The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted April 17 to set aside the idea of initiating a fundraising campaign to support capital needs at Stony Point Center, and instead to consider this: whether the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) needs a broader fundraising appeal to support congregations, mid councils and ministry work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, asked the board to take “a pause” on work underway for fundraising at Stony Point to consider the possible need for a broader PC(USA) campaign to unite the denomination and support its work.
She said of COVID-19: “This thing has wrecked our economy.” For congregations, “our giving is down significantly.”
At Moffett’s request, the board voted to set aside for now a proposal to start the planning phase for a multiyear campaign to raise $4 million for Stony Point Center outside New York City. Instead, Moffett spoke of the possible need for a broader fundraising campaign, to support congregations, mid councils, and possibly Stony Point as well, and for Presbyterians as part of the Matthew 25 initiative to respond to the needs of a hurting world.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the PC(USA) took a front seat at denominational meetings this week — as both the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) held off voting on a recommended per capita rate for 2021 and 2022.
Both PMAB and COGA voted to approve a proposed unified budget (A.102 Budget Aassumptions) for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of the General Assembly and the Administrative Services Group — a total of $90.5 million for the three entities in 2021 and $92.5 million for 2022.
But they did so knowing there are likely to be adjustments made to the budget proposal later this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And they did not formally act to recommend a per capita rate to the General Assembly for 2021 and 2022 — even though, as PMAB board member Melinda Sanders pointed out, it’s not clear how the budget could be funded without knowing what the per capita rate would be.
A cross-agency COVID-19 Financial Implications Team is working to develop new projections, with the final budget proposals to be approved by May 21 — the 30-day deadline to present business to the 2020 General Assembly.
COGA approved the budget proposal knowing “that all this was sort of temporary,” COGA’s vice moderator, Stephanie Anthony, told the PMAB during its Zoom meeting April 17. COGA didn’t approve the proposed General Assembly per capita rate in the report – $9.99 per member for 2021 and $10.50 per member for 2022, compared to $8.95 per member currently – because “we didn’t want to send a number out now that we know is going to change,” Anthony said.
With COVID-19 hitting congregations hard – nearly four in five congregations have reported a drop in giving, according to a Presbyterian Research Services survey – COGA anticipates that it may drop the rate it’s seeking later this spring out of a concern that congregations would be unable to pay a higher rate, Anthony said. (She serves both on COGA and as a COGA representative on PMAB.)
With PMAB pulling back from initiating a fundraising campaign for Stony Point Center, it’s unclear what the next steps are for Stony Point, which Moffett had wanted to make a key component of the Matthew 25 initiative. The board moved into closed session to talk about that.
Ray Jones, PMA’s director of Theology, Formation and Evangelism, leads a roundtable that’s been focused on planning for Stony Point’s future. He told the board’s Resource Allocation and Stewardship Committee that because of COVID-19 Stony Point currently is closed, at least through May 25, and that a decision has been made to keep all the staff employed through April 25.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, “Stony Point was absolutely on target” to meet its revenue projections for 2020, said Pam Harris of Run River Enterprises, a consultant that has worked to develop a vision plan for Stony Point. “Everything was moving along very well,” but “the pandemic has wiped out all of the financial goals,” Harris said.
Another issue that rose up during the PMAB meeting: whether some of the $2 million in proceeds from the sale of the Ghost Ranch Plaza Resolana property in Santa Fe could be used to support Native American Presbyterians in the Southwest who don’t have enough digital and internet access to stay connected and to join worship during the pandemic.
Board member Judith Wellington raised the issue, saying that with a lack of a full-time Native American ministry staff member at the PMA, the denomination needs to rely on regional ministry work among Native peoples. “People of color are not having the accessibility to stream and be in worship and to have internet accessibility,” Wellington said, asking that some of the proceeds from the property sale be used to support the Navajo Nation and the Laguna Pueblo.
Kathy Lueckert, president of the PC(USA), A Corporation, told the A Corporation Board during an April 14 Zoom meeting that $2 million from the sale would be distributed as follows:
- For coronavirus relief:
- $1 million to the Presbyterian Mission Agency;
- $200,000 to the Office of the General Assembly;
- $100,000 to the Administrative Services Group.
- $400,000 to the Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- $300,000 to the A Corporation for a property disposition fund, to be used to do work on other property issues for which the A Corporation needs to do legal work.
Moffett said it’s possible that some of the $1 million PMA will receive for coronavirus relief could be used to support Native American ministry in New Mexico — she’s willing to consider that. But “there are going to be so many needs coming up,” while giving is down, Moffett said. “We’re going to really have to do a very careful balancing act in terms of how to keep people whole during this time.”
Another possibility: Presbyterian Women has provided money to each synod to be used for technology and communications during the coronavirus pandemic, said board member Jenny Lee, who also serves as moderator of Presbyterian Women.
PMAB also voted to ask for a consultation with Lueckert and the A Corporation board on how the sale proceeds would be distributed.
Before the close of its meeting, PMAB approved comments to a series of business items submitted to the 2020 General Assembly – even though COGA is expected to decide on April 23 whether to move to a shortened, online virtual assembly that will consider only critical items.
And it approved two New Worshipping Communities to receive the 2020 Sam & Helen R. Walton Award:
- Sweaty Sheep Ministries in Santa Cruz, California, which provides opportunities for worship and Christian community, and uses inclusive art and recreation as a way to bring people together; and
- Matters to Mission in Charlotte, North Carolina, or M2M Charlotte, which brings together for community an outreach “an eclectic group of ‘boomers’ and ‘millennials;’ interfaith couples; recovering addicts; evangelicals, traditionalists, and progressives; affluent and homeless,” according to a report to the board.