While national leaders tout the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic winding down next spring, the financial impact of the virus will be felt for some time to come in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) has approved the 2021-22 budget for the OGA, showing a reduced spending plan, no in-person conferences next year and a staff reorganization in the agency.
The approved budget for 2021 totals just over $11.6 million, while the 2022 spending plan will be slightly higher at $11.7 million. OGA leaders say the cuts have been hard, but jobs have been saved. Savings from in-person conferences, efficiencies from technology, early retirements for eight staff, and other cost-saving measures have helped to stabilize the financial losses.
“This will help position OGA to be more responsive and nimble as we go into the future,” said Kerry Rice, deputy stated clerk of the OGA. “If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that change comes fast, so we need to be more responsive moving forward.”
Some of the highlights of the budget plan include:
- No raises for current OGA staff
- The elimination of vacant positions within the agency
- Extremely limited travel in 2021 and 2022
- A realignment of staff to better support OGA’s mission
“Going into this year, we knew it was going to be financially tight, but we certainly didn’t expect this,” said the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). “The pandemic has changed everything from how we conducted the 224th General Assembly to our work with churches and mid councils.”
OGA is funded by per capita giving, which has been down over the past several years. Projected losses for this year were originally forecast at 35 percent at the beginning of the pandemic. Because of cost savings and a move toward online meetings, the agency is trending toward a 17 percent loss right now.
“The numbers have not been as bad as we had feared. We went through and looked at what we need to do in terms of direction for the agency,” said Rice. “We will always be reviewing, revising and reforming. Our hope is that as we move forward, we will be able to determine what the church needs, what it no longer needs and continue to learn how we can do things more efficiently and effectively.”
OGA leadership has come up with five values to guide the work over the next two years.
- Working collaboratively with other agencies
- Developing shared goals and a common cause
- Equipping God’s people to be leaders of the church
- Empowering resilient leaders who support the work of the church
- Identifying and discerning leadership needs of the church of tomorrow
Equity and Justice
- Calling for justice in the world, inspired by the ministry of Jesus Christ
- Reflecting the diversity of God’s people
Innovative and Courageous
- Bringing energy, intelligence, imagination and love to ministry
- Willingness to challenge assumptions and hold difficult conversations
Faithful and Spirit-led
- Openness to discern the will of God
- Practicing discipleship, including stewardship
“The world is shifting, changing and moving faster, and we find ourselves oftentimes in need of taking a serious look at where we are in relation to the larger picture,” said Nelson. “If we are to be the 21st century church, adjustments will continue to be made. This is a time of revolutionary change, pushed by pandemic, where people can’t get out and do what they used to do because of the dangers and risks.”
Nelson referred to companies across the country that are now requiring staff to work from home to avoid becoming infected.
“We are not divorced from that. We are facing those same types of changes and we are dealing with transition as well. We need to get out of our silos in order to do the work that needs to be done. We are in a new age and the machine we’ve been pushing around is old now and we have to figure out new ways to adapt to the current situation we are in,” said Nelson. “It can be an exciting adventure, a time of transformative change. Don’t fear it — live into it.”