GA NEWS: Assembly rejects fifth special offering to fund mission personnel

SAN JOSE -- The 218th General Assembly on Thursday (June 26) rejected by a five-to-one margin a recommendation from its Mission Coordination and Budgets Committee that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) institute a fifth church-wide special offering to support mission personnel.


The proposal from Shenandoah Presbytery had narrowly passed the committee.

Elder commissioner Raymond Morris of Foothills Presbytery, speaking against a fifth special offering, said that special offerings have had a negative effect on his congregation’s every-member canvass, noting members “hold off for special offerings.”

In other actions, commissioners passed by hand vote “An Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God’s Mission,” commonly known as the Dallas Covenant, which calls for increased partnership and coordination in mission work.

The commissioners also voted to recommend to the presbyteries a constitutional amendment changing the name of the General Assembly Council (GAC) to the General Assembly Mission Council; reinstated the Office of Environmental Justice in the General Assembly Council; set aside a season of mission interpretation beginning in 2009 for the church to interpret and promote its work in the context of the mission programs of the local, regional and national governing bodies of the PC(USA); and approved continuation of four special offerings: Christmas Joy Offering, One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost Offering and Peacemaking Offering.

Commissioners debated at length a proposal to change uses of the Church Extension Fund — which had been established for new church development — to include transforming existing congregations and developing congregational-based social ministries.

Concerned that the modifications would reduce funding for new church development, commissioners amended the committee’s recommendation to remove the additional uses. But after being told by GAC Chair Allison Seed that the modifications would not impact funding for new church development, the Assembly reconsidered and adopted the committee’s original recommendation.

It took commissioners little time to address a compromise hammered out earlier in the week to settle a dispute between the GAC and the Presbyterian Foundation over the use of particular restricted funds.

The compromise calls for the creation of a Restricted Funds Resolution Committee (RFRC) to resolve disagreements on restricted funds disbursements when the foundation and GAC are unable to reach agreement.

The RFRC would include two representatives designated by the Foundation board, two representatives designated by the GAC, and three persons appointed by the General Assembly moderator who are not involved in either agency. When the RFRC is unable to resolve a dispute, the Foundation and GAC would resort to civil court.

Commissioners also directed the GAC to create a review committee to review the service of the whole of the PC(USA) and its permanent advocacy and advisory committees as related to the GAC. The review committee is to examine the interaction and cooperation between the committees, as well as the scope and authority of the committees.

In addition, commissioners approved an overture from the Eastern Virginia Presbytery that called for adding a representative from the National Council of Presbyterian Men to the GAC. The overture passed 437 to 228.