Raising the rate by three percent

per capita chartIf approved by the 222nd General Assembly, the GA per-capita rate will increase by three percent in 2017 and another three percent in 2018.

During Wednesday’s (2/3/16) joint meeting of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Executive Committee, both groups approved sending the recommendation — which will raise the per-member apportionment to  $7.33 in 2017 and $7.55 in 2018 — to the 2016 GA for approval.

The three percent increase was recommended because “it is clear per capita cannot sustain operations on its own,” said John Wood.

“We can do this. We’re on a pretty sturdy ark as we head into some tough times, and it is going to take all of us,” Wood said.

And while it wasn’t approved by the PMAB and COGA, Wood’s PowerPoint presentation included a slide showing three percent increases in the per-capita apportionments for 2019 and 2020, bringing those totals to $7.78 in 2019 and $8.01 by 2020.

Click on graphic to make it larger.

Click on graphic to make it larger. Download pdf of the graphic here.

The slide also showed that COGA is predicting membership losses of 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016.

Membership losses for 2017-2020 are projected to be 75,000 each year.

That is more than the membership losses in both 2014 (-92,433) and 2013 (-89,296).

The plan also calls for a three percent reduction in expenses for each year 2017-2020.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee observed that “even with a 3  percent  reduction of expenses and a 3 percent raise in per capita, year over year losses of more than 90,000 members per year is institutionally unsustainable. To put it into perspective, that’s the equivalent of closing an average of 1,000 PCUSA churches a year.”

Membership and per capita are inversely related. So, as membership declines, per-capita must necessarily rise.

Per-capita is the amount of money — per member — that congregations are asked to pay to the presbytery, synod and General Assembly.  The amounts listed here reflect GA per capita only. Individual congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are not required to pay per-capita and many do not – withholding or redirecting the funds over theological or financial reasons. Presbyteries, however, are required to submit the full per capita amount allocated to them, even if the churches do not pay their portion. This has caused a financial strain for many presbyteries in the denomination.

Concern was expressed over the proposed recommendation.

“This won’t play well in the presbyteries,” said one member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.

Another made the comment that her presbytery is facing “financial shortfalls. … We discussed all our options and we found that our presbyters chose to pay for the services that they valued.”

She said that she appreciated the recommendation because it gave the PCUSA a way forward “so we don’t collapse before we get into what the future holds.”


Paula R. Kincaid