Monday, November 29, 2004

Faithful Stewardship - a primer for PCUSA mission giving

Want a nitty-gritty introduction to missional giving for Presbyterians? The Presbyterian Lay Committee has produced a new booklet on "Faithful Stewardship in Troubled Times" that delivers on that. It's a kind of primer on how Presbyterian mission is supported through the denomination.

The booklet is available (free) in pdf format from the front page of the Layman Online or directly for downloading here. The Website does not say whether printed copies are available or orderable. At 28 pages - and only a 93 KB pdf attachment - it can be easily distributed.

This mission stewardship booklet is pleasantly irenic, taking care to explain the PCUSA system, being bold to critique some points while simply describing other aspects. It starts off (after a theological rationale) with a section on current trends in congregational giving and involvement - including a detailing of the shift toward networking and partnerships that will be relevant to wide varieties of ministries.

On the whole this booklet is a strong interpretive piece that no doubt should help many congregations and mission committees understand the current mission "system" of the PCUSA and especially how to engage it financially.

"Faithful Stewardship" walks the reader through the flavors of PCUSA mission giving with sections on Shared Mission, Directed Mission, Per Capita and Extra Commitment Opportunities. It details, for instance, the entire Directed Giving Pledge process.
There's even a glossary at the back giving a reprise of earlier explanations.

The three Validated Mission Support Groups (VMSG) are introduced (of which Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship is one), along with an explanation of the different ways the three VMSGs handle funds (and in general gives all three VMSGs a boost). It explains the 5% "ecclesiastical fee" on restricted gifts that begins in 2005 -- complete with a note about the lower 1% fee for gifts to VMSG-related ECO's.

The booklet gives an extended version of content that Rob Weingartner, Don Dawson and I presented at a Coalition Gathering workshop in 2002, which, it should be noted (and isn't in the booklet), was developed by the Pittsburgh Presbytery Mission Think Tank and was originally called "Theological Touchstones for Mission." The Mission Think Tank deserves to be credited for its insights, but perhaps its authorship wasn't indicated clearly enough on the documents consulted by the Layman. A Powerpoint of the original Think Tank report is available online.

The Layman's values are evident throughout the booklet, but so too is a clear attempt to parse several key aspects of mission support in language aimed for the ordinary Presbyterian.

Any attempt these days to help congregations navigate the complexities of PCUSA mission funding and stewardship - and to point out plusses and minuses of various components - is commendable. How we ended up with such a Byzantine mission funding system is beyond understanding, and our governing bodies and GAC would do well to overhaul our system pronto. It needs it.

In the meantime, this booklet helps clear the fog so that our people can see the major landmarks and issues. Presbyterians have needed a brief mission-giving orientation tour that has the breadth of this booklet.

Finally, I should note I was given the opportunity to view an earlier draft of this booklet and offer suggestions. The result however, clearly shows the Lay Committee's goal to give congregational-level Presbyterians the information they need to be faithful stewards of the resources God provides.


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