The Special Offerings Task Force is recommending that the 2016 General Assembly revise the fundraising timeline for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Special Offerings.
The recommendation: instead of saying that the PC(USA) aspires to raise $20 million from its four Special Offerings by 2020, the assembly should give the denomination five more years, changing the date to 2025.
The task force report also addresses other concerns with the Special Offerings – including what was learned from an advertising campaign the PC(USA) pulled from the market in 2015 after criticism that it promoted racist stereotypes.
Michael Kruse, a ruling elder from Kansas City and chair of the task force, presented the task force report to the Presbyterian Mission Agency board at its meeting Feb. 3-5. Here are some of the highlights.
In early 2015, the PC(USA) withdrew its marketing campaign for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering after Presbyterians criticized it for being racist and offensive. That campaign was designed by a marketing firm from Indianapolis; the criticism drew media attention from around the country, and it cost the PC(USA) an extra $65,000 to redo the materials. Sam Locke, who had been the PC(USA)’s director of Special Offerings, left that job within weeks of the controversy hitting the headlines.
The task force report makes it clear that concerns about the One Great Hour of Sharing campaign were voiced inside the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) before the campaign was released publicly, but were not heeded.
“Feedback from multiple stakeholders said the marketing materials were offensive,” the task force report states. “In spite of the feedback the organization moved forward with the campaign. The materials were pulled after strong objections from across the denomination were expressed.
“As the Task Force reviewed the circumstances surrounding these developments, we conclude that the issues were less about a lack of input and more about failure to respond appropriately to the input from multiple angles. Appropriate measures were taken and marketing processes have been revised. While we make no additional structural recommendations in response to these matters, we wish to stress that episodes such as this fail to reflect our witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and cause profound damage. Trust is critical to building support and we remind senior staff of the PMA and the church as a whole to continue learning the lessons taught by this controversy. To this end, we lift up the need for careful and responsive listening to the concerns of one another.”
The Special Offerings generated $12 million for mission for the PC(USA) in 2015, or 15 percent of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s total income, with thousands of congregations participating. Yet giving to Special Offerings has been on a downward trajectory – from $18.2 million in 2000 to $16.4 million in 2007 to $12 million last year.
The 2012 General Assembly set the goal of “20 by 20” – or $20 million by 2020. Some executive committee members raised questions about whether that goal is realistic – and Kruse acknowledged, “we’re not confident we can reach that goal,” but “it is a goal to shoot for.”
Responding to those concerns, the board voted to ask the assembly to change the date for reaching the goal to 2025. “If we’re setting a goal we have no hope of reaching,” will that be seen as failure, asked board member Marsha Zell Anson of Montana.
“I think it’s misleading” to keep listing a goal the agency knows it cannot reach, said Earline Williams, the PC(USA)’s chief financial officer.
Special Offerings director
The task force had recommended that the position of director of Special Offerings be re-established. Since Locke’s departure, Special Offerings has been overseen by an interim manager. The task force contends that a director is needed, as Special Offerings requires interaction with “a large and diverse group of ministries and constituencies.”
The board changed that recommendation to say that the question of re-establishing that office be referred to the office of the executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency – recognizing that interim director Tony De La Rosa is working to craft a new mission budget for 2017-18.
Racial ethnic schools
Half of the Christmas Joy offering goes to support racial ethnic education and leadership development. The board voted to ask the General Assembly to direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to:
- Keep the funding to the remaining Historically Presbyterian Racial Ethnic Institutions at current percentages of the Christmas Joy Offering. The schools that qualified for Christmas Joy funding when the report was written were The Menaul School, Presbyterian Pan American School and Stillman College.
- Allocate funds that have become available from institutions that no longer qualify for Christmas Joy funding to support and advance the work of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministry in their programs of racial ethnic leadership development.