COGA writes off $315,000 in ‘uncollectible’ per capita

A dozen presbyteries make up more than half of $915,000 total shortfall

November 3, 2010


At its Oct. 29 meeting, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) voted to write off about $315,000 in unpaid per capita assessments for 2009, in addition to the $600,000 it had already budgeted.

Per capita is a per member assessment that all congregations pay to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The per capita requested from each congregation is a combined total of requests from its presbytery, synod and the General Assembly. Congregations pay per capita to their presbyteries, which then submit the money to OGA.

The  General Assembly per capita rate is set by the General Assembly. For 2009 and 2010, the 2008 Assembly set the rate at $6.15 per member. This year’s Assembly set the 2011 rate at $6.50.

There are several reasons for the uncollectible per capita, said Christopher Nicholas, budget manager for the stated clerk in OGA. The poor economy is a factor, he said, as are a few churches in each of 16 presbyteries that are withholding funds; three presbyteries that say their congregations have lost members; four presbyteries that have reported financial problems; and  42 presbyteries that are paying only what they have received from congregations.

More than one-third of the 65 presbyteries with outstanding per capita balances owe less than $5,000. More than half owe less than $10,000 and two-thirds owe less than $15,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, four presbyteries owe more than $50,000 and another nine presbyteries owe more than $25,000. Taken together, those 13 presbyteries make up well more than half of the unpaid per capita.

Presbyteries have historically paid the per capita assessments for their congregations who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the assessment.

Per capita dollars fund a variety of ecclesiastical functions of the denomination, including the biennial meeting of the General Assembly, Church Leadership Connection and constitutional services. Click here for a detailed list. About one-third of General Assembly per capita underwrites the administrative and meeting expenses of the General Assembly Mission Council.

  1. Now we have the new Book of Order in force. Members and churches are leaving; some are staying to see if the 10-A heresy is reversed by the next GA and ratified by the presbyteries. In two years we will know our fate. I suspect there will be a great reduction in per capita submissions this year as a result of the new Book of Order position on ordination.

    by Will Gray

    November 20, 2011

  2. A five year payment history of GA Per Capita by presbytery is reported to each General Assembly, and published in the "GA Minutes, Part I, Journal. This gives the total GA per capita alocated to each presbytery, the amount paid, and the balance.

    by Chris Y. Nicholas

    March 9, 2011

  3. Part of what's going on is a loss of our Presbyterian connectionalism and a working together for common missions of the church on local, regional, national, and global levels. In our fear over loss, we've hunkered down in silos for the self-protection of our particular ministry areas (local congregaion, presbytery, national ministry, etc.), and we've lost the capacity to work together, partly due to staff cutbacks. We've also become prey to national forces' communication styles of quick labels that do not help us deal with the real ambiguities of the situation in a Christ-like manner, instead lobbing "liberal" and "conservatve" at one another as though politics determines our actions instead of theology. Thus we have undermined the trust a presbyterian system relies on just as much as checks and balances and discernments of the Spirit.

    by Teresa Stricklen

    November 10, 2010

  4. Per Capita is voluntary. It is a shame our GA "demands" presbytery to pay what is a voluntary contribution. There would be a more responsive GA and presbyteries if both governing bodies openly "advertised" this fact and then made the case for why folks should send in the contribution. There are some presbyteries who do that very thing and I think you would find they are healthier than the average presbytery because they know they must address the needs of their churches. I will admit I wouldn't mind if per capita became mandatory BUT ONLY IF it went back to paying only for administrative costs. All the other items that are funded should be paid for by voluntary contributions. To do as we are now is simply wrong.

    by Matt Ferguson

    November 4, 2010

  5. Isn't per capita based on active members from two years prior? Membership continues to decline, so the actual members to pay are less than the per capita basis; making up the difference sends local church resources to the Presbytery/Synod/GA level.

    by J. Magrane

    November 4, 2010

  6. when i read these press releases from the denomination it makes me angry. for the past 30 years every explanation for loss of members or funds has been atrributed to some other cause than that people are upset and frustrated to the liberal chicanery of the PCUSA. the voters just voiced how they feel about liberal policies in government, now the same liberals who are also misdirecting our church need to get the message. it probably won't happen, however, because the warm idealist sand of "progressivism" feels so good on their head.

    by David Freehling

    November 4, 2010

  7. Why not publish the Presbyteries who have not fully paid their per capita & their so-called reasons for not paying ?

    by D. Schall

    November 3, 2010