From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Special Offerings Task Group Report Is Approved
04 May 1996 20:59:56
95459 Special Offerings Task Group Report Is Approved
by Division Committee
By Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--After a lengthy study, the Congregational Ministries
Division (CMD) Committee has approved a reorganization of the Presbyterian
Church's four special offerings. This includes expanding the Christmas Joy
Offering to include programs for children at risk and changing the Witness
Offering to a "Pentecost Offering," with funds being designated for youth
ministries at the congregational, presbytery and General Assembly levels of
During its Dec. 7-9 meeting here, the Committee unanimously accepted
the report of its Special Offerings Task Group, which reviewed and
evaluated Peacemaking, One Great Hour of Sharing, Christmas Joy, and
Witness -- the denomination's General Assembly-designated special offerings
Stipulated by the 203rd General Assembly (1991), the process for an
in-depth review and evaluation of the denomination's special offerings on a
four-year cycle officially began this March, according to Vivian L.
Johnson, CMD's associate director of stewardship.
The report of the five-member group, chaired by the Rev. John H.
McFayden of Dale City, Va., examines the current patterns of special
offerings and the causes supported by these programs. Present patterns and
dollar distributions remain the same through 1997.
The second step in the process is to recommend a pattern for 1998
through 2001. The report will go to the February meeting of the General
Assembly Council for action and then to the 208th General Assembly (1996)
in Albuquerque, N.M.
A Youth Pentecost
The task group recommends the present Witness Offering, whose monies
have helped maintain the mission personnel force throughout the world;
support evangelism programs that include new church development and
redevelopment, and develop educational material for small and racial ethnic
churches, be transformed into a "Pentecost Offering." According to
McFayden, this transformation will give the offering "a new face and a new
identity ... for the whole denomination."
The Witness Offering receipts currently support three areas of the
denomination's mission--all now focused on the youth of the church. Of
undesignated receipts, worldwide youth ministry receives 50%t of the
offering (Worldwide Ministries Division); evangelism and outreach with
youth receives 30% (National Ministries Division); and youth ministry and
education receives 20% (Congregational Ministries Division).
McFayden said giving to the Witness Offering declined 34 percent over
the past four years --from $957,236 in 1990 to $630, 419 in 1994.
According to 1995 Presbyterian Panel data, fewer than 35 percent of
congregations in the PC(U.S.A.) participate in the offering, and existing
support for it is located primarily in the southeast where it had its
origins in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States.
McFayden said after the Witness Offering was given an enhanced youth
emphasis this year, initial data suggests there will be a modest increase
in the amount of dollars the offering will receive in the future. Based on
that and other information, he said, task group members believe
congregations will respond enthusiastically to a special offering
designated for youth, particularly one focused on equipping youth and young
adults for ministry and mission.
Under the task group's recommendations, the Pentecost Offering will be
received on Pentecost Sunday, with 20% of the offering going to
congregations, 10% to presbyteries and 70% allocated to the General
Assembly. At the Assembly level, 40% of the offering will go to CMD, 30%
will go to the National Ministries Division and 30% will go to the
Worldwide Ministries Division.
Christmas Joy for Children
There are also recommended changes to the Christmas Joy Offering,
specifically the percentage distributed to the Board of Pensions (BOP) and
the addition of a new, offering-funded program called "Children at Risk."
During the early stages of their examination process, McFayden said,
task group members became concerned over the BOP's Nursing Home Care
Assistance Program, a Christmas Joy Offering-funded plan for eligible
retirees initiated in 1979 by the former United Presbyterian Church that
was not offered in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States.
According to figures presented to the task group in March by the BOP,
the Christmas Joy Offering will serve an estimated 114 persons in nursing
homes this year with a cost per recipient of $19,526 and total cost of
$2,226,000, nearly 50 percent of the entire offering.
Due to the rising costs of nursing home care and the amount of funding
the offering receives, Board officials predict the program cannot be
sustained through a special offering in 10 years or less. In 1994 the BOP
reported that beginning in 2002, no new applications for the nursing home
assistance program would be accepted if the Board continues to receive only
50% of the offering.
