Committee approves proposed 2023-24 budgets for the Presbyterian Mission Agency

Wednesday’s narrative budget presentation comes from a Matthew 25 perspective

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Attendees of the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium could load up on Matthew 25 tchotchkes. (Photo by Dana Dages)

LOUISVILLE — The Resource, Allocation and Stewardship Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved proposed PMA budgets for 2023 and 2024 Wednesday. Those budget proposals now go on for consideration by the full PMA Board when it meets later this month and then by the 225th General Assembly this summer.

Under the budget proposals, the PMA anticipates expenses totaling $70.1 million in 2023 and $70.8 million in 2024. Those proposals will be sent to the General Assembly as part of a unified budget proposal aligned with budget proposals from both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation and the Office of the General Assembly.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, the PMA’s president and executive director, said the Matthew 25 invitation “is helping our denomination become a more relevant presence in the world. We are learning from our constituents. We have listened for God’s voice and to God’s people.”

Four action verbs are at the heart of what the agency intends to do as part of its 2023-24 Mission Work Plan:

  • Engage by expanding, growing and deepening the Matthew 25 movement across the denomination “through dynamic engagement with mid councils, congregations, domestic and international partners,” according to the budget narrative.
  • Repair by working “across the church and the world to repent of and seek healing for historical and ongoing harms by actions and inactions of the church.”
  • Innovate by working across the denomination and with partners “to innovate, learn, support and amplify news ways of being a Matthew 25 church.”
  • Evolve by engaging “in ongoing action, evaluation and adjustments to continue to reform PMA’s organizational design, culture and habits.”

Moffett told committee members that among the PMA’s 270 or so employees, 30% work in ministries supporting building congregational vitality and another 30% work at eradicating systemic poverty. Twenty-three percent are engaged in ministries seeking to dismantle structural racism and 17% work in other areas. Those “other areas” for 2023-24 will help the PMA take on an expanded focus, including addressing gender justice, the climate crisis, heteropatriarchy and militarism.

Among a half-dozen major sources of income, the largest are investment return (32% of income for each of the next two years, at around $18 million each year), Special Offerings (21% of expected income, about $11.5 million) and congregations, mid council and individual giving (15%, about $8 million per year).

With income expected to be about $54.7 million in 2023 and about $55.7 million in 2024, a little more than $15 million will be needed each year from designated and restricted funds to cover anticipated expenditures, said Ian Hall, the A Corp’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett

Moffett told committee members there’s reason for optimism throughout the coming years. To date, 1,100 groups — 961 churches, 76 presbyteries, 10 synods and 53 other organizations — have said yes to the Matthew 25 invitation. The Vital Congregations initiative has grown from 14 churches at its 2019 inception to 37 churches in 2022. Nearly 700 new worshiping communities were begun over the past 10 years, with 533 still active. Of those worshiping communities, 245 are communities of color.

“Accomplishing these goals is taking hard work and dedication,” Moffett said as part of the budget narrative. “But as we are working towards them, something incredible is happening. We are encountering a living God working through our church to usher in the kingdom or kin-dom of love and justice on Earth. To end exploitation. To restore lives. To empower communities and bring salvation to God’s people, not just in the sweet by and by, but the bitter here and now.”

A glance at the rearview mirror

Controller Denise Hampton walked committee members through a 2021 budget report. Total receipts were nearly $8.3 million over the budgeted amount of about $50 million. Expenditures were under the budgeted amount of about $65 million by nearly $14.7 million.

Most PMA ministry areas spent substantially less than their budgeted amounts. Theology, Formation & Evangelism spent nearly $3 million less than its budgeted amount, while Compassion, Peace & Justice was right behind at nearly $2.8 million. World Mission, which has 75 mission co-workers serving in 80 countries, spent about $2.3 million less than it had planned.

Special Offerings (about $3.9 million) and donations to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (about $3.8 million) were among the largest categories of above-anticipated receipts. Congregational giving was the next-largest category, at about $1 million higher than anticipated.

The PMA had reduced the contribution budget for 2021 by 25% due to a projected decrease in giving during the second year of the pandemic. “By the end of 2021,” the report states, “the good news was that contributions had significantly surpassed the budgeted amounts but were not at the 2019 levels.”

The PILP report

“As 2020 was busy with many smaller loans to churches taking advantage of being closed to address deferred maintenance projects,” the report of the Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program begins, “2021 stayed busy with loans funding larger projects that had been shelved during the early days of the pandemic.”

During 2021, strong disbursements of more than $30 million pushed PILP’s investor-funded loan portfolio over $100 million for the first time ever, PILP President and CEO James Rissler told the committee. The “vast majority,” more than 90%, are church loans, he said, and are made at below-market rates.

Disbursements from the endowment-funded loan portfolio dropped a bit in 2021. The report states that the number of new loans qualifying for this loan fund remains high, but the size of the loans has dropped significantly.

James Rissler

“It is now 2022 and in the blink of an eye, the landscape we face has changed dramatically,” the report says. “Although the pandemic seems to be finally quieting down, inflation has stepped up to be the new disruption in the market … Add to this the global disruption the traumatic events unfolding in Ukraine are creating and we are back to a new unknown.”

In his report, Rissler wrote that churches and presbyteries have told him anecdotally that attendance is running half or less of pre-pandemic levels.

For PILP, the good news includes a margin that’s 0.25% above what Rissler sees as “our comfortable minimum.” PILP has high liquidity and high offered investment rates and continues to generate a healthy surplus. “And equally important to all of these,” according to Rissler, “we continue our consultative work and careful underwriting, working with borrowers to determine the right size project and the right size loan for the resources they have available.”

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