Friday, August 22nd, 2014
The Layman Online > 2014 General Assembly (PCUSA) > Per-capita issues will again be considered by the General Assembly

Per-capita issues will again be considered by the General Assembly

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It seems that every Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly has to deal with business items related to per capita – the amount of money, per member, that each church pays to the presbytery, synod and GA – and this summer’s assembly is no different.

Overture 005 from Detroit Presbytery asks for an amendment to the denomination’s constitution that would allow presbyteries to limit their payments of per capita to synods and the General Assembly – and it has the support of seven other presbyteries.

Beaver-Butler, Lehigh, Muskingum Valley, Northumberland, Upper Ohio Valley, Washington and Western Colorado presbyteries have all concurred with Detroit’s proposed amendment to G-3.0106, that reads: [Text to be added is shown as italic.]

“Each council above the session shall prepare a budget for its operating expenses, including administrative personnel, and may fund it with a per capita apportionment among the particular congregations within its bounds. Presbyteries are responsible for raising their own funds and for raising and timely transmission of per capita funds to their respective synods and the General Assembly. Presbyteries may direct per capita apportionments to sessions within their bounds, but in no case shall the authority of the session to direct its benevolences be compromised. Where a presbytery has directed per capita apportionments to sessions, and sessions do not submit their full assessments, the presbytery may remit to the synod and General Assembly only those per capita finds actually received.

In an Advisory Opinion, per capita is described as the annual amount of money a church pays per member to its respective presbytery. The amount is a combined total of funds requested by the church’s presbytery, synod and the General Assembly.

PCUSA congregations have long had the freedom of not paying their per-capita apportionments to the presbytery, synod or General Assembly, because per capita is seen as a benevolence, and according to the denomination’s constitution, the session has the sole authority to determine how a congregation’s benevolences are distributed.

The PCUSA’s highest court – the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission – ruled in Session of Central Presbyterian Church vs. Presbytery of Long Island that a church may neither be compelled to pay nor punished for failure to pay any amounts assigned by a per-capita system. That understanding of per capita has been upheld in subsequent GAPJC decisions and by various General Assemblies.

However, in 2010, the GA commissioners approved an authoritative interpretation requiring presbyteries to remit synod and General Assembly per capita “even if the presbytery lacks sufficient funds to pay its own expenses.”

Detroit says in its rationale that increasing numbers of congregations are not paying per capita as a way of protesting actions of the General Assembly.

“For presbyteries, per capita is not a benevolence, it is a required payment that is an increasing burden,” states Detroit’s rationale. “Since presbyteries are required to pay the full apportionment to higher governing bodies from their mission budgets when not received from the churches, the effect is to reduce the amount available for the mission of the presbyteries to their own regions.

Many presbyteries have made “serious cuts to their budgets, laying off staff, drawing on their reserves in order to pay their full per capita apportionment,” it reads.

“In 2010, 50 presbyteries did not pay their per-capita apportionment in the amount of some $950,000. Sixty-seven presbyteries did not pay their full 2011 per capita payments in the amount of $1,220,037.50. Records show that 40 of those presbyteries specifically said they are paying only what was received. One presbytery said it just did not have the funds,” the rationale reads.

It continues, “Since 39 percent of presbyteries paid 2011 per capita only what they have received or can afford – up from 29 percent the year before – the effect is that those presbyteries that are loyal to the rules of our polity are penalized. To remove the penalty for faithfulness seems equitable. Moreover, where it is forbidden for presbyteries to require the payment of benevolences from their churches, it also should be forbidden for higher governing bodies to require presbyteries to pay per capita from their benevolences, which is exactly what is done when presbyteries must take from their mission dollars to pay per-capita assessments.”

 

Asking teaching elders to participate in per capita

In Overture 003, the Presbytery of Albany asks the assembly to issue a request to all PCUSA teaching elders – pastors – “to assume the moral responsibility of participating in the administrative costs of this church by paying per capita each year, as other church members do, being assessed by their presbyteries of record.”

The Office of the General Assembly’s statistics shows that there were 21,064 teaching elders in the denomination in 2011.

Albany’s rationale states that presbyteries do not assess per capita for teaching elders who are members of the presbytery in the same manner in which they do church members.

“As a matter of parity, teaching elders should be participating in the burdens of the administrative costs of our self-governing polity,” states the rationale.

 

Per capita no longer a benevolence?

A third overture has been submitted to the GA but at this time has not received the required concurrence from another presbytery, so that it can be considered by GA commissioners. A Book of Order amendment went into effect in 2013 requiring all overtures to have to have at least one other presbytery’s concurrence before they will be referred to the General Assembly.

Overture 52 from Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery asks for the Book of Order to be amended so that congregations are required to pay per capita. The amendment would declare that per capita “shall not be considered a benevolence of the particular congregation, but rather its expected participation in the stewardship of the mission of the whole church.”

The eighth paragraph of G-3.0106 would be amended to read: [Text to be deleted is shown with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]

“Each council above the session shall prepare a budget for its operating expenses, including administrative personnel, and may fund it with a per capita apportionment among the particular congregations within its bounds. Presbyteries are responsible for raising their own funds and for raising and timely transmission of per capita funds to their respective synods and the General Assembly. Presbyteries may direct per capita apportionments to sessions within their bounds, but and while in no case shall the authority of the session to direct its benevolences be compromised, per capita shall not be considered a benevolence of the particular congregation, but rather its expected participation in the stewardship of the mission of the whole church. A presbytery may reduce a particular congregation’s apportionment for one year if paying the full per capita apportionment would cause an exceptional financial difficulty.

