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Panel’s proposals would revamp special offerings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Over the next few months, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will consider whether to make changes in the denomination’s four special offerings.

The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force has set a goal for the PC(USA) to raise $20 million from the offerings by 2020. It also is recommending that the General Assembly eliminate the Peacemaking Offering (funding peacemaking endeavors instead through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering) and that it create a new offering to support world mission.

Karl Travis, a minister from Texas and chair of the task force, will be presenting the task force’s findings at the General Assembly Mission Council’s meeting in Louisville Feb. 15-17 – starting with the council’s Executive Committee Feb. 15.

Travis ran through some of the reasons the task force is recommending changes to the General Assembly. Among them, he said:

  • Presbyterians don’t understand how the offerings are used, or why they should give.”

  • The denomination hasn’t consistently thanked those congregations that have given money.

  • Presbyterians aren’t being told enough about the impact their donations are making. “There are great stories to tell.”

  • Worship attendance at some churches is erratic – so if an offering is taken only on a single Sunday, some who may want to give will be missed.

  • Some people don’t carry cash. So it makes sense to offer other ways to give than just dropping money into the offering plate – techniques such as allowing people to send a text message to make a donation.

Travis told the council that the $20 million goal – up from $13.7 million given to the four special offerings in 2010 – is a “reasonable goal.”

Here’s more from the first day of the council’s meeting.

Per capita. Meeting jointly for a short time, the Executive Committee and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly proposed new per capita rates for the denomination – per member contributions that the General Assembly would have to approve. The proposed new per capita rates for each active member would be $6.80 in 2013 and $6.98 in 2014. That’s up from $6.63 currently – an increase over two years, if approved, of 35 cents per active member.

Budget. The council is in the process of developing a budget for the council for 2013-2016 – what it calls a Mission Work Plan. It is expected to set that budget at its meeting in May, and to present the budget to the General Assembly for approval this summer.

At this meeting, the council is considering six “directional goals” – the underlying principles it will use to build that budget, after a consultation process with Presbyterian leaders. Among them: to work with young adults; to nurture and sustain transformational leaders; and to create 1,001 new worshiping communities.

Name change. The council will ask the 2012 General Assembly to authorize a name change for the council – in part because the term “council” is reserved under the PC(USA)’s new Form of Government for middle governing bodies. The proposal is to:

  • Change the name of the elected council from General Assembly Mission Council to Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.

  • Change the name of the General Assembly Mission Council staff to Presbyterian Mission Agency.

September meeting. Plans also have changed for the council’s meeting next fall, in September 2012. An invitation had been considered to hold that meeting in Seoul, Korea, in conjunction with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea.

That has shifted because of what a report describes as “logistical challenges,” and the plan now is for the council to meet in September in Louisville instead. There will be other ways to honor the anniversary, as representatives of the Korean church will attend the PC(USA)’s General Assembly in Pittsburgh this summer. The council will send a delegation of PC(USA) leaders to Korea in September for the anniversary celebration as well.