From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Stronger Emphasis on Collection of per Capita
04 May 1996 15:25:09
96077 Stronger Emphasis on Collection of per Capita
by Alexa Smith
CHICAGO--The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) has
asked stated clerk the Rev. James E. Andrews to develop stronger language
for the "Book of Order" about collection of General Assembly per capita
Andrews is to bring proposed language to COGA's May 22-24 meeting in
"Clarity strengthens," Andrews told the Presbyterian News Service
after the Chicago meeting. "And the language needs to make more of the
importance of per capita apportionments in the life of the church."
What that means, according to the recommendation from the Joint Budget
Table (representatives of COGA and the General Assembly Council) that
spurred COGA's action, is that language in the "Book of Order" needs to
emphasize the "advantages of maintaining connectionalism."
Andrews said he has not yet begun to work on the language.
COGA also asked the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to "create
awareness" and to "pursue contact with presbyteries that are delinquent [in
order to collect] outstanding per capita apportionments."
To date, 52 presbyteries still have outstanding per capita payments
for 1995. A total of $480,000 has not been paid, with 42 of those
presbyteries delinquent for amounts over $1,000. From 1988 to 1992, the
total unrecovered per capita was below $60,000 per year. But since then
there has been an annual decrease of about 5 percent, according to Andrews.
"A Book of Order' mandate for the collection of per capita would be
counterproductive," COGA Budget and Finance chair Pamela J. Sharick of
Youngstown, Ohio, told the Presbyterian News Service. Though a few in the
wider church advocate more punitive measures, Sharick said, many of the
denomination's stated clerks suggested "strengthening" language as one
approach to the increasing problem of shortfalls in per capita receipts.
General Assembly Council member the Rev. William Maloney of Pittsburgh
told COGA that more punitive approaches have been declared unconstitutional
by the Permanent Judicial Commission. Per capita giving is, he said,
Presbytery and synod stated clerks were surveyed by OGA via PresbyNet,
and additional input was sought from stated clerks who attended the annual
Stated Clerk's Conference here last Oct. 3-5. Christopher Nicholas, OGA's
budget officer, led workshops on the per capita budget at the conference
and conducted a presentation during its plenary.
"There is great fiscal pressure on every part of the Presbyterian
system," said Andrews, noting that fewer presbyteries are able these days
to "pick up the slack" and pay per capita dollars up front on behalf of
delinquent churches. "The thinking of sessions has radically departed from
past practice. ..."
Andrews credits that change somewhat to protest and also to a cultural
shift toward declining appreciation for centralized action through
organizations -- a reality, he says, many voluntary groups now face.
"I think some churches don't have [money]," said Sharick, who
reinforced Andrews' observation that far fewer presbyteries are able to pay
those monies up front. Eastminster, Sharick's own presbytery, where she is
administrative assistant, still follows the practice of paying per capita
off the top.
"More than an obligation, [per capita giving] is [a sign] of a healthy
relationship. ... It's symptomatic of whether churches feel connected and
part of the larger body," Sharick said.
COGA has instructed the OGA to create more instructional materials for
use in presbyteries and churches about per capita apportionment and how the
money is used.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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