Oblation was established to help the church be faithful to its commission to care for the poor and needy (Doctrine and Covenants 42:8). The law and practice of the church since this action of the 1917 Conference (GCR 773) has been to receive funds during all Communion services for the express purpose of the care of the poor and needy.
Our testimony as Christians is that God loves everyone including those in need. We also believe that there is “enough and to spare,” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:2f) and that God shares in abundance “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6:38 NRSV).
In proclaiming Jesus Christ and promoting communities of joy, hope, love, and peace, we wish to alleviate suffering in the world. We follow the counsel to “remember in all things, the poor and the needy” (Doctrine and Covenants 52:9c).
Qualifications for Recipients
Oblation aid is primarily a congregational ministry. Membership and active participation in the life of the church are desirable for those receiving oblation aid based on the following realities:
- The resources of oblation are extremely limited when compared with the needs of the many persons resident in the communities where the church is established.
- Local, state, and federal governments may provide welfare programs, supported by tax dollars, to meet many of the needs normally addressed by oblation.
- On a case-by-case basis, aid can be extended to include inactive members, nonmembers who have close ties with the church, or persons with whom the church or its members may be involved in ministry.
Recipients need to show evidence of a willingness to adopt a lifestyle consistent with their situation.
Oblation is to be considered a resource to supplement available income helping persons meet their “basic living expenses.” It is not a fund to maintain the standard of living enjoyed before the person (or family) found themselves in need.
Basic living expenses are food, clothing, medical, shelter, and essential transportation expenses. Oblation should not be used for other reasons because of limited available resources. As examples, people often ask if oblation can support legal fees, counseling expenses, debt repayment, or funeral costs, and these are not generally covered as basic living expenses.
Persons seeking financial assistance from oblation should be cooperative and willing to view their situation objectively.
- They should be open and willing to share their complete family situation.
- They should also demonstrate a willingness to accept counsel.
- Those providing counsel need to assure the applicants that their financial disclosures will be kept in strict confidence.
Persons seeking help need to evidence a desire to learn and practice the six principles of A Disciple’s Generous Response including developing and living by a budget, keeping records, and generally developing the disciplines of good money management.
Oblation is not to be used in place of available public assistance programs. Those in need should qualify for and accept this source of help when they are eligible.
Limits of Assistance
Whenever possible, oblation aid should be disbursed directly to the vendors or service-providers for which the person is requesting assistance. Every reasonable effort should be taken to avoid disbursing aid directly to the person requesting it, which can cause undesirable consequences including possible tax consequences. This may be accomplished by writing a check directly to third-parties such as a landlord or utility company, purchasing gift cards for a grocery store or gas station, or accompanying the person to the store to assist in making the necessary purchases.
Setting limits on the dollars a field representative of the Presiding Bishopric can provide advantages:
- It allows limited resource to be shared across a larger number of people with need.
- It assists field representatives responding to the pressures that are often exerted by applicants.
- It provides internal control on the use of these funds.
The following limits are to govern the administration of oblation by CFOs in congregations.
- A CFO is authorized to provide up to $400/month in emergency or one-time assistance to any one person or family, not to exceed $1,200 in a twelve-month period. The CFO may extend aid up to 3 times in a twelve-month period.
- This $400 authorization should be sufficient to provide for emergency assistance until the person's or family's needs can be determined more precisely in consultation with the MCFO.
The following limits are to govern the administration of oblation by the MCFO:
- The MCFO is authorized to provide up to $1,000/month in emergency or one-time assistance to any one person or family, not to exceed $3,000 in a twelve-month period. The MCFO may extend aid up to 3 times in a twelve-month period.
- Combined the MCFO and CFO can thus provide up to $ 1,400/month not to exceed $4,200 in a twelve-month period.
- Please note that Fiscal Services approval is required when aid needs to be extended for more than a three-month period. In such a situation an Oblation Aid Worksheet (OB 101) should be completed during the third month and sent to Fiscal Services for review of the needs with the MCFO.
- If an emergency situation exceeds these limits, the MCFO should contact Fiscal Services at International Headquarters at oblation@CofChrist.org or (816) 833-1000, ext. 1397. The Oblation Aid Report (OB-100) should indicate when approval was received from Fiscal Services.
- The Oblation Aid Reimbursement Form (OB-102) is filled out and sent to Fiscal Services with the OB-100 form so that the Congregation and/or Mission Center is reimbursed for the expenditure(s).
Requests for reimbursement should be submitted promptly to Fiscal Services at International Headquarters at oblation@CofChrist.org. Requests submitted more than one year after aid was disbursed will not be reimbursed.
Loans from Oblation
The basic philosophy of oblation is to provide funds to persons or families in need based on need and qualifications.
Experience indicates loan arrangements based on questionable qualifications are seldom repaid and therefore should not be encouraged.
Many persons will want to return oblation and they can be encouraged to do so by contributing to Worldwide Mission Tithes or Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. The returning of aid should be viewed as providing funds for the holistic mission of the church which includes compassionate ministries to others in need and not the repayment of any specific obligation to the church.
If, in the judgment of the CFO or MCFO, a person or family will act more responsibly if the aid is considered as a loan, then the CFO or MCFO should consult with Fiscal Services (USA) or International Fiscal Services (outside the USA) to determine if it is permissible to write a simple promissory note.
Copies of these notes should be filed with the aid reports to Fiscal Services.
In the event of a major disaster within a Mission Center geographic area, the MCFO should contact Fiscal Services at International Headquarters to discuss options for providing aid to the area. In addition to providing financial support to individuals, it may also be appropriate to provide grants to specific agencies providing relief to the area.
Other Sources of Financial Assistance
The church cannot assume the responsibility for social services available through governmental agencies.
- Many communities have health and welfare programs that are funded far in excess of the oblation dollars available to the entire World Church by the Worldwide Mission Budget.
- Oblation must be viewed as a resource available to church members intended to supplement those dollars available through governmental assistance programs.
CFOs, MCFOs, and local administrative officers should be familiar with the governmental programs available in local communities.
Oblation may well be used during the period of time often necessary for a person to qualify. apply, and/or get the necessary paperwork submitted.
It is also important to make sure that the jurisdiction providing financial assistance will not jeopardize the applicant's qualification for governmental assistance. This needs to be clarified with the government or program officials before oblation aid is granted.
Sources of Governmental Assistance
There may be a number of local and governmental programs for financial assistance.
Church members should not feel reluctant to apply for assistance programs when they are available.
Oblation Use in Debt Retirement
The policy of the church is generally to avoid the use of oblation to pay debt. However, in unusual circumstances it may be possible to use oblation to alleviate a person's debt load so long as counsel and specific helps are provided to prevent the recurrence of the similar debt situation.
Oblation is primarily viewed as a resource to help people with their basic daily living needs (food, shelter, clothing, medical, necessary travel).
Debt often signal serious management problems. Providing funds to retire debts may not prevent the recurrence of the same problem in the future. The best course of action when confronted with using oblation for debt retirement is to provide financial management counsel to help the person or family map out a program of recovery and teach them disciplines that will prevent the situation from repeating.
In some nations, use of oblation to repay debt may not only be discouraged, but illegal. The CFO or MCFO should consult with Fiscal Services (USA) or International Financial Services (outside of USA).