The 221st General Assembly has approved restructuring the annual Peacemaking Offering into a Peace and Global Witness Offering, beginning this year.
The retooling of the autumn offering ― traditionally received on World Communion Sunday ― is part of an effort led by the Special Offerings Task Force to roughly double receipts for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s four special offerings to $20 million by 2020.
“The Peacemaking Offering, as currently structured, has played an important role in fostering cultures of peace around the world,” the task force wrote in its rationale for the proposal. “While the offering has maintained a very loyal support network, participation in the offering has remained stagnant over much of the last two decades, with about 20 percent of PC(USA) congregations contributing around $2 million annually.”
Projects receiving funding from the Peacemaking Offering will continue to do so until 2016. After that, funds will be rerouted through the Peace and Global Witness Offering. Beginning in 2014, funds brought in through the new offering will be split as follows: 25 percent to congregations for local mission efforts, 25 percent to synod/presbytery efforts and 50 percent to the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
None of the four special offerings ― Peacemaking, Christmas Joy, One Great Hour of Sharing and Pentecost ― directly benefit the PC(USA)’s global mission efforts. Research has repeatedly shown that Presbyterians don’t want a fifth special offering to benefit world mission.
Also upon recommendation of its Mission Coordination Committee, the Assembly referred a paper calling for revitalization of the church’s urban ministry efforts to the Presbyterian Mission Agency for implementation.
The paper, “The Gospel from Detroit,” came from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. It called for efforts at all levels of the church “to strengthen the church’s witness and outreach on the ground” and “strengthen the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s commitment to bear the gospel of Jesus Christ to the cities of this nation and to support mid council efforts by renewing its urban mission strategy.”
Mission Coordination Committee Moderator Linda Scholl of Presbytery of Mid-South Presbytery said the paper was referred because of the financial implications of adding a staff position for urban ministry to the national staff in Louisville.
“We [instead] want an urban ministry roundtable to develop a method of fulfillment of the goals set out in this paper, which we want to affirm,” she said.
The Assembly approved a recommendation adding two for-profit prison operators to the list of companies “from which the General Assembly urges divestment and-or proscription of investment ownership.” The two companies are Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, Inc.
The 2003 General Assembly called for the abolition of for-profit prisons, and the 2012 General Assembly asked the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee to explore the feasibility of corporate engagement to persuade the two companies to alter their corporate behavior.
“MRTI came to the conclusion that ownership in publically traded companies managing or operating for-profit prisons, jails, or detention centers is incompatible with General Assembly policy,” the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s response to the referral stated.
PMA’s Director of Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministries Sara Lisherness told the Assembly, “The 2003 General Assembly called for abolition of for-profit prisons. The 2012 Assembly asked MRTI to review the divestment list with an eye toward for-profit prison operators. This [proposed action] is not about being for or against for-profit prisons, but who should be on the list.”