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Monday, July 16, 2012

ga220 reflection 4 - stuck: per capita is crippling my presbytery

AKA "Change is Hard"

In a previous post, I wrote:

Particularly around the dividing issues, I experienced the parliamentary maneuvering often as an effort by many to “guard what we’ve already won.”
An even more tangible demonstration of this point came when I put a motion before the Assembly to cap mandatory presbytery per capita payment at 18% of the presbytery operating budget.  The push-back came from folks who seemed to think that this motion would somehow reward or enable churches that withheld per capita.  For one, it is the right of sessions to do so; but more importantly, the motion had nothing to do with that issue, but with protecting presbyteries from the double whammy of a fixed tax that CANNOT adjust with dramatic budget declines in many presbyteries.

For example, in my own presbytery, per capita is fixed at nearly $300,000 (based on our membership).  Five years ago, when we had a thriving $2.4M operating budget, that per capita amounted to 12.5% of our budget.  In 2012, with a projected $1.1M operating budget, that same $300,000 per capita will be 27% of our budget.  In order to pay our mandatory per capita (which we will!), mission, staffing, savings, and critical infrastructure suffer dramatically.  The Assembly seemed so fearful of cracking a (logically unrelated) door for what were described as renegade congregations that they were unwilling to take care of a major health risk for our most important mid-council bodies, the presbyteries.

What’s my point?  It’s that we aren’t just stuck on some issues; we are really stuck… in the ways we debate, the way we refer and study, the way we spend money, and the way we do the same things over and over even though we agree that the results are problematic.  We are so stuck we are hurting ourselves.  Lord, help us!

Related: see the comment thread here for a lively exchange and perhaps further illustration of my point

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