A Special Offerings Task Force is presenting a new series of recommendations for revising the special offerings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – keeping a goal of increasing to $20 million annually for the denomination through special offerings by 2020, and recommending changes in the ways the offerings are structured as well.
In 2012, a predecessor Special Offerings Task Force presented a recommendation that it revise the denomination’s four annual special offerings, in part by creating a new offering to support world mission and by discontinuing the Peacemaking Offering. That recommendation prompted a wave of dissent (33 church leaders including eight former General Assembly moderators issued an open letter calling the recommendation a “serious mistake”), and a General Assembly committee narrowly defeated that proposal.
Now, a new recommendation for reconfiguring the PC(USA)’s special offerings is being offered for the 2014 General Assembly – and is being presented for the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board to consider at its meeting in Louisville Feb. 5-7.
Here are some of the details of the recommendation:
Promotion. The Presbyterian Mission Agency would continue to develop “innovative strategies” to promote special offerings, with a goal of raising $20 million a year from the offerings by 2020. That promotion would include creating a “robust ambassador program” to recruit and train at least one special offering advocate in each presbytery, and would involve seminary students as well.
Evaluation. The Presbyterian Mission Agency – meaning the PC(USA)’s national staff – would foster “missional collaboration among and within program areas and advisory committees, particularly the ministries supported by One Great Hour of Sharing.” The agency would conduct “a program evaluation process that measures critical success factors and assesses whether the programs supported by the offerings are accountable for achieving goals and intended outcomes.”
The agency would also “clarify the role of One Great Hour of Sharing ministry advisory committees.”
Congregations. Congregations would be encouraged to give more – by each receiving one additional offering above their present number or increasing their church’s special offering total by 10 percent each year. If each congregation did that, “we would attain the goal of $20 million in annual receipts as early as 2017 – greatly magnifying the impact of our ministries around the globe,” the report states.
Future. The next Special Offerings Task Force would be asked to review progress towards raising the $20 million – a goal the report describes as “very attainable,” despite declines in giving over the last decade. The next task force would also be instructed to “align offering recipients with the strategic objectives of the Presbyterian Mission Agency” and “examine the timing and programmatic emphases within each offering based on theological soundness, the liturgical calendar and fundraising strategy.”
The recommendations also addresses each of the four special offerings specifically.
One Great Hour of Sharing. This offering currently funds Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People. The recommendation is to “affirm the current purpose and distribution of the offering. Additionally, we encourage new and continuing collaboration between recipient ministries,” such as collaborative projects developed in response to the recent typhoon in the Philippines.
Peacemaking Offering. This offering would become the Peace and Global Witness Offering – with half of the proceeds going to the Presbyterian Mission Agency; 25 percent to presbyteries; and 25 percent to congregations. The Presbyterian Mission Agency would designate gifts from established Peacemaking Offering donors for current peacemaking efforts through 2016 and gifts from new donors “to collaborative efforts in the area of peace and global witness. Beyond 2016, the Offering will be devoted to ministries of peace and global witness,” the report states.
The report states that while the Peacemaking Offering has “a very loyal support network,” only about 20 percent of PC(USA) congregations contribute, raising about $2 million annually.
It also states that “we believe an offering focused on collaborative efforts of peacemaking and global witness, especially in reconciliation in cultures of violence, more accurately reflects the needs of the denomination – and the world – at this time. Restructuring the offering as the Peace and Global Witness Offering will allow greater collaboration at the cross-section of justice and evangelism and empower congregations and mid-councils to use their portions of the offering in ways consistent with the current trends for mission engagement at those levels. The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force further believes structuring the offering in this way has the potential to double (or more) the total proceeds of the offering within the next five years …”
It also states that “we believe current peacemaking efforts will always be able to be funded within this new structure and recommend current efforts in peacemaking be funded at current levels (if offering receipts allow) for at least the next three years.”
Pentecost Offering. This offering currently supports work with young adults and children. The recommendation is to “affirm the current purpose and distribution,” with 60 percent going to the Presbyterian Mission Agency and 40 percent for congregations. Congregations would be encouraged to have youth and young adults lead the promotion of this offering.
Christmas Joy Offering. This offering currently goes for two purposes – with half used to fund a financial assistance program operated by the Board of Pensions for current and former church workers and their families, and half to support education at Presbyterian-related racial ethnic schools and colleges.
The recommendation is to “affirm the current purpose and distribution (50 percent for the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions and 50 percent for Presbyterian Mission Agency ministries in racial-ethnic education).”
The task force also recommends that the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board establish an advisory committee to consider how the racial ethnic leadership funds might be distributed, to report back to the board by the end of 2015. The costs of the task force would be funded through Christmas Joy receipts.
The report states that “we believe clarifications are needed in the current interpretation” of how these funds are spent,” and that “a changing world demands a new look . . . Many of the schools that have historically received benefits from the offering are no longer in operation, no longer accredited, or no longer focus on the development of future leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as one of their core mission objectives.”
The offering could be used to fund “new efforts at creating leaders for the church. As an example, most of the 1,001 new worshiping communities being developed have some sort of racial-ethnic makeup, making education for church leaders in that context a critical mission need of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.”
The board is expected to vote on the Special Offerings Task Force recommendations when it meets Feb. 5-7, and board members will receive more information on the report in a Jan. 31 webinar.