LOUISVILLE – Facing a continuing decline in both membership and giving in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board has approved mission budgets for the denomination for the next two years that trim both programs and staff.
The board voted April 25 to approve a mission budget of $73.6 million for 2015 and $78.2 million for 2016. That compares with a revised mission budget for 2014 of $79.9 million – meaning about $6 million in budget reductions from this year to next. The proposed budget for 2016 is slightly higher than for 2015 in part because it includes about $3.1 million in funding for the Youth Triennium, which is held every three years.
Although the budget documents did not give details, it is expected these new budgets will mean job cuts for some on the denomination’s national staff in Louisville. The board voted Friday morning to approve the new budgets, with prayer; those losing jobs were expected to be informed later in the day. The proposed budget also will need approval from the 2014 General Assembly when it meets in Detroit in June.
This budget cut is one of a series the PC(USA) has endured over the last decade or so. With the denomination shrinking, the staff has endured round after round of layoffs, the elimination of vacant positions and job reconfigurations.
Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, stressed that the intent in crafting the 2015-2016 budget was to focus funds on programs that have high alignment with directional goals and which make a significant impact – “a matter of stewardship,” she said, in using limited resources effectively. No specifics were given of which programs would be cut back or eliminated.
The decline in the budget from 2014 to 2015 – a drop of more than $6 million – reflects a number of factors, Valentine said. Among them: rising health care costs and changing patterns in giving to the denomination. Lower membership in the denomination means less in per capita payments. In 2012, the latest year for which membership has been reported, the PC(USA)’s membership dropped to 1.8 million, down 102,000 from the previous year.
The new budgets also reflect an investment of nearly $12 million in fundraising initiatives – designed specifically to raise money for 10 program areas seen as having high impact and alignment with the directional goals, but which are vulnerable because they lack sufficient funding, said Earline Williams, the PC(USA)’s chief financial officer.
Among those programs for which attempts are being made to raise additional funds: the initiative to start 1,001 New Worshipping Communities; the Company of New Pastors; Interfaith Relations; Racial Ethnic Leadership Development; the Office of Public Witness; the United Nations office; World Mission; Special Offerings; and Young Adult Volunteers. Those fundraising efforts are expected to produce new revenue by 2017, Williams said.
Roger Dermody, the PC(USA)’s deputy executive director for mission, said there are bright spots and reasons for hope despite the declining revenues. Some programs are growing—among them, the effort to create 1,001 New Worshipping Communities, and the Young Adult Volunteer program, which has grown by 34 percent over the last year, Dermody said.
Williams said the budget proposal also reflects a decline in unrestricted revenues given to the denomination – with unrestricted funds projected to be about $13.9 million in 2015, roughly half of what they were seven years ago.
In both 2015 and 2016, roughly 89 percent of the funding would be used for programmatic expenses; 3 percent for management and general expenses; and 8 percent to cover fundraising costs, Williams said.
In response to a question, Valentine said the 2015 and 2016 budgets do not contain a specific contingency for funding that could be lost if the 2014 General Assembly were to vote to allow Presbyterian ministers to perform same-sex weddings, and churches that disagree with that decision decide to leave.