The Korean church has agreed to pay any additional expenses, so the gathering will be “cost neutral” to the PC(USA), meaning it won’t cost the church any more than if the council were to meet in Louisville, said Linda Valentine, the council’s executive director.
On April 1, the council voted to gather in Seoul Sept. 12-18, 2012, although one member questioned whether it’s wise to send such a large delegation and whether the resources of the Korean church could be better used for mission work.
In recognition of the role American Presbyterian missionaries played in establishing the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Korean church has invited the council, PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, former General Assembly moderators and presidents of PC(USA) seminaries to come, along with some council staff members. The council will hold a two-day business meeting and visit hospitals, seminaries and universities that American missionaries helped found.
“It will be an all-out celebration,” Valentine said.
Connie Tubb, a council member from Dallas and the only person to vote against the travel plans, questioned whether it’s a good idea to spend so much money, even if the Korean church is willing to pay the extra amount.
“It seems to me this is an extra-large delegation,” and the resources could better be used for a world in need, Tubb said.
Special offerings. The council spent part of the last morning of its March 30-April 1 meeting in focus groups convened by the Special Offerings Advisory Task Force.
Karl Travis, a pastor from Texas who leads that task force, gave the council an interim report with some hard-hitting statistics. The denomination’s four special offerings – One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Christmas Joy and Peacemaking – collectively brought in $13.5 million in 2010, accounting for about 16 percent of the denomination’s mission budget, Travis said. That’s down $2.5 million from four years ago, and it amounts to about $7.90 per member.
“We have work to do,” Travis said.
New faith communities. The denomination’s leaders described a campaign to encourage Presbyterians to create 1,001 new faith communities. Roger Dermody, the council’s deputy executive director for mission, said the term “faith communities” doesn’t necessarily mean new congregations. They could be anything from Bible studies to prayer groups to fellowships of new immigrants, he said.
“We need to get back to the point where faithful risk-taking is rewarded” and people with good ideas “can do something crazy” in ministry, Dermody said.
Big Tent. The PC(USA)’s plans to hold the Big Tent gathering in Indianapolis June 30-July 2 is still in flux because the Indiana legislature hasn’t taken final action on a proposed immigration law.
Michael Kruse, the council’s chair, said denominational leaders hope to know by early May whether they will need to move Big Tent to another location. Doing so could have a financial impact if the PC(USA) has to cancel contracts it signed for holding the event in Indianapolis.
Presbyterians are being asked to register for Big Tent, but to hold off making airline reservations.
“It is a big tent,” Kruse said. “If we have to pick it up and move it somewhere, we will.”
The Indiana legislature is considering a bill that would pose restrictions similar to those in a controversial immigration law enacted in Arizona in April 2010. If the Indiana legislation passes, holding Big Tent in Indianapolis could put the PC(USA) in conflict with a directive from its own General Assembly.
The 2010 General Assembly instructed its agencies to “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment” because of legislation similar to the Arizona immigration law.
Budget. The council adjusted the PC(USA)’s mission budgets for 2011 and 2012, in part to reflect more than $11 million in donations given for Haiti relief and a $5.5 million bequest from the estate of Elizabeth Eva Hartman Osborn.
That action raise the denomination’s operating budget for 2011 by $5 million, to $87.6 million, and increases the 2012 budget by $3.7 million, to $84.8 million