The Presbyterian Church in America, by its very name, is committed to Reformed doctrine and its Presbyterian polity. It is a connectional church in contrast to independent or congregational structures. To be a church in the PCA, each body has to be organized by and/or received by a particular presbytery comprised of a few churches of the 1400 in the PCA, usually in the same geographic region. Presently the PCA has 75 presbyteries across North America including Canada.
Each church and presbytery is required to subscribe to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Larger and Shorter Catechisms. It is further required to subscribe to the PCA Book of Church Order (BOCO). The word most used to describe the PCA is “connectional,” which means as a member of the PCA we are accountable to the appropriate body, called the General Assembly. The General Assembly is made up of all the presbyteries and member churches.
One of the issues addressed by the PCA Strategic Planning Committee and its report to the 34th General Assembly was stewardship. When the PCA formed its committees and agencies it stated in its organizing principles found in chapter 14-1 of the BOCO,(4) “It is the responsibility of every member and every member congregation to support the whole work of the denomination as they be led in their conscience held captive by the Word of God.” This means that the work of the denomination is dependent on each congregation and its members to support the work of the committees and agencies.
Various formulas have been used to determine how to effectively request and distribute funds to the various committees and agencies. In 1979 the concept of “askings” was developed. “Askings” evolved from the “head tax,” a formula used by the Southern Presbyterian Church, and was essentially an amount needed per member to function and expected to be given. “Askings” are still based on what each member would need to contribute to the committees and agencies to support the work of the PCA in accordance with the BOCO statements above, but with less demand and more faith that the churches will voluntarily give what is needed.
The PCA Strategic Planning Committee has raised concern that only half of the member congregations are supporting the work of the committees and agencies. The committees and agencies are dependent on that support to carry out their assigned ministries.
In CEP’s educational role in the PCA, particularly as it relates to stewardship education, we are attempting to keep this topic before the PCA. In keeping with the two previous Equip to Disciple issues of 2007,we are featuring two churches, one large and one small that represent churches committed to supporting the whole work of the church. Obviously, there are other churches following their example. We highlight these two for their commitment, practice, and example in this kind of stewardship giving.
The large church category is Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL, with senior pastor Claude E. McRoberts, III. McRoberts assumed that role in 1999, following John Oliver, who followed Cortez Cooper, who followed Robert Ostenson. Trinity was part of the PCA’s original congregations and has shown a consistent and commendable commitment to supporting the PCA since the very beginning. Pastor Claude McRoberts states: “It has been humbling for me since my arrival at Trinity Church in 1999 to see the level of commitment this church has placed on denominational support. I am privileged to labor among a congregation with a vision that far exceeds the city limits of Montgomery, AL. And the fact that this vision has simply been ‘a given’ for decades is a joy I know I don’t deserve as a Senior Minister.” Steve Fox, former moderator of the General Assembly, a ruling elder at Trinity, and presently serving on the assembly’s Christian Education and Publications Committee says in response to Trinity’s generous support of the committees and agencies, “Since we were there in the beginning, in the formation of the PCA, it is our duty and responsibility to support the PCA. Our support is not only in service and our people involved with the assembly, but also monetary support to enable the committees and agencies to carry out their ministries with the needed funding. That is one way that Trinity participates in the spreading of the gospel of the Kingdom.”
According to the 2006 statistics, Trinity has 1,200 members, including 41 new members received in 2006.There are 18 ruling elders and 27 deacons. The church shows more than 500 are enrolled in their Sunday school program. With annual contributions of four million dollars, Trinity has a total benevolent giving disbursement of two million dollars. The 2007 Yearbook released from the Stated Clerk’s office reports a $6,325 per capita giving.
Trinity is a church that has and does give over and above the “askings” of the committees and agencies. Trinity, along with some other churches, has shown a consistent commitment to the PCA by doing more than their fair share in order to compensate for those churches that do not or cannot give accordingly.
One of Trinity’s former pastors, Cortez Cooper, two of its ruling elders, William Joseph and Steve Fox, and one assistant pastor, Paul Settle, have been moderators of the PCA General Assembly. Over the years Trinity’s faithfulness in giving has not only enabled the PCA committees and agencies to be supported by them, but also a host of individual missionaries, church planters, and other individual ministries.
Trinity Presbyterian Church was actually organized in 1891 and has been known over the years for its strong preaching and teaching of the Word and its commitment to its denomination. Along with its other accomplishments, Trinity started the Trinity Presbyterian School in 1970. The school offers preschool through twelfth grade with more than 950 students. The name Trinity was chosen to represent its commitment to the Triune God.
In the small church category of giving to the whole work of the PCA, we have selected Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Brevard, NC, pastored by H. Andrew Silman. Cornerstone was organized in 1996. Since their beginning in Brevard, Cornerstone has grown to 125 members, built a new church facility, and continues to grow. There were 13 new members added in 2006. Cornerstone’s present budget is nearly $300,000 and $56,000 of that amount was given to the PCA committees and agencies in 2006. That amount translates to $2,301 per capita.
Cornerstone, in attempting to offer a full-service ministry, believes that supporting the PCA’s ministry is not only an obligation as a member congregation, but in doing so has the privilege to expand its witness across North America and beyond. Grady Love became Cornerstone’s first pastor in 1997.He encouraged and led the congregation to practice that pattern of giving as well as to build its present facility. Since Love’s retirement, Andrew Silman, his successor, follows in that same leadership commitment. The officers of Cornerstone, numbering five ruling elders and four deacons, started the church with a strong commitment to the PCA and its ministries. The church has also been a part of assisting near by Ridge Haven PCA Conference Center as it has grown and expanded its ministries to the PCA. The church belongs to the Western Carolina Presbytery.