|RE: Outlook forum on special offerings: A bold goal: $20 million by 2020|
|Written by Elder Lionel Derenoncourt|
|Thursday, 28 June 2012 14:56|
I read with much interest the above comments by Rev. Karl Travis, chair of the Special Offerings Advisory Task Force. It is indeed a very positive initiative to have undertaken a comprehensive review of the Special Offerings and a discussion of ways that might increase the financial support given by Presbyterians to issues of compassion and justice supported by the church. The goal of reversing the decreasing trend of the offerings and of raising $20 millions dollars by 2020 is doable and worth fighting for.
However, I take issue with some key elements of the recommendations of the task force as endorsed by the GAMC. It should be clear to all who read the article by Rev. Travis that removing the specific distribution formula among the three One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) supported programs will result in the weakening of these programs and possibly their death. Interestingly Rev. Travis states that Presbyterians are not interested in programs but in causes. Thus he sees no problem with the recommendations of his committee that may negatively affect the three OGHS programs, as well as the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, since the GAMC would be able to distribute at its discretion funds to causes they approve of.
Over the past 30 years, the causes of justice and compassion have effectively been carried out by the three OGHS funded programs: Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Self Development of People and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Successive reviews of these three programs have always shown their effectiveness and their popularity with churches that take the OGHS offering. Their high consideration among other denominations and ecumenical institutions is a testimony to their integrity. Of the eight other denominations that take the OGHS offering the Presbyterian OGHS has consistently been the most successful. This is a testimony to the fact that Presbyterians trust the three programs that carry out the justice and compassion causes that they support.
Rev. Travis did not address the fact that the GAMC-endorsed SOATF recommendations propose to stop taking the Peacemaking offering and integrate a well diminished peacemaking program under the OGHS. This again will result in further affecting the scope of SDOP, PHP and PDA as well as of the Peacemaking program itself. Is it because the GAMC thinks that peace is no longer an issue worth supporting in a effective manner? Or maybe it is because they think that peacemaking is a cause of the sixties for Presbyterian hippies and "special interest" groups in the Presbyterian Church. Either way, including what is left of the once vibrant Peacemaking ministry under the OGHS cannot help either that ministry nor the existing programs under the OGHS umbrella.
Lastly, although I support the concept of a fund raising goal of $20 million by 2020, I am having difficulty with the notion of transforming the special offerings of the church into a mere fund raising tool. Throughout the history of the offerings Presbyterians have given sacrificially and generously as an act of worship and of discipleship. This is a very important offering especially for small and mid-sized congregations who use this as a way to participate in ministries that they would be unable to do on their own. If the general economic crisis and the generational shifts occurring nationwide have resulted in a steady decrease of the giving to the offerings, I personally doubt that the mere administrative measures suggested will reverse such trends in the long term. However, in the short term, I am sure any objective and intelligent person can see the negative impact they will have on programs that are dear to Presbyterians. Yes, Rev. Travis, Presbyterians care about the causes of peace, justice and compassion but they are also proud of the long tradition of ministries carried out by programs that they trust and which are supported by offerings that are an integral part of their Christian Life. Rev. Travis, you have stated that Presbyterians don’t know these programs, but I see no proof presented that they would better understand general concepts of the causes noted. If greater interpretation of these programs is what is needed, then let’s do that rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Elder Lionel Derenoncourt