When I first learned about the Strategic Plan as presented at our May presbytery meeting, something immediately caught my eye. What was presented there was a summary of the entire plan and I am not sure if it originated in the Stated Clerk's Office.
However, on page 349 of the Commissioner's Handbook there is a chart detailing the proposed Annual Registration Fee for Churches. The chart is too large and complex to reproduce here. Of note are the last two lines of data (this is what originally caught my eye):
Tithes and Offering Range # of Churches
$50,000 - $99,000 241
$0 - $49,999 544
As represented, the Stated Clerk's Office and the Cooperative Ministries Committee are stating that 785 out of our 1,740 churches and missions (45%) receive less than $100,000/year in tithes and offerings. Brothers and sisters, THAT IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
For instance, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Chicago Metro Presbytery reported 358 members in the year 2009 and $0.00 for offerings and income. Consider Orangewood PCA in Maitland, Florida. In 2009 they reported 1,194 members and $0.00 for income. These churches were selected randomly just by leafing through the current PCA yearbook. I do not know the pastors nor do I know anything about the churches. But according to the Annual Registration Fee for Churches these congregations fall into the bottom category of the chart and would thus qualify for the minimum annual fee of $100. Similarly, established churches that have never reported any statistics like Walnut Creek PCA in Gahanna, Ohio (that has multiple staff and in recent years has purchased land and erected a new building) would pay the same minimal registration fee. Can you say, "Sweetheart Deal"?
When I spoke to this issue on the floor of GA I did not mention any churches by name. I simply pointed out that by my statistical analysis there is no way that this chart is accurate given that only 44.5% of our churches reported any statistical data in 2008 and 48% submitted statistics in 2009. I also stated that imposing such a 'tax' upon churches would create a disincentive to report any statistics and might encourage churches to shade the truth when reporting their figures.
PCA Business manager John Robertson spoke to this issue and accused me (and others) of spreading misinformation. He stood by the chart and the funding plan. He also stood by the overall PCA statistics and offered that going forward the Stated Clerk's office might only collect 'minimal statistics' (not defined). Furthermore he indicated that plans were in the works to force/compel/make churches report their annual statistics.
I don't know about you but two things stick out to me:
1) Mr. Robertson sounds like the Wizard of Oz when he accuses me and others of spreading misinformation. His comments are akin to the Wizard saying to Dorothy, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."
2) Any talk of 'force/compel/make' doesn't sit well with me. It is a veiled threat but it also shows us where the Cooperative Ministries Committee is heading -- a centralized power structure that imposes its will upon the denomination.
Previous General Assemblies created and nurtured this monster known as the Cooperative Ministries Committee. Now the beast demands to be fed (annual registration fees (taxes) for churches and ministers) and threatens force and coercion to get its way. Fellow presbyters, you can keep this beast reigned in by voting down the Book of Church Order Amendments to chapter 14 concerning 'the requirement' to support the denomination via the Administrative Committee. I'm all in favor of the AC but would much prefer the voluntary funding that is currently practiced.