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Pastor Eric D.Clarke
The early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers were largely self-supporting. They worked "on
faith" without financial backing other than their own resources and occasional gifts.
These gifts were based on generosity rather than being proportionate to donor income
or part of a systematic giving program.
As a result of a Bible class conducted by J.N. Andrews, the name " Systematic
Benevolence On the Tithing Principle" was given to the early Adventist financial giving
system in 1859. Ellen G. White strongly affirmed the concept of " Systematic
Benevolence," and said, "God has devised a plan by which all may give as He has
prospered them, and which will make giving a habit without waiting for special calls...
Until all shall carry out the plan of systematic benevolence, there will be a failure in
coming up to the apostolic rule" (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 411).
The "Tithing System" as it became known in later years, also included voluntary
offerings. The great mission thrust of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
was launched through the plan of "Tithe Sharing" and the systematic offerings of
members. It included the weekly Sabbath School Mission Offerings begun in 1877 and
later the Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings, Birthday/Thank Offerings, and Sabbath School
The forerunner of the Stewardship Ministries was the Church Development Service,
which provided counseling for capital building projects for Seventh-day Adventist
churches in North America (1959-1966). At the General Conference Session of 1966, the
new department was organized. The name Stewardship and Development was
recommended by the General Conference President, Robert H. Pierson, and became
official at the 1967 Annual Council.
The Department of Stewardship and Development enjoyed a place of prime importance
in the church during the decade of the 1970s, as indicated by the appointment of
Stewardship Directors in most divisions, unions, and conferences worldwide. At the
same time, the concept of stewardship moved from a focus on capital fundraising to
a more complete biblical view of stewardship of treasure, talent, time, and body temple.
At the General Conference Session in 1980, the Department of Stewardship and
Development was merged with the Ministerial Association. The Departmental emphasis
now included an emphasis on tithe and offering education, as well as personal and
family finance. At the 1985 General Conference Session, Stewardship and Development
was integrated into a newly proposed Department of Church Ministries, along with
Family Life, Lay Activities (Personal Ministries), Sabbath School, and Youth. During
the early 1990s, a stewardship revival and a renewal of interest in stewardship began in
many countries of the world. At the General Conference Session in 1995, Stewardship
Ministries again became a Department of the Church. This organizational renewal
provided an opportunity to develop a conceptual redefinition, which included an
expanded philosophy of stewardship as a Christian lifestyle in partnership with and in