Amoris Laetitia Cliff Notes

Pope FrancisThe long-awaited-for document from Pope Francis finally arrived in my inbox. Reading Amoris Laetitia is mesmerizing, relaxing actually. It’s almost as though the man in white is sitting next to you, sipping peppermint tea on the porch, and asking us to meet people where they are, to consider that our moral compass is not the only one in the boat, and that other people’s moral decisions are theirs as much as ours are ours.

It’s meant to encourage us to love more and judge less; to make good decisions, to guide the Church’s pastors to a deeper level of understanding and mercy. It reminds all of us about the things in modern life concerning family and marriage that we so often get wrong, and helps us to discern what is morally right. It helps inform our conscience and is an excellent read.

I promised the cliff notes, so with a little help from America magazine, here they are:

  1. Judge not. We are not to judge others using rigid rules that leave no room for personal or pastoral discernment. Welcome all into church and treat all with mercy. Avoid thinking that everything is black and white. (305)
  2. Pray, then decide. Pastors are being asked to help people made good moral decisions about family and married life, not to simply and blindly follow rules, but to practice prayerful decision-making and follow an informed conscience. (304)
  3. Keep the door open. Pastors should never close the church door to the divorced or remarried, but encourage counseling to seek a degree of participation in the church. Dispel the old misunderstanding of excommunication of the divorced and remarried and help them to feel as being part of the church. (243)
  4. Love is valuable. Married couples, children, siblings, and relatives are not perfect and everyone has to put up with one another’s imperfections. Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be valued. (122, 113)
  5. Put down the rocks. Forget the phrase “living in sin” and all the moral judgements that we carelessly sling around. People living in “irregular situations” (like single moms and gay persons) need understanding, comfort and acceptance (49) not stones thrown at them.
  6. We are not all alike. Pastors need to be sensitive to someone’s ethnic culture and traditions because what makes sense in one country, doesn’t in another. It’s why every question can’t be settled by the magisterium, the church’s teaching office. (3)
  7. “No” on same-sex marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is indissoluble; and same-sex marriage is not considered marriage. But what the pope wants is for seminarians and priests to be better trained to understand the real-world complexities of married life and to do better at counseling married couples. (36, 122, 202)
  8. Talk to kids about sex. Children must be educated about sex and sexuality. The world cheapens sexual expression and presents the body as “an object to be used.” (153)
  9. Respect gays. While same-sex marriage is not permitted, the pope wants us to respect the dignity of gay people and not discriminate against them unjustly. Families with LGBT members are to seek respectful pastor guidance from the church so gays and lesbians can “carry out God’s will in their lives.” (250)
  10. Have mercy. In this Year of Mercy the pope encourages all people to experience the “joy of love” and holds up the family as an essential part of the church, calling it the “family of families.” (80)

Thank you America magazine, Top Ten Takeaways from “Amoris Laetitia”, April 8, 2016, for helping us define the top ten issues facing Christian families.

Donor Advised Funds and why Private Foundations need them

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a separately identified fund or account that is maintained, operated, and legally controlled by a section 501(c)(3) organization like The Stewardship Foundation. In this month’s article, we list why owners of private foundations may want to covert to DAFs with The Stewardship Foundation.

Man working in home officeReason #1. Save time and money

Private foundation owners pay for lawyers, accountants, and office supplies, but with a DAF, owners advise how the funds are used, yet avoid the administrative cost. In some cases, as much as 50%. Cutting costs makes the money go further.

Reason #2. Less hassle

DAFs relieve philanthropists of the hassles of running a foundation. No more tedious paperwork or fact checking potential recipients. For larger foundations, no hiring, firing, or worrying about staff.

Reason #3. More privacy

DAF funds are relatively anonymous because there are no requirements to disclose as much information about their charitable giving. Privacy ensures that philanthropists can support causes that operate within their personal value system, ethical standards, or call to Christian conscience. Private foundation tax forms are public information, exposing operational details and even personal information.

Reason #4. Smaller donor investment fees

Small foundations often pay relatively high fees to the firms that handle their investments. On the other hand, donor funds work with a much bigger pool of money from all the accounts we administer, so fees are lower.

Reason #5. More generous tax deductions

Donors get an immediate tax deduction when they contribute to a fund from their private foundation, but with a DAF, deductions are more generous – instead of a limit of 30% to a private foundation, donors can deduct cash contributions up to half their adjusted gross income each year. There are other tax advantages for appreciated-security donations, and investment gains are generally tax-free (no excise tax).

Reason #6. Protected legacy

DAF funds protect the original intent of the founder. After a founder’s death, family members may disagree on the direction that the private/family foundation should take. They may begin to direct funds to causes contrary to the founder’s moral or ethical values. To protect the legacy intent of the founder, the foundation’s assets can be split among several accounts at donor-advised funds, and those accounts can then be used for different purposes.

If you are interested to learn more about converting from a private/family foundation to donor advised funds, we recommend a recent Wall Street Journal article by Jillian Mincer where she raises the question whether it is time for private foundation owners to convert to donor advised funds.

Leaving a Legacy When Morality and Coolness Collide

millennialsWe often hear from parents and grandparents about a disconnect between their values and those of their children and grandchildren. For example, many grandparents do not share their grandchildren’s views on life issues, same sex marriage, and morality in general.  Another area of disagreement between the generations revolves around the church. Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church & Cool Collide, addresses the issue in a recent article published in The Washington Post, How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep the church un-cool.

McCracken, a Millennial himself, sides with the older generation and takes his own generation to task for wanting the church to adapt to their whims. Near the end of his article he surmises…

But at the end of the day, the Christian gospel is defined outside of and with little regard to whatever itch people think Christianity should scratch. Consumerism asserts that people want what they want and get what they want, for a price. It’s all about me. But to position the gospel within this consumerist, give-them-what-they-want framework is to open the door to all sorts of distortions, mutations, and “to each his own” cockamamy variations. If Christianity aims to sell a message that scratches a pluralism of itches, how in the world will a cohesive, orthodox, unified gospel survive?

Brett McCracken understands how importance it is for the Church to remain steadfast in its values and principles. Do your grandchildren and children “get it” too? If you do not believe your children or grandchildren hold McCracken’s point of view regarding the church, or they do not share your values and morality, then you must decide how to protect your legacy.

The Stewardship Foundation can help you protect your family legacy and ensure that your values are honored in your estate planning and the administration of your family or private foundation. We are here to assist you through the various financial options we provide. Our core principles will not change. The Stewardship Foundation does not seek to “scratch a pluralism of itches.” Rather, we support a “cohesive, orthodox, unified gospel” and we work with those individuals, families, organizations, and professionals who support them as well.

Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”