without forming (or- being) "A Collective."
Therefore, I believe any number of Christians may give into a "Flower Fund" which may then be used for that which is not the work of the collective church. The money may be spent for those things which may not be purchased, scripturally, with the church treasury. The resulting activity will then not be congregational, but it will be the cooperative action of individuals.
Before closing this article I must anticipate an objection. Some will say, "Your position will justify collections by Bible classes." I do not think so. However, if a student is sick, I do not believe it would be wrong for the other students to send some flowers if they desire to do so, and if they act as a group of individuals and not as an organized entity within the church. But I would oppose regular class collections, because it would inevitably lead to the development of an organized unit that would function as a separate society, even though it be a small one.
Actually this flower fund matter is almost identical in nature to a picnic to which Christians and their families go. If it is possible (and I believe it is) for a group of Christians to go to the park and enjoy a picnic together without this being a "church picnic," a function of the congregation, an action of a corporate body, then it should be equally possible for a group to provide flowers representing individuals and that do not represent the congregation as such. After all, it was Brother Crawley himself who gave us the very good suggestion, "We need to be discriminating ... between that which is the work and the fund of the collective ... and that which is the work and fund of a person or a group of persons acting individually..."
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 11, pp. 11-12