Candace Petterson said she started attending the Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church about six months ago after moving to a new home in the Tampa area, but she received a troubling letter last week from the church, reported WFTS-TV.
The single mother said she received what amounted to a delinquency notice from her new church asking her to contribute $50 a month, along with other assorted fees, to remain a member in good standing and vote on church matters.
The predominantly black church, which has operated for more than a century, asked her to pay a yearly $250 anniversary fee and another $150 for Mount Moriah Day – amounting to $1,000, some of which would be set aside to pay off church debt.
“What church charges you to help pay off what they’re going through?” Petterson said. “I’m not there for that.”
The letter notified Petterson, who said she had been unaware of the required contributions, that members fell into delinquency if they failed to make payments for three months or more, reported the Christian Post.
“In order to not be removed from the church roll, your attention to this matter [is] greatly appreciated,” the letter warned, but offered to grant her a 90-day “hardship” exemption.
Church officials acknowledged they sent the notice to Petterson, the TV station reported, but they declined to offer additional comments or explanation.
Petterson posted a copy of the letter on the church’s Facebook page, where one church member in “good standing” scolded the younger woman for publicizing her complaint.
“I love my church and my pastor,” said member Bonnie Maxwell. “I know people have their opinions regarding the letter that was sent out to this young lady and put over social media. I don’t understand why so much negativity about paying a monthly assessment of $50 a month, that you already knew about. If you go to a club or a bar whatever you wish to call it every weekend, you are paying about $10 or maybe more to get in the door and then paying again for drinks.”
“As Christians we are required to be obedient,” Maxwell added.
Another Florida church lost its tax-exempt status earlier this year after officials in Panama City determined that it was operating as a nightclub that charged $20 “donations” to participate in raunchy themed parties.
Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church doesn’t offer anything remotely like those activities, but tithes must be made voluntarily to remain tax deductible.
Petterson said the experience had soured her on the church, and she’s looking for another place to worship.