From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 13:05:03


                         by Julian Shipp 
HOUSTON--After denouncing a comprehensive proposal to divide partnership 
funds among Presbyterian Church governing bodies into two areas, the 
Consultation on Partnership Funds labored May 16-17 to revise the National 
Mission Partnership Fund system. 
     Fifty-nine General Assembly, synod and presbytery executives and 
elected leaders wrangled their way to a series of agreements for 1996 and 
beyond. The consultation, the third in a series of meetings called to 
distribute existing funds among governing bodies and plan changes that will 
increase overall partnership giving, adopted a plan for increasing 1996 
     The group asked the General Assembly Council (GAC) to undertake a 
comprehensive, churchwide mission funding strategy and to devise a plan for 
increasing financial support for the mission of the church at all levels.  
     It insisted that the task force that will conduct this study be 
representative of all governing bodies and report its findings in enough 
time to allow the GAC to bring a proposal to the 1998 General Assembly. 
     Moreover, each synod agreed to identify specific fund-raising projects 
for listing in an "additional giving" booklet and to work toward developing 
funds for the National Mission Partnership.     
     At the heart of the consultation's agenda was a proposal to change the 
way partnership funds are allotted to synods and presbyteries from block 
grants (a practice adopted in the 1970s) to a designated giving system.  
     More than $3.7 million will be distributed to synods and presbyteries 
in 1996 through the current partnership system.  The money represents a 
"redistribution" of undesignated revenue from congregations to the General 
Assembly mission budget.  
     For some, like the Rev. J. Shannon Webster, executive presbyter, 
Presbytery of Sierra Blanca, proposals for change aren't coming fast 
     "What I hear us doing is putting caps [on] raising money for Jesus -- 
when what needs to be done is [for] us to work toward common goals," 
Webster said. "All I hear is regulatory language and no encouragement for 
us to get the work of the church done." 
     Webster's assessment came during debate on the 1996 National Mission 
Partnership Funds allocation. The Presbytery of Sierra Blanca lies within 
the bounds of the Synod of the Southwest, which is receiving partnership 
funds totaling $929,958 in 1995.  
     With the consultation's recommendation, the synod will receive 
$824,974 in 1996 -- a reduction of 5 percent. 
     According to the Rev. Ken Grant, associate director for churchwide 
partnerships in the National Ministries Division,  Partnership Funds are a 
sign of the General Assembly Council's (GAC) commitment to "partnership," 
one of the four priority goals of the Council.  
     But consultation participants denounced a proposal by the Partnership 
Support Design Work Group (PSDWG) to divide partnership funds into two 
areas: Mission Support Services (MSS) and National Mission Partnerships. 
     "Our consensus is that the whole church needs to develop a strategy 
for mission funding," said the Rev. David R. Carlson, general presbyter of 
Eastern Oregon Presbytery in the Synod of the Pacific.  
     "We're not going to do it with just this one piece because this is 
just too small a part of the whole funding problem," he noted. 
     "Our sense is we ought to be focusing on some other kinds of things, 
such as fund-raising and helping ourselves and our colleagues in other 
governing bodies to learn to set priorities, to mean it and to learn to 
live within those priorities," said the Rev. John L. Williams, executive, 
Synod of Mid-America.  "All governing bodies need some self-discipline." 
     Although some church leaders left the consultation believing not 
enough progress was made, all agreed the National Mission Partnership Fund 
system isn't what it was before.  
     "[The adopted proposals] are a transitional model, but one I hope we 
will stay at long enough to discover some of the details of the 
transition," said the Rev. Jim Brown, GAC executive director.                

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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