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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Per Capita: A Seat at the Table for Everyone

Outgoing General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons has just written a helpful little piece explaining the importance of per capita. It's something I think every minister or ruling elder should become familiar with, because per capita is among the most-misunderstood features of our common life as Presbyterians.

Per capita has been likened to our denominational utility. It pays essential administrative expenses of higher councils (presbytery, synod and General Assembly). Most of what per capita funds is not very exciting to talk about. It's business-as-usual type of stuff, the day-to-day overhead connected with keeping church governance working for all Presbyterians.

But that doesn't mean it's unimportant. Without the vital work that goes on at presbytery, synod and General Assembly, we'd be a motley collection of individual congregations, with little in the way of resources or communication. There would be no structures to carry out global mission. There would be no help forthcoming for congregations who get into difficulty.

One of the striking things Gradye says in the article is that "Per capita makes the table more accessible so all have a seat." This is very true, because it's per capita that pays the expenses of commissioners to synod and General Assembly, as well as those who participate in governance by serving on various committees and working groups. Do we really want to live in a church where only those with the personal funds for travel and lodging are able to participate in governance?

Anyway, there's a lot to think about in Gradye's article. Have a look at it.

While you're doing that, check out this great music video by Carrie Newcomer, "Room At the Table":

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