From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
GROUPS STUDYING CHURCH'S FUND SYSTEM SEARCH
05 May 1996 07:32:50
95025 GROUPS STUDYING CHURCH'S FUND SYSTEM SEARCH
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
* 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
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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