From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Treasury Department Grants PC(USA) a License

Date 04 May 1996 16:08:05


96121      Treasury Department Grants PC(USA) a License 
               to Send Money to Cuban Presbyterians 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--The U.S. Department of the Treasury has granted the 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a one-year license to transfer up to $137,000 
to the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (PRCC). 
     The denomination's license is one more step toward opening up channels 
for mission dollars to flow to countries where trade is forbidden under the 
U.S. government's Trading with the Enemy Act. 
      Cuba has been off-limits for funding through official channels since 
its 1959 revolution -- and violations carry heavy fines and jail time. 
     "The [U.S.] government, in general, has been more responsive than you 
might think," said the PC(USA)'s chief financial officer G.A. "Pat" Goff, 
who said the license was approved despite currently strained relations with 
Cuba and the recent passage of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity 
Act of 1996 (the Helms-Burton bill), which further tightens the U.S.'s 
economic embargo on Cuba.   
     "It's on two levels" Goff said. "They're trying to be tough on 
communist countries around the world, and at the same time be making 
windows for humanitarian aid."  He added that the government is well aware 
that some church and humanitarian organizations bypass the restrictions on 
Cuba anyway by shipping goods or carrying money through Mexico or Canada 
instead of U.S. Customs. 
     "Our goal is to find room within the existing regulations to do what 
we want to do," Goff said. 
     The denomination first wants to transfer a $14,000 block grant to the 
PRCC to be used to fund scholarships for seminarians, summer camp 
activities and church publications.  Goff said that will begin as soon as 
arrangements are made with a bank to transfer the dollars and an internal 
process is in place to do so. 
     The license also allows the transfer of up to $20,000 from Extra 
Commitment accounts or other restricted monies for 
          structural maintenance of church buildings and manses that have 
deteriorated for 30 
          years or more (#867501) 
          purchase of Christian education materials, such as Bibles, 
devotional books and 
          furnishings for church school classes 
          development of a pension program for pastors, particularly those 
ordained after 1965 
          (who are not eligible for government benefits and have no 
connection with the 
          PC(USA)'s benefits program) 
          transportation of pastors, members and prospective members to 
workshops and 
          seminars, and support of a fledgling family counseling program 
          program development, faculty salaries and library acquisitions at 
the Evangelical 
          Theological Seminary in Matanzas (#862510) 
          maintenance and repairs for the PRCC's camp (#862532). 
     The existing accounts combined now hold slightly less than $2,400; 
other accounts will be created. 
     "This is a new opportunity, an historic opportunity ... to share more 
directly our concerns, our efforts and our solidarity," the Rev. Carlos 
Ham, executive secretary of the PRCC, told the Presbyterian News Service 
about acquisition of this first-time license. 
     Ham says the Cuban church is experiencing enormous growth for the 
first time in 30 years -- growth that began five years ago when Cuba's 
constitution was neutralized toward Christians to cut back on discrimation 
against Christians in education and employment. But the church is 
unequipped to cope with its rapid growth and is short on study materials, 
publications and, in some cases, adequate facilities.  
     "Because of the big growth ... we're concerned to teach people what it 
means to be Christian, what it means to be Reformed.  The religious topic 
was taboo for more than 30 years and there is a lot of religious 
illiteracy," Ham said, stressing increasing demands for programs and 
literature.  "We don't want to give just information ... but form people -- 
enable them to have transformation." 
     Board of Pensions vice president and general counsel Jean C. Hemphill 
sees licensing that allows a U.S. bank to transfer money directly into Cuba 
as a breakthrough.  Since 1988, the Board has been trying to transfer money 
directly to Cuban banks for approximately 30 pastors in Cuba who are cut 
off from pensions that began accruing in the U.S. before 1959.  PRCC 
pastors were once members of the Synod of New Jersey. 
     So far the government has not licensed the Board to send money 
directly to pensioners in Cuba from the U.S., though pension money may be 
accessed by family members of Cuban pensioners living in the U.S.  Hemphill 
says the exchange rate in Canada or Mexico would eat up too much of the 
$300 quarterly or $100 monthly the Board is licensed to send Cuban 
pensioners -- so the accounts sit.  "This opens doors -- indirectly -- that 
we've had problems opening so far," she said. 
     "I really do believe the U.S. government should not be in the business 
of licensing churches. There ought to be no U.S. government interest in not 
being helpful to Christians in Cuba," said the Rev.  Cliff Kirkpatrick, 
director of the Worldwide Ministries Division, when asked about the 
financial impasse the two churches have faced for nearly 40 years.  "... 
But I'm delighted we have the license." 
     Since a license is also required for travel to Cuba, Goff said he has 
an "oral commitment" that the Treasury Department will provide the PC(USA) 
with a standing license for specified trips for denominational groups and 
     The denomination has also obtained licensing for Iran. An application 
has been sent to the Department of the Treasury for licensing for North 
Korea; and the denomination intends to seek licensing for Iraq. 

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   Web page: 


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