LOUISVILLE – A combination of resistance from mid council leaders and a persistent lack of understanding in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) about how the General Assembly per capita apportionment is spent has resulted in a revised request from General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II, for a 10 percent increase in the per-member apportionment in each of the next two years – to $ 8.50 in 2019 and to $ 9.35 in 2020.
The original proposal from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly to the upcoming 223rd General Assembly sought a 39 percent increase in the 2019 General Assembly per capita from $7.73 to $10.71 and an additional 7 percent increase in 2020 to $11.45. All matters related to the per capita budget will be considered by Assembly Committee 03 – General Assembly Procedures.
“I convinced the increase in per capita will strengthen our connectional system,” says General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II. “I believe in our connectional system, where the strong help the weak, where small churches can be helped by those who have been blessed with more. Per capita provides us with the opportunity to walk alongside those who have less than they need.”
Each council above the session approves a budget and sets a per capita apportionment rate. Presbyteries are responsible for collecting per capita and passing appropriate amounts to their synod and the General Assembly.
The General Assembly Per Capita budget ($14,214,859 in 2018)provides the primary source of funding for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). It also funds administration of mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (currently about 11 percent of the per capita budget) and shared services (paid to PMA, about 12 percent of the per capita budget). Thus, about 23 percent of the per capita budget is spent outside OGA.
General Assembly per capita funds:
- General Assembly operations including all expenses related to the biennial meetings of the General Assembly;
- all expenses related to staff support to the Assembly;
- permanent and special committees and commissions created by the Assembly;
- 62 percent of the budget of the Presbyterian Historical Society (the remainder comes from fundraising and reserves);
- compiling and maintaining records, statistics and history-Louisville;
- ecumenical allocations and support (World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, National Council of Churches and Church World Service and Christian Churches Together in the USA)
- Communications and technology
- Constitutional interpretation
- Ordered ministry (mainly Church Leadership Connection, examinations and ruling elder training resources) and certification
- Mid council relations
- Office of the Stated Clerk administration
- Human resources
- Office of the Moderator of the General Assembly
- Office expenses
- New initiatives (such as the Hands & Feet campaign)
- Presbyterian Mission Agency administration
- Shared services (paid to Presbyterian Mission Agency)
- Contingency fund
- Uncollectible apportionments
The General Assembly has mandated that OGA maintain a reserve amounting to 30 percent of the annual budget.
Kerry Rice, OGA deputy stated clerk, said he believes OGA can absorb the reduced per capita request without reducing staff. “This is risky, a leap of faith,” he said. “By 2021 we’ll have no unrestricted reserves left so decisions will have to be made by then about what we can and cannot do. We’ll find out what the PC(USA) expects of the Office of the General Assembly.”
Nelson and Rice hope that some clarity will emerge as a result of recommendations coming to this Assembly from the Way Forward Commission and the All-Agency Review Committee, as well as an overture from Newton Presbytery that asks for a comprehensive study of the entire funding system for the denomination, including per capita.
A number of face-to-face conversations have been scheduled between Office of the General Assembly and mid council leaders. The first was held May 24 at Princeton Theological Seminary. Additional sessions are set for June 2 at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania; June 5 at Nashville (Tennessee) Korean Presbyterian Church; and June 6 at the Presbyterian Mission Center in Irving, Texas.
A national Zoom videoconference will also be held, Thursday, June 7 from Noon-1:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time. To register, go to: https://goo.gl/forms/eVCcFUbbPmShnVz72.
Registrants will receive a link for joining by phone or computer.