BIRMINGHAM — A Denver businessman has announced a $150 million gift to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — saying he is tired of watching the continuing decline of the denomination he loves and challenging Presbyterians “to reverse all negative trends. We can grow.”
The money from the new Loaves and Fishes Church Growth Fund will be used for grants to presbyteries — from $250,000 to $1 million apiece. Presbyteries will have to apply for the funds and will have to match part of it. The money will be used for church growth, mission work and theological education.
John Detterick, executive director of the General Assembly Council, estimated during a news conference that each Presbyterian seminary likely will receive up about $1 million.
Stan Anderson, a third-generation member of Central Presbyterian in Denver, made his fortune in the banking and financial industry — specifically, designing procurement cards, starting with one he produced for the federal government in 1986. Since 1988, he has founded a series of companies related to financial services and procurement cards.
He said during a news conference: “I want the focus to be on what we can do as a church and not on me.”
On June 15, Anderson stood before the 217th General Assembly on the opening afternoon of its meeting in Alabama June 15 and announced he was making the gift — a tall, genial man who spoke of his family’s faith and determination to share what they had even when they had very little.
“This is indeed both thrilling and humbling for a kid from Colorado who spent in his youth over a year on welfare,” after his father became ill and was unable to work, Anderson told the General Assembly June 15. His older brother left college to go take a job to support the family; his mother, who had six children, went to work full-time “on two very bad legs,” Anderson said.
“Yes, we were poor, but we were loved,” he said. “First, by God’s love. By a strong sense of Presbyterianism and Scottish heritage.” And “giving was part of our character,” Anderson said.
He said of God: “He only asks that I trust Him, and I do.”
Anderson’s gift will be counted towards the PC(USA)’s Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts and Hands campaign, an effort to raise $40 million for church growth and international mission. That campaign has so far raised $25 million — so this gift pushes the Hearts and Hands campaign total to $175,000, said Tim Hart-Andersen, a pastor from Minneapolis who is on the campaign’s steering committee.
“I think it’s marvelous,” and “what this gift does is put wind back into the sails of the Presbyterian church,” Hart-Andersen said.
This was a happy announcement for Detterick — who with this assembly is finishing his duties, after eight years, as executive director of the General and preparing for retirement in New Mexico. Detterick called the gift an “historic event” that “I pray will set the tone” for the denomination.
The money Anderson is giving to presbyteries will be used for three purposes: to develop racial-ethnic congregations; to plant new churches; and to help transform existing congregations that are struggling.
Other money would spin off to support seminaries and mission work, both in the U.S. and overseas.
It’s expected the fund will be in place by late in 2006 and that spending from it could begin early in 2007. Grant applications would be completed by 2009 and all the money dispersed by 2012..
In order to receive grants from the fund, presbyteries will have to meet certain conditions.
First, a presbytery would have to raise some matching money — 11 percent of the amount for which it has applied for a grant.
And the grant money would have to spent in particular ways — 10 percent for mission causes and 1 percent to the Theological Education Fund that supports Presbyterian seminaries. Both of those amounts would have to be matched by the presbytery.
So, for example, to qualify for a $500,000 grant, a presbytery would have to raise $55,000.
Of that, mission causes would get $100,000 ($50,000 from the grant, $50,000 raised by the presbytery).
The Theological Education Fund would get $10,000 ($5,000 from the grant and $5,000 from the presbytery).
The remaining $445,000 would go for some kind of presbytery program related to church growth. Each presbytery would be eligible for one grant (although presbyteries could join together to apply for the funds jointly).
All the money will be placed in a fund with the Presbyterian Foundation. The income from investing that fund, before the money is dispersed for church growth, will be use to support Presbyterian seminaries and to pay administrative costs for the fund.
Anderson’s gift comes at a vulnerable moment for the PC(USA) — a blast of good news in a difficult season. The denomination has reported membership losses of 48,400 in 2004 — part of an ongoing, dispiriting membership slide. On May 1, the denomination announced layoffs of 75 staff members and the reduction of 40 jobs for missionaries — the result of a $9.1 million downsizing.
And just this week, on June 12, two Presbyterian organizations — The Outreach Foundation and Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship — announced that they will raise money to send their own missionaries, concluding that saying that “the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) faces a missionary sending crisis. The number of PC(USA) missionaries continues to shrink at a time when global partners are telling us that more are needed.”
Asked during the news conference why he thinks Presbyterian churches aren’t growing, Anderson gently said that’s not his area of expertise — he deferred to Detterick and other church officials.
But Anderson said his idea for this project came from the Bible — from the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes. You can’t have a church without a pastor, he said. “And a pastor has to be trained” — properly trained, through solid education at a seminary.
Anderson made his fortune in the banking and financial industry — specifically, designing procurement cards, starting with one he produced for the federal government in 1986. Since 1988, he has founded a series of companies related to financial services and procurement cards.
He is an elder at Central Presbyterian in Denver and is a co-founder of Trinity Foundation Inc., which provides funds to Christian efforts in this country and internationally. The Loaves and Fishes fund will receive funding through that foundation.