The Presbyterian Church USA commissioned a precautionary task force to evaluate the possible addition of a fifth “special offering” program to the nationwide church, Jan. 9.
The chair of the task force, the Rev. Karl Travis, pastor of Grosse Ile (MI) Presbyterian Church, headed a nine-member group to review the current trends and condition of churchwide offerings. The four programs in the PCUSA are: One Great Hour of Sharing, for anti-hunger, disaster-relief and self-development programs; Peacemaking, which funds much of the PC(USA)’s peacemaking efforts at national and local levels; Christmas Joy, which supports racial-ethnic schools and colleges and the Board of Pensions’ assistance programs for retired church workers; and Pentecost, which helps pay for programs for needy and at-risk children, teens and young adults.
The proposed fifth offering is a five-year, $40 million effort to raise funds for overseas missionaries and new-church development, especially in racial-ethnic and immigrant communities.
While Travis said the current offerings “continue to be a bright spot, there’s a sense of real caution about adding a fifth offering.”
“In 2002, Presbyterians contributed more than $17 million to the church’s mission through the special offerings,” Travis said. “Presbyterians should be thanked for their generosity.”
“These offerings continue to be much-loved and well supported,” Travis said. “I know I sound like a cheerleader here, but there’s a lot to cheer.”
Travis said the task force is particularly pleased that the newest of the four — the Pentecost Offering – “continues to find its niche.” Although the other three offerings experienced a “slight” dropoff in receipts last year, for which Travis blamed the faltering national economy, the Pentecost Offering grew.
While the task force will meet once more before the end of the month to finalize its report to the General Assembly Council next month, Travis said the historic tendency to hold the number to four is likely to prevail.
“We have examined the overtures from Coastal Carolina and San Gabriel presbyteries seriously, and have conducted broad-based research into a fifth offering,” Travis said.
“The General Assembly Council’s current prioritizing process is so fluid that we have just focused on the special offerings themselves,” he said, “but within the next decade, there may well be some changes, even though the special offerings are a real bright spot in our denomination.”