According to Johnson, actuarial figures provided by the Board are
based on spending down the $18 million reserve being held in Christmas Joy
funds from previous years and honoring commitments to anyone already in the
"No matter what we did with the Christmas Offering, there was a
limited window of viability," McFayden said. "And the task group had
concerns that we were using a churchwide offering to provide a benefit to a
very small group of people." He said the group also had concerns about "
how promotable the offering was, and whether or not that was the right
thing to do with a special offering."
Under the group's recommendations, 50% of the Christmas Joy Offering
will go to the denomination's racial ethnic schools, 30% will go to the
Board of Pensions and 20% will go to the new "Children at Risk" emphasis.
McFayden said this would mean the racial ethnic schools could expect to
receive at least an additional $350,000 by the year 2000. However, the BOP
funds would decrease initially by $700,000.
McFayden said it is likely that the pension board would continue to
receive $35,000 to $50,000 in designated gifts, with those designations
projected to decline over the next four to six years. But if the total
offering increases as projected for the year 2000, financial impact on the
BOP would begin to reverse itself.
If that occurs, McFayden said, the BOP's share of the offering would
be adequate for expanded income assistance and shared grant programs
However, the Nursing Home Care Assistance Program would have to be funded
from alternative sources or discontinued.
According to the task group's report, the Children at Risk Program
could potentially result in $500,000 each to the Worldwide and National
Ministries Divisions. The Rev. Vernon Broyles, NMD's associate for
corporate witness and acting director for social justice ministries, said
modifying the offering around the theme of supporting children is timely.
There is no segment in society more at risk than children, who make up a
steadily growing percentage of the homeless population and of those who
live in poverty, Broyles said. Far too many children are not being
protected from even the most preventable childhood disease, he added.
"The General Assembly has frequently expressed concern over the needs
of children and [some of these issues] are already being addressed in some
measure through existing programs," Broyles said. "However, the rescources
provided through the Christmas Joy Offering for this cause will make it
possible to greatly enhance these efforts to witness to God's concern for
the special needs of the children in our midst."
"Responses from the Presbyterian Panel indicated people respond
enthusiastically both to critical human need and to children in need,"
McFayden said. "And it seemed to us that the Christmas season ... is the
most appropriate time that we could ask our church to respond to children
who are in need. With the addition of this element, we feel like we have an
offering that responds to all the generations of God's children."
"If It Ain't Broke..."
Johnson said the task group recommends that the two remaining
offerings, One Great Hour of Sharing and Peacemaking, remain essentially
unchanged, both in the times the offerings are promoted and received and
the percentage of recipients.
Promoted throughout Lent and received on Easter Sunday, the One Great
Hour of Sharing offering goes to Presbyterian World Service (36%), the
Presbyterian Hunger Program (32%) and the Presbyterian Committee on the
Self-Development of People (32%). According to current figures, the
offering brought in approximately $9 million in 1994.
The task group report's rationale section indicates there is a broad
base of support across the denomination for One Great Hour of Sharing.
This was evidenced to the group by findings of the Presbyterian Panel
survey conducted in May, General Assembly hearings on special offerings,
and letters from individuals, members and middle governing bodies.
Enthusiasm for this offering is also evident in the fact that more than 90
percent of congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) participate in
the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering, contributing more than $9 million
The Peacemaking Offering is received on World Communion Sunday in
October with 25% distributed to congregations, 25% to synods and 50% to the
General Assembly's Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The Peacemaking
Offering brought in $1.5 million in 1994.
The task group report states that the Peacemaking Offering has shown a
gradual increase both in participation and in funds received. Presbyterian
Panel results indicate more than 50 percent of congregations now receive
the offering and receipts have expanded from $1,380,288 in 1990 to
$1,550,366 in 1994, an increase of approximately 12 percent.
The task group recommends that the Peacemaking Program give increased
emphasis to issues of restoring creation. Since General Assembly staff from
all three divisions have responsibility for environmental concerns, the
task group further recommends that the Peacemaking Office continue its
support of the NMD's Office of Environmental Justice and participation in
the inter-division team that coordinates the church's emphasis on restoring
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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