Written by Anthony Moujaes
Rather than bring two similar resolutions to the floor that would sunset the current "Pattern of Giving" in the United Church of Christ, a General Synod committee combined them and will send a single proposal to the floor of the deliberative body.
The committee, chaired by Persephone Hall (Connecticut Conference), endorsed the merged resolution, to be considered by Synod delegates in the next few days, which would allow a more modern approach, based on best practices and current technology capabilities, aimed at promoting a culture of giving throughout the wider church.
"I think it's an excellent resolution, and the committee worked hard and faithfully to create something new that is better than what they were given," said the Rev. Mary Nelson, a regional minister of the Connecticut Conference. She and the Rev. Andrew Warner, pastor of Plymouth UCC in Milwaukee, co-chaired a UCC Board-appointed task force that researched giving trends throughout the denomination, and recommended the changes outlined by the Board's resolution.
"I really appreciate how the committee merged them into a single, thoughtful resolution that captured the concepts and spirit of the two original documents," Warner said.
The Pattern of Giving is an official policy, adopted in 1968 and later revised in 1984, specifying that congregations receive offerings, retain a majority to cover their costs, and then send along a percentage (known as Our Church’s Wider Mission-Basic Support) to their conference office. Conferences then collect money sent by churches, and forward a percentage to the national setting.
The combined resolution still charges the national setting of the UCC to build the next phase of fundraising across the wider church in partnership with conferences and congregations. The goal is for all UCC settings to participate by 2020.
One of the original resolutions was a joint effort submitted by the Iowa and Nebraska conferences, with the second coming from the UCC's Board of Directors, which proposed a five-year transitional plan centered on donors to supplement current contributions with additional ways of giving.
When the committee considered combining the resolutions, the Rev. Rich Pleva, Iowa Conference minister said he would have "no trouble living with that." Language from the Iowa-Nebraska resolution around appreciation for the current pattern of giving was incorporated into the Board’s proposal.
With an overall decline in church giving, according to numbers published in the UCC Yearbook, the amount of money making its way from conferences to national offices has steadily dwindled by 55 percent from 1985 to 2015, from $12.9 million to $5.8 million. That prompted the need to look beyond the Pattern of Giving.
Said Pleva, "[The Pattern of Giving] is no longer normative."