By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency has been rocked in recent months by a trifecta of investigations and a lot of criticism involving the 1001 New Worshiping Communities program, the Special Offerings 2015 advertising campaign and overspending for the last Presbyterian Youth Triennium. That’s leading some to ask harder systemic questions about why so many problems are emerging at the top levels of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
“This is a symptom of a much bigger problem,” wrote Fritz Gutwein, co-director of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, on Twitter. “Changing the artwork (of the Special Offerings campaign) will fix this incident but not the broken system that allowed it to happen. Too many large mistakes are happening out of an instinct to survive. It may be time to let a lot things we hold dear go so something new can emerge.”
What’s not working? No doubt, Presbyterians privately have all kinds of theories – and no shortage of people they’re willing to blame. It’s a difficult issue to raise – in part, because complicated problems rarely have simple answers. The PCUSA also is a connectional church – the General Assembly often is referred to as the denomination’s family reunion – and there is a deep desire among many Presbyterians to be part of building something up, particularly at a time when the denomination is stressed by finances, departures and declining numbers, rather than contribute to tearing something down.
Presbyterians desperately want the news about their denomination to be good – to reflect the faithfulness they see exhibited week after week in their local congregations. They believe there is much to celebrate in PCUSA ministry, in creativity, in Presbyterians caring for the pains of the world.
At the same time, however, the frustrations run deep. As many have learned, not discussing or acknowledging a problem rarely makes it miraculously disappear. And the recent difficulties in the PCUSA have reached to the very top levels – resulting in an erosion of trust and significant expenses to a denomination where dollars are in short supply.
God has promised to bless those who bless the Jews, and curse those who do not. It is a win-win situation in which everyone is blessed. The PCUSA has chosen the wrong path. There may yet be years in which people flock to the PCUSA and it is awash in cash, but what does it profit a denomination to be without the blessing of God?
PCUSA will do as they always do: protect their own financial well being while leaning (pass the buck) on Synods, Presbyteries and especially the powerless easy targets sitting in pews at the lowly denomination. Top priority is to call PCUSA financial advisors to protect their pensions, payroll and benefits and other investment portfolio concerns.
Presbyterian USA leadership will remain in their echo chamber of leftist elites, distancing themselves from lowly per capita units in the denomination pews, checking their rolodex for ‘likeminded’ types to socialize, talk politics, and interact with. In other words, business as usual in their worldly, modern culture existence. They’re tone deaf, almost to the point of having a social affective disorder.
In matters of our Christian faith, I always wish to be aspirational in thinking. It can be a giving/budget matter, growth of a congregation, etc. I always want to leave plenty of room for the Lord to guide us to amazing levels.
However for PCUSA, perhaps the aspirational thinking is not appropriate. Without any real growth for multiple decades, we need to underestimate the gifts/income and plan accordingly. At least at that point, we will not have all of the financial “surprises” and can plan for the decrease.
I really wish this was not the case, but it is!
This is a rather amazing article to appear in the Presbyterian Outlook, which continues to be part of the very “echo chamber” in the PCUSA which has led to the lack of transparency.
The core of the PCUSA problem are the apostate policies of the PCUSA. Congregations and individuals have been bailing out for years. Once a 4 million member denomination, it is now down to 1.6 million and continuing to decline. Fewer members mean less contributions and that is likely to continue to decline.
The solution, of course, is to renounce the apostate policies of the PCUSA and return to the authority of Scripture, however, that is not likely to happen, so the decline in revenue is likely to continue.
The PCUSA has a massive structure of synods and presbyteries, designed for a four million member denomination. This must be hugely expensive to support and cannot be justified when the denomination is approaching one-third of its previous size. Massive combining of synods and presbyteries would cut costs and allow the PCUSA to continue on its apostate course for a while longer.
Not only is there no “real growth”, actually there is massive shrinkage year by year ever since 1983.
I think the 2014 membership numbers will be released next month. Should be interesting.