LOUISVILLE – The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) and the executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted Feb. 8 to approve significant General Assembly per capita increases – an increase from $7.73 per member in 2018 to $10.71 in 2019 and to $11.45 per member in 2020.
That would amount to a 39 percent increase from 2018 to 2019 and a 7 percent increase from 2019 to 2020.
The 10-7 vote was split: with COGA voting 9-0 in favor (with one abstention) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board executive committee voting 7-1 against. The proposed increase still would need approval from the 2018 General Assembly; the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board also is expected to consider it before its meeting ends Feb. 9.
The standing rules say that the per capita rate needs to be a joint recommendation from COGA and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board. One option for resolving any differences might be to convene a Per Capita Joint Table, where representatives from COGA and the board would come together to try to reach a common recommendation.
If the joint per capita table did not end up with a proposal with which both the board and COGA could agree, the per capita budget would go to the General Assembly with comments from each agency.
J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is expected to attend the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting Feb. 9.
Before the vote, some executive committee members raised concerns about the impact of the increase on congregations and mid councils. Ken Godshall, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and a pastor from Kentucky, said the increase is “a very large amount” and “I would appreciate a different, less aggressive per capita proposal for the church to embrace.”
Nelson said the proposed rate in 2020 would amount to about a dollar per month for each member – and said that money is needed to meet urgent needs for leadership training and to strengthen the work of the church “on the ground” with mid councils and congregations.
He spoke of the communal nature of the PC(USA), and asked: “Are we still wedded to that? Are we still wedded to the thought that the strong should help the struggling and the weak? … This is a faith issue. It is not simply an issue of money. We are not a poor denomination.”
Nelson said “I am convinced this is the number one work that has to be done in the life of the denomination” – to support “people who have lost a lot of confidence in the national church.”
Carol McDonald, a COGA member, said: “We have not raised per capita in a significant number of years, and it’s time to ask for what we need. We need to justify it, but it’s time for us to ask for what we need, not just for what we think can get us by.”
Executive committee member Joe Morrow described the increase as “a very significant ask,” and said “I’m aware of the ways in which it may be an impediment and an inhibitor for some of our mid council partners and congregations.”
But Morrow said he also sees “great potential” in some of the initiatives Nelson has described. “I do wonder what are the ways in which we might … create a per capita increase that is both manageable” and involves “active interpretation” of the potential benefits it would provide to congregations and mid councils that “will be sharing the load of paying for the budget,” Morrow said.
Molly Baskin, an executive committee member, asked whether the amount of uncollectable per capita is likely to rise if the per capita rate goes up. With a sizeable increase, “I would expect that number to up pretty substantially,” Baskin said.
John Wood of the Office of the General Assembly said the per capita uncollectable rate was about 11 percent, and “we believe that will hold.”
The proposed increase would lift the General Assembly per capita budget from $11.5 million in 2018 to $15.5 million in 2019 and $15.8 million in 2020. That would also give a “break even” funding level – adding more than $66,000 to per capita reserves in 2020, compared to this year, when more than $2.6 million is being withdrawn from reserves to cover costs.
The General Assembly then would consider those budgets when it meets in St. Louis June 16-23.
Here is more information from the background presentation on per capita and the proposed increase.
COGA and the executive committee voted Feb. 8 to:
- Approve a revised per capita expense budget for 2018 of $14.2 million.
- Approve per capita expense budgets of $15.5 million for 2019 and $15.8 million for 2020.
- Approve a requested per capita rate of $10.71 for 2019 and $11.45 for 2020.
- Designate an amount of $1.4 million from the 2019 per capita budget for the 2020 General Assembly.
- Approve designated budget expenditures of $1.2 million for 2019 and $1.7 million for 2020.
The vote was taken by conference call, with COGA meeting in St. Louis and the executive committee in Louisville.