From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:32:50


                        FOR COMMON GROUND 
                         by Alexa Smith 
DALLAS--How to rethink churchwide funding to accommodate more 
designated giving -- and to bring back inside the denomination 
dollars given elsewhere -- were points where four committees 
working on various aspects of the Presbyterian Church's funding 
system coalesced at a funding summit earlier this month. 
     Two of the groups -- the Dollar Distribution (DD) and Per 
Capita (PC) task forces -- are slated to report to the General 
Assembly Council in March. 
     The Mission Partnership Funds Consultation (MPF) is to report 
in May -- after representatives of the denomination's 16 synods 
have refined and voted on its proposals.  The Special Offerings 
Task Force is just beginning its work and is planning hearings for 
the General Assembly in Cincinnati this July. 
     "It was a cross-check to see if the Spirit is leading us in 
the same direction," the Rev. John Fife of Tucson, the PC task 
force chair, told The Presbyterian News Service. He said the 
separate committees are largely working out a "common vision ... 
We were trying to put at the same table people who are working on 
different pieces of the puzzle ... 
     "Folks looking at Appendix A (dollar distribution between 
presbyteries, synods and the General Assembly) of the GAC's 
Organization for Mission, folks looking at per capita and folks 
looking at special offerings," he said, to see if the groups were 
working in concert or at cross purposes. 
     But the vision is a complicated one which raises familiar 
problems and intends to put more flexibility into the funding 
system.  Yet, the vision, according to summit member Presbyterian 
Frontier Fellowship Executive Director Harold Kurtz is "a radical 
departure from the past." 
     To add flexibility, the four panels are considering 
recommendations to: 
     *  create two shared funding categories, one with a suggested 
mission focus, and another to fund governance functions, which 
enables session, synod and presbytery budgets to cross governing 
body boundaries (DD and MPF); 
     * encourage future consideration of General Assembly per 
capita monies toward funding middle governing body operations, such 
as the four synods who are dependent on such dollars, the Rocky 
Mountains, Alaska/Northwest, Puerto Rico and Southwest (MPF); 
     *  begin negotiating per capita expenditures at a joint table 
of representatives from the Committee on the Office of the General 
Assembly and the GAC (PC); and 
     *  naming as validated mission those projects or programs not 
included in adopted budgets, thus expanding what dollars may be 
credited as mission funding at all levels, including sessions (DD). 
     Stressing that Appendix A reflects "current practice" and is 
largely an effort to simplify and standardize language and 
procedures, the Rev. D. William McIvor of Spokane said the dollar 
distribution group worked to "try to move away from implying that 
unified giving is better, more holy, than select ..." 
     Among DD's specifications are procedures to collect, report 
and audit funds at presbytery and synod transmittal sites, with set 
times for remittal; and it spells out a schedule, at least 
quarterly, for the General Assembly to provide a report to 
     But designated giving is where, representatives said, there 
is more debate ahead.  At issue are proposals to: 
     * deduct administrative costs from designated gifts; and 
     * address equalizing funding and how restricted dollars are 
to be applied to budgets. 
     Fife argued that all giving, designated or not, should carry 
with it an "interpretable understanding that part of it goes to the 
cost of administration."  He said current practice permits 100 
percent of designated monies to go into specific projects, without 
adding auditing or other administrative costs.  "And we've got to 
look at that issue ... 
     "Its inevitable.  Now is the time.  We ought not say (we'll 
do it) five years from now," he said. 
     Kurtz said Frontier Fellowship, a validated mission support 
group, currently resolves that problem by specifying administrative 
fees in covenant with the Worldwide Ministries Division.  "I think 
that's valid," he said. 
     He was, however, critical of equalization as a method of 
distributing costs across the board.  "Unrestricted funds are not 
used to fill up what the body leaves over ... go straight across 
the board," he said, adding that equalizing money defeats the 
purpose of donations going over-and-above the budget and allows 
"bureaucracy" to have "the upper hand" when it comes to budget 
priorities, despite the intentions of congregations. 
     McIvor told the Presbyterian News Service the equalization 
section of the appendix is yet unfinished and will undergo more 
work at the DD task force meeting Feb. 6-7 in Dallas. 
       Acknowledging that budget planning is harder when more 
dollars go into restricted accounts, McIvor said, "We are designing 
a system with more flexibility ... (There will be) breakdowns.  And 
when it happens, (those in conflict) have an obligation to 
     He said more flexible channels create more opportunities for 
sessions to validate mission at their initiative; and that, he 
said, opens up "more opportunities for more people to determine 
projects that are worthy of consideration by Presbyterians." 
     None of the funding studies are yet in final form. 
                          # # # 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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