(By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook). The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) is considering what’s being described as a “joyous” budget for 2019 and 2020 – a budget that would include a per capita increase from $7.73 per member in 2018 to $10.11 in 2019 and $10.82 in 2020.
That would amount to a 30 percent per capita increase from 2018 to 2019, and overall a 44 percent increase from the current rate of $7.50 per member in 2017 to $10.82 per member in 2020.
In presenting this budget for discussion now, leaders of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) are testing the waters – it won’t come up for a formal vote until COGA’s meeting in Feb. 6-8, 2018, and potentially could be revised before then. And even from COGA members, there was some initial pushback.
J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), said the proposed budget is structured to allow OGA to better serve the church – including providing leadership training and support for mid councils.
“We need to bring it with joy, and not trepidation,” said John Wood, who works for OGA and is part of OGA’s budget team. “This is for the whole church,” and reflects “a posture of abundance, and not scarcity.”
Wood also said: “We can’t live in the church we want to live in by having cost control” as the only priority. “We need to be helping the mid councils. We need to be where the need is.”
I will say this about the PCUSA Administrative State Kleptocracy. They do use Orwellian Double-Speak in new or creative ways.
In the 19th century cancer was described as “Consumption” , in the way the disease process seemed to eat or consume its host from the inside out. What we now see in the disease or pathology progression of the Administrative State, is that it has metastasized to the point of eating or consuming other aspects of Administrative State, mainly the MGBs. Knowing full well that in the current polity Per Capita is not required or mandated from individuals, only Presbyteries. The overt and open plan is to collapse the Presbyteries in such a form as to place the OGA-Lousiville matrix in a more direct management of the operational/functional PCUSA (churches). You also see these pathologies manifested in the ongoing open war between the PMA and the various alphabet soup of various identity, tribal sub groups and their roles and place in any reduced PMA structure. In a literary and theological sense, blood will be on the streets when all said and done.
Per Capita suffers from the same issues as any “head tax”, like Union dues or pay role taxes in a depopulated post industrial big city. You need real live “heads” to tax. And in the case of the PCUSA, they seek to tax folks who are either dead, in many cases, dropped out, left, or otherwise no longer affiliated to the PCUSA. And as Presbyteries are “required” to remit full per capita, the vast majority just write off the noncollectable and send in the full amount. Hence the desire to raise the GA potion to such a level as to either crush or collapse MGBs all in the service of a centralized bureaucracy. Much like the Orwellian utopia the Administrative State PCUSA seems to desire. And like any cancer, it eats it own, even the apologists and enablers of the Administrative State at some point.
While in general I agree with your analysis, there is one detail of your comment with which I disagree. To wit, “the consumption” in the 19th and early 20th century was tuberculosis (TB), not cancer.
Otherwise, as a former member of the PCUSA, I appreciate your views. Perhaps this increased tax will motivate presbyteries in the PCUSA to trim their membership roles of the “dead wood” of deceased members, non attenders, seldom attenders, etc., to decrease the impact of the “head tax”? This might result in an even larger membership loss than the 5.7% average the PCUSA has been “enjoying” for the last three years. Thoughts?
If I was still in PCUSA I might even propose to my local session that only current ruling elders be considered members of the congregation. While I realize this is not a typical Presbyterian approach, historic norms seem to mean little to those running the PCUSA.
Keith: I think that for the most part, the Administrative State PCUSA, especially at the national level exist in its own eco-system and feed back loop. So they remain impervious if not tone deaf to matters in the greater denomination. Now Pittsburgh Presbytery last decade did challenge the Per Capita system up the PJC ladder and was denied relief from full payments. Maybe this will spur a new round of challenges. As one who has little love loss for the PCUSA, I do think they would do much better scrapping the current Per Capita model for a straight 1-2% of church budget as a form of denominational support, but that makes far too much sense.
The issue with only reporting session members as “church members” is that in most states that require incorporation of churches for legal purposes, you need to elect Trustees of the Corporation, usually Elders, hence you need some concept of congregational or church roles thereof to conduct business.
But I would attack the whole concept of PCUSA membership as one would attack its concept of Property in Trust. At its base. I do not think that when a person “joins” church X, they either agree or covenant to join denomination X, or agree to be counted on any role that a denomination or other entity can access for name, demographic or economic data, or otherwise identified due to current privacy laws. Its like a dental or medical practice releasing practice or patient data to the AMA, without getting legal release from HIPPA requirements first. Though some one smarter than me would have to challenge that in some legal sense.
Regardless, lesson one I learned in Econ 101 back as a Freshman, the more you try to tax, assess X, the less of X you actually get. I think that if you pull this whole per capita string and the matter of uncollected, church roles, who pays what, the dirty little secret is that the 2017 PCUSA is actually not a 1.3 million denomination as the officials report, but in actuality far less than 1 million, maybe in the 500-600K range, with the Administrative State accounting for only about 60-70K in real human beings engaged or connected to the system.
I really think that the louisville sluggers live in another world apart from the rest of us, much like the last GA, this will end up keeping a bloated bureaucracy in place while the pcusa dies on the vine.
Will any churches actually tell/inform their customers, er worshipers, about the annual tax, and explain the heavy handed practices of their slave owners and plantation owners at the presbyteries and up to PCUSA? Nope.
Throughout history the relationship of slave to owner has at its core been economic and a function of utility. Person X ‘owned” person Y for either economic exploitation of their ‘free’ labors, and also for an implied holder of value. In the antebellum South slaves were exchanged for collateral, secure loans, settle debts. At the dawn of the Civil War, close to 70% of Southern GDP was expressed in the implied cash value of slaves.
For the Administrative State PCUSA, the relationship between its members and the Administrative State is at its core economic. People, members in the PCUSA do not exist as people or free human beings. They exist as economic units of value, “per capita” or church property to be used, taxed, resourced, sold, bought for the benefit of the Administrative State. The whole “gracious separation’ policy of the trust clause is in essence a cash transaction where people and their assets and property are bought and sold, or granted their “freedom” after some form of payment for said freedom. It is much like the old South again, where it was common for slaves to be freed or granted their papers at the whim or many times the legal wills of former owners after debts were settled. So the analogy of slave to slave owner, at least at the property in trust clause, if not really that far off.