LOUISVILLE – It will take more time for the Special Committee on Per-Capita Based Funding and National Church Financial Sustainability to agree on the final wording of what it will recommend to the 2020 General Assembly – but the list right now includes a recommendation that the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly be merged.
The committee has not formally voted, and that recommendation could change. It’s anticipated there may be pushback and questions about the idea when it’s discussed February 12-14 as both the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly meet in Baltimore. (As proposal stands now, those boards would both be dissolved.)
The draft recommendation calls for the 2020 General Assembly to create a commission to facilitate the merger of the two agencies, to oversee the newly combined agencies, and to determine the strategies and priorities so that “all available dollars are combined or evaluated” to best accomplish General Assembly goals. Once the merger is “finalized and functional,” the commission would determine what governing board structure would be best after that, the draft recommendation states.
The hope: that if the assembly approves these changes, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) could have a unified budget at the top levels of the church. While there are efforts among top church leaders to do that for the 2020 General Assembly – the result of a budget summit that the Moving Forward Implementation Commission convened in November – “there’s no structural mandate for us do this work on an ongoing basis,” Kerry Rice, the PC(USA)’s deputy stated clerk, told the committee Jan. 15, on the final day of its last in-person meeting.
The recommendation on restructuring is one of a handful of proposals likely to emerge from the committee, whose final recommendations are due by Feb. 21.
The committee is also considering recommendations to ask the assembly to:
- Instruct denominational staff members to collaborate to determine a unified budget structure and system for allocating restricted and unrestricted funding in ways that may align with the work of the Office of the General Assembly and honor the donor’s intent. They would look for ways to use money beyond per capita to support the work of OGA, and would bring recommendations to the 2022 General Assembly.
- Create campaigns to train mid council and congregational leaders to “explain the ‘why’ of making one’s local church a giving priority” – and also to explain the reasons for giving to support the broader connectional church. Those campaigns would be contextual in nature, rather than “one plan from on high,” said committee co-moderator Valerie Young, a synod leader from Texas.
- Create a Funding Model Development Team to develop experiments other than per capita for funding mid councils and the national church. That team would report back to the General Assembly in 2022 “their progress and any recommendations for moving forward.”
- Instruct staff of denominational entities to work on a model by which overtures to the assembly with financial implications that include agencies beyond OGA and PMA would be funded by sources beyond per capita.
Earlier in its meeting, the committee discussed unhappiness with the current per capita funding system that surfaced in seven months of listening sessions with presbytery and synod leaders. And it discussed some potential experiments it might ask the assembly to try for a different or better way of funding.
Committee co-moderator Laura Cheifetz, assistant dean of admissions, vocation and stewardship at Vanderbilt Divinity School, has encouraged the committee to bring multiple recommendations for change – recognizing that the assembly might vote some of them down.
Rice encouraged the committee to think about “what are your deal-breakers? What is the end game with this, and what are you willing to give up to get what you want to accomplish with this?”
The committee has not yet voted. But one deal-breaker may be this: Anything that keeps the structure and funding system in the PC(USA) exactly the way it is now.