It’s official: a recommendation is going to the 2022 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to set the per capita rate for the next two years at $9.61 per member for 2023 and $10.28 per member for 2024. That compares to the current per capita rate of $8.98 per member — so amounts to a proposed increase of 63 cents (or 7%) for 2023 and of 67 cents (also 7%) from 2023 to 2024.
Meeting jointly via Zoom on May 2, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) Board voted to recommend the new rate to the 2022 General Assembly. The proposed rate is expected to produce a per capita budget of $14.9 million for 2023 and $16.1 million for 2024.
Even with that proposed rate increase, the per capita budget approved at this meeting calls on the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to draw on its reserves to balance the budget — pulling $1.3 million from reserves in 2023 and $2.1 million in 2024.
That’s a sign of the financial pressure the per capita system is under. With the denomination’s membership continuing to decline – down 51,584 members in 2021 – the only way to raise more funds through per capita to support the ecclesial work of the church is to continue to increase the rate.
At the May 2 meeting, which also included the board of the PC(USA), A Corporation, the three groups approved a unified budget presentation that the hybrid General Assembly will consider when it meets this summer beginning on June 18.
This is a unified presentation – with three budgets presented in one document (Meeting-Papers-Joint-Budget-May-2-2022) – but does not represent what had once been hoped for: a single unified budget with all income streams and expenses combined. Instead, the document is a unified presentation of three budgets totaling $88 million for 2023 and $90.1 million for 2024.
To some extent, this meeting was considered a test run for some of the technology the assembly itself will use — the voting was to be conducted on the development site of PC-Biz.org, the platform the assembly will be using. There were some glitches, however. Some representatives of the three boards had difficulty logging in or getting their votes to register. So, in the end, the technical team moved the voting over to Zoom.
Gregory Bentley, who presided over this session as co-moderator of the 2020 General Assembly, prayed that God would “help us to have the stamina and patience to stick with it … realizing that we will get through to the other side.”
In terms of expenses, the 2023 budget is divided this way: 79% PMA, 16% OGA and 5% for the Administrative Services Group. It provides funding for 418 full-time staff and 43 part-time workers, including 75 mission co-workers and employees assigned to OGA, PMA and the Administrative Services Group (ASG).
The budget will fund the priorities of PMA’s Mission Work Plan, Moffett said — including a commitment to building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. PMA also will create two new divisions – a Center for Repair of Historical Harm and an Office of Innovation – and will focus on three intersectional priorities:
- Gender Justice/Heteropatriarchy
- Climate change
Kerry Rice, the PC(USA)’s deputy stated clerk, said the per capita budget will provide seed money for two new projects — an ecclesial event to be held in 2023 and for exploring the possibility of beginning to do funds development in OGA. It also would provide funding for the most expensive option this year’s General Assembly might choose for holding the assembly in 2024 — an in-person assembly in Salt Lake City, at an estimated cost of $3.6 million, although COGA also has presented other, less-costly options.
Kathy Lueckert, president of the A Corporation, said the budget for ASG would allow the group to expand its language translation services and market the new conference center being developed as part of a first-floor renovation underway at the denomination’s offices in downtown Louisville.
Rice also provided some context for the per capita increase being proposed this year — saying the 14% combined rate of increase over 2023 and 2024 is less than the 15% increase the 2018 General Assembly approved for 2019 and 2019. The increase sought for 2021 and 2022 was “nominal,” Rice said, because of concerns about the financial impact on the national church of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This report also tracks the impact the pandemic had on giving to the national church. In 2020, concerned about the financial impact of the pandemic, the A Corporation reduced the budget by 25% for 2021 and 20% in 2022, and OGA proposed only a 3-cent per capita increase.
What happened after that: contributions did fall from about $40.1 million in 2019 to $31.5 million in 2020. But the giving increased in 2021 – up to $37.3 million – so better than in 2021, but still below the levels in 2019.
At the close of the meeting, Bentley thanked participants for their patience, grace and persistence, saying the test run gave a chance “to hone our plans and processes for the assembly,” which will be a hybrid of in-person committee meetings in Louisville and online plenary sessions.