In its rationale for the overture, Upper Ohio Valley quotes from another part of G-3.0106: “[t]he funding of mission similarly demonstrates the unity and interdependence of the church. The failure of any part of the church to participate in the stewardship of the mission of the whole church diminishes that unity and interdependence.

Upper Ohio Valley then says, “If that is indeed the case, then the failure of sessions to participate in the stewardship of the mission of the whole church ought not be left unchecked. It is a matter of good stewardship, an acknowledgement of the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ, and a matter of church discipline, which our Book of Confessions calls the third note of the true church (The Scots Confession, 3.18). If all of the councils of the church ‘share with one another responsibilities, rights, and powers,’ then the session cannot consider a ‘benevolence’ that which all other councils must consider an administrative financial obligation.”

The 221st General Assembly will be held June 14-21 in Detroit, Mich. The official GA web site can be found here. The Layman’s coverage of the 2014 GA can be accessed here.


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5 comments

  1. Matthew G. Zatkalik says:

    The significant number of churches leaving the PC(USA) has not gotten the attention of the PS(USA) – but it is giving them exorbitant amounts of money to continue their heresy and apostate behaviors and teachings.
    Grab their attention as they grab on to their ‘gracious separation’ blood-money!
    I am quite sure that a significant drop in per capita dollars to the apostate agencies and their personnel will get their attention.
    Be good stewards, place all requested per capita money in your congregation’s financial institution. If/When Christ is honored, the Bible is accorded its rightful place in this Reformed/Christian Church, the monies can be sent to the reformed presbyteries for a Christ-honoring mission by the humbled and repentant PS(USA).
    Stand up to their apostasy and heresy. Their unrighteous leaven has already defiled our regional / national bodies and blasphemed the work and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.
    I gladly support the ministry, staff, and mission of our Presbyterian Church PC(USA) but will refuse and refute any overture to place even one cent in the hands of our presbytery and PC(USA).
    Let the corruptible PC(USA) body be buried in death that the power of God which raised the dead body of Christ might raise the PC(USA) to Christ-honoring new life.

  2. Matthew G. Zatkalik says:

    “Where a presbytery has directed per capita apportionments to sessions, and sessions do not submit their full assessments, the presbytery may remit to the synod and General Assembly only those per capita finds” .
    Is that considered a Freudian slip? One way to grab the attention of employees/servants is to diminish the amount of remuneration they receive. While the Reformation Faith may not grab their attention; while the clear word of God may not grab their attention; while the Faith once and for all delivered may escape their notice, I am quite sure that a significant drop in per capita dollars to the apostate agencies and their personnel will get their attention. It is past ‘the right time’ to begin to withhold the dollars that permit this apostasy to continue to gain momentum. Be good stewards, place the per capita money in each congregation’s financial institution. Then, when Christ is honored, the Bible is accorded its rightful place in the Reformed/Christian Church, the monies can be sent to the reformed presbyteries for a Christ-honoring mission by the humbled and repentant PS(USA). Stand up to their apostasy and heresy. Their unrighteous leaven has already defiled our regional / national bodies and blasphemed the work and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.
    I gladly support the ministry and staff of our Presbyterian Church PC(USA) but will refuse and refute any overture to place even one cent in the hands of our presbytery and PC(USA).

  3. Marie Bowen says:

    Don,
    Well, I got a little fired up after I read your comment and I confess I read your comment before the article. I’m pretty far off topic. I do agree with you that these overtures and many that we see at GA are meaningless. They are rearranging of deck chairs and we are not addressing the real ailments of the PCUSA which are spiritual in nature. But, I do stand by what I said that there is hope in God and that we do need to stop trash-talking about our church. If we really want to see change (and some frankly would rather be right about their dire prediction of death for the PCUSA) we need to get on our knees and pray. Only God can do it and His purposes will be accomplished with or without us.

  4. Marie Bowen says:

    Don, I just have to say this: Hope in God! Have we learned nothing from the story of Lazarus who was raised from the dead after he had already reached the point of decay? Do we not serve a risen Christ who is powerful to raise us all from the death of sin and transform us into His own image? So maybe the signs of death and decay are prevalent, but as followers of the risen Christ we ought not to despair as others do and I believe that includes our attitude toward the PCUSA. It is far from a dead church–thousands of congregations continue to worship in spirit and in truth and have a lively witness to the resurrection of Christ in their communities. We need to stop trash talking about any part of the Body of Christ and get to work sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those right in our own pews who do not know that He is alive! The actions of the General Assembly are a symptom that all is not well with us, but it is not a diagnosis that we are terminal–unless we lay down our hope in the One who can make dead bones live again.
    Sorry to preach, but I just had to share what I truly believe and that is that God is not done with the PCUSA and I want to be part of His great resurrection plan. I’m not laying down my hope until He takes me home.

  5. Don says:

    I apologize for using a very tired cliche, but I’m going to use it: These overtures amount to nothing more than further rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic.

    PCUSA membership will continue to shrink, financial reserves will continue to diminish. And nothing the Detroit GA will do can stop that — though some of its actions will no doubt accelerate the process of decline.

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