Commissioners to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Wednesday (July 4) requested that the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) study concerns about per capita giving raised in an overture from the Presbytery of Detroit.

The overture asked that presbyteries not be required to pay per capita on congregations that withhold per capita funds, noting that an increasing number of congregations are withholding per capita payments because of financial hardship or as a protest to Assembly actions—a practice that is placing budgetary stress on presbyteries. Under current GA policy, presbyteries must pay per capita apportionments on every congregation regardless of whether a congregation sends its apportionment to the presbytery.

The General Assembly Procedures Committee recommended disapproval of the overture, but did request that the Assembly ask COGA to study the per capita issue. The assembly referred the action to COGA by a vote of 523 to 128. Five commissioners abstained.

Robert Austell, a teaching elder commissioner from Charlotte Presbytery, proposed a substitute motion that would have capped each presbytery’s per capita obligation at 18 percent of its budget. The substitute motion failed 216 to 441. Six commissioners abstained.

Becca Schuster, a young adult advisory delegate from Lake Erie Presbytery, said paying per capita is an important part of Presbyterian identity. “We are in community, and we need to be brothers and sisters in Christ,” she said.

The Assembly also voted to:

  • Direct COGA to develop an ethics policy that would govern commissioners and advisory delegates. The policy will be considered by the 221st General Assembly (2014).
  • Honor the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a 19th-century Presbyterian minister and abolitionist newspaper publisher, and Donald McClure, a 20th-century Presbyterian missionary in Sudan and Ethiopia. The Assembly directed that their names be sent to the Presbyterian Historical Society “so their ministries and the sacrifices they endured may be remembered by the church at large.”
  • Approve a per capita budget of $13,626,330 for 2013 and $14,199,728 for 2014. Per capita apportionments were set at $6.80 for 2013 and $6.98 for 2014.

Lynn Bova, chair of the General Assembly Procedures committee, told commissioners that they will consider several recommendations from committees with financial implications.

If all committee recommendations are approved, Bova said the per capita budget will need an additional $356,048 for 2013 and another $240,457 for 2014. These additional requests will require the per capita apportionment be raised by 18 cents in 2013 and 13 cents in 2014, she said.