Special Offerings Review Task Force recommendations now go to the 226th General Assembly for its consideration
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — On the first day of two days of meetings that began Tuesday, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved and sent to the 226th General Assembly recommendations for changes to the PC(USA)’s Special Offerings.
The General Assembly will meet online for committee work and in person for plenary sessions in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 25-July 4.
Members of the Special Offerings Review Task Force joined Special Offerings staff to discuss the SORTF report, which is here under the “Meeting Papers” tab.
The first recommendation is to move the review cycle of Churchwide Special Offerings from every four years to every six years. That review includes Special Offerings’ role as tools of engagement with lower councils of the Church and with recipient programs and ministries. It will also include the consideration of new or different Special Offerings purposes and structures.
The second recommendation is to launch a new cycle of Special Offerings in 2026 to include three Churchwide Special Offerings: Christmas Joy, One Great Hour of Sharing, and World Communion. The Pentecost Offering would sunset, with the last one to occur in 2025. That Special Offering would in effect be folded into the Christmas Joy Offering, said the Rev. Dr. Jon Reinink, co-chair of the Task Force along with Vince Patton. Dr. Felecia Hardy, a PMA Board member and a member of the Task Force, also presented on Tuesday.
According to the Task Force report, the Christmas Joy Offering will be interpreted and received during Advent. It will support children-at-risk, youth and young adults, leadership development for people of color, Presbyterian-related Schools and Colleges Equipping Communities of Color, and servants of the church in need through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions.
One Great Hour of Sharing will be interpreted during Lent and received on Palm Sunday and/or Easter Sunday. The causes it will support include disaster; hunger; poverty; climate change; and immigration, migration and refugees.
The World Communion Offering will be interpreted beginning Labor Day weekend and received on World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday in October. Interpretation will include a Season of Preparation, which seeks to cultivate forms of reconciliation encountered when Christ gathers all of God’s people to the Table of Grace around the corner and around the world. Causes and distribution include grants issued to other councils of the Church reflecting the values of the World Communion Offering and causes described as reconciliatory, including racial justice, gender justice, peacemaking, global witness, and ecumenical and interfaith relations.
Since the Task Force made its recommendations in October, Special Offerings staff have “met continually” with stakeholders and constituents, said the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson, director of Ministry Engagement & Support. Following unification of the PMA and the Office of the General Assembly next year, it’ll be up to the new governing board and the new combined agency to help determine details about the new array of Special Offerings. “There has been a lot of interest and curiosity about what that looks like,” Wilkinson told the PMA Board.
MES and Special Offerings staff, the latter led by the Rev. Wilson Kennedy, will develop both an internal and external communications plan, Wilkinson said.
Rather than retaining portions of special offerings, congregations and mid councils will apply for grants to support causes important to them. That could result in access to more funds for smaller congregations and mid councils, Wilkinson said, adding, “We don’t want anyone to feel something has been taken away from them.”
In answer to a question asked by PMA Board Member Madison McKinney, Kennedy said he and Wilkinson have been in conversation with leaders at Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, Texas, as well as Stillman College, all of them PC(USA)-related institutions that benefit from gifts to Special Offerings. “They are well aware and generally are understanding of the changes,” Kennedy said. “They appreciate being given an 18-month runway.” Projections “make us confident their funding won’t be drastically changed,” Kennedy said. “People are passionate about these ministries, and it’s a compelling way to talk about different generations of leadership development across the church.”
Equitible Unified Clergy Compensation Task Force
The PMA Board also approved a recommendation requesting that the 226th General Assembly form a Clergy Pay Equity Task Force “to explore and create a model or models for equitable pay for PC(USA) clergy.”
If it’s created by the General Assembly, the task force will submit an interim report to the 227th General Assembly (2026) and its final report and recommendations to the 228th General Assembly (2028).
“The PC(USA) follows a corporate model of compensation for clergy, allowing for unequal compensation among clergy,” according to the recommendation’s rationale. Across the denomination, the average salary for male pastors is about $73,000, while for female pastors it’s about $66,000. “The gender pay gap widens as the size of the congregation increases and as the age of the pastors increases,” the rationale states.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports “significant earning disparities by race and ethnicity,” the report’s rationale states, adding that “income inequality is built into our social and economic systems. Yet the church is called to embody the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ rather than to mirror the injustices and inequalities of our society.”
Once it’s approved and formed, the task force “will seek to find a way that clergy compensation churchwide will be more equal,” according to the report’s rationale. “All pastors are required to have the same amount of education and fulfill the requirements leading up to ordination. It is not right that the clergy compensation be so disparate, based on the wealth of the congregation.”
Board Co-Chairs the Rev. Michelle Hwang and the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo hailed last month’s Matthew 25 Summit, hosted by New Life Presbyterian Church in South Fulton, Georgia. “It was beyond my expectations. I left filled with hope and gratitude,” Hwang said. “The worship services were absolutely superb and incredibly life-giving,” Vance-Ocampo said. “All three keynoters were totally different but were intersectional. … It was good to go to an event and not know everyone. That means the [Matthew 25] message is permeating out to the denomination.”
The Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, the PMA’s president and executive director, touched on 2023 highlights before giving board members a glimpse of what’s to come for the PMA throughout 2024. Key tasks including preparing for unification and equipping flourishing leaders, thriving mid councils and restorative ministries, she said. With the Matthew 25 Summit, “this year is off to a great start, and there are big things to come,” Moffett said.
The Rev. Bronwen Boswell, the Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), said she’s among those who are “in the throes of planning General Assembly.” She and Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall, the PMA’s deputy executive for vision and innovation, met Monday with communicators in both the OGA and PMA. Those ministry areas are unifying in mid-April. “Out of that [gathering] came the wonderful knowledge these folks truly love telling the story of the church, and they want to tell the full story of the church as well,” Boswell said. “That’s such a hopeful path for us.”
The board elected the Rev. Dr. Matt Bussell to a four-year term as board co-chair. He’ll succeed Vance-Ocampo.
Board members also heard a report from PC(USA) active and retired staff who attended or reported on last year’s Conference of the Parties (COP28) event held in Dubai. Presenting to the board were Christina Cosby, the Rev. Jed Koball, Alethia White, the Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman and Jessica Maudlin.
The PMA Board will continue its meeting at 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday. Watch here.
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