(CP) Challenging popular Evangelical belief, controversial televangelist Creflo Dollar, one of America's most flamboyant proponents of the prosperity gospel, has renounced tithing and all his previous teachings on the subject as "not correct."
He also urged his followers to "throw away every book, every tape and every video I ever did on the subject of tithing" but says he will not apologize for his error.
In a Sunday sermon billed "The Great Misunderstanding," the founder and senior pastor of the nearly 30,000-member World Changers Church International headquartered in College Park, Georgia, said he is aware that his declaration will cause him to lose friends and invitations to speak at other churches.
However, he said he is convinced, after studying Romans 6:14, that tithing is an Old Testament concept that has been retired in the dispensation of grace in which Christians should now be living.
"I want to start off by saying that I'm still growing, and the teachings that I've shared in times past on the subject of tithing were not correct," Dollar began in his June 26 sermon.
"And today, I stand in humility to correct some things that I've taught for years and believed for years but could never understand it clearly because I had not yet been confronted with the Gospel of grace, which has made the difference."
"I won't apologize because if it wasn't for me going down that route, I wouldn't have ended up where I am now," he continued. "But I will say that I have no shame at all at saying to you, throw away every book, every tape and every video I ever did on the subject of tithing unless it lines up with this."
Tithing — giving 10% of one's income to the Church — is viewed as a biblical commandment by a majority of Evangelicals. But only an estimated 13% engage in the practice, a recent study shows. The research also indicates that about half of Evangelicals give away less than 1% of their income annually.
Tithing has long been a contentious issue in many churches across America. In 2014, one pastor refused to host the funeral for a 93-year-old woman, telling her family that she was not current with her tithe to the church.
In 2018, Grammy-winning gospel singer Marvin Winans and the Perfecting Church in Detroit, Michigan, were sued by his former housekeeper, who claimed she was fired for refusing to pay tithes from her $18,000 a year salary.
In an op-ed for The Gospel Coalition in 2017, Thomas Schreiner, the James Buchanan Harrison professor of New Testament interpretation and associate dean for Scripture and interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, outlined several reasons why tithing is not a requirement for Christians.
"The commands stipulated in the Mosaic covenant are no longer in force for believers. Some appeal to the division between the civil, ceremonial, and moral law to support tithing. Yet these divisions, I would observe, are not the basis Paul uses when addressing how the law applies to us today. And even if we use these distinctions, tithing is clearly not part of the moral law," Schreiner explained in part. "It's true the moral norms of the Old Testament are still in force today, and we discern them from the law of Christ in the New Testament, but tithing is not among these commands."
In his sermon, Dollar appeared to agree with this interpretation, telling his congregants that they were not living under Mosaic Law but "under grace."
"Religion is sustained by two factors, fear and guilt. And if it's one subject that the church has used for a long time to keep people in fear and guilt, it is that subject of tithing," Dollar said. "And it has to be corrected and it's got to be corrected now. I may lose some friends. Preachers may not invite me no more. But I think I've already been through that, so it doesn't matter."