The national Episcopal Church, which recently reduced its 2010-12 budget by $23 million, said that despite the pinch, it too would continue its social mission. Its leadership decided to cut 30 staff positions at its New York headquarters, but restored funding for programs in the developing world. The church said in a statement that the budget was focused on "giving to others first and then to ourselves last."
Religious leaders said they see another phenomenon at work that may distinguish religious giving from other charitable giving. Those who contribute for religious purposes tend to cut spending elsewhere before holding back on what they put in the offering plate.
Congregants at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, for example, are keeping their commitments to the building program, Leder said.
Two factors may be at work, Leder and others said. First, religious givers are thought to act out of core beliefs, such as loving God and their neighbors. It is a question of practicing what is preached.
Second, many congregants have confidence that faith-based social services are reliable and efficient at helping those in need.
"People in various faith communities feel the pain everyone else feels," said Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California. "But they are still willing to sacrifice for the greater good. They are willing to give a little more."