Happy New Year! Central Florida Presbytery has its own way of expressing new year’s greetings, similar to the IRS sending tax form booklets in late December or early January. We call them “annual reports.”
Pastors and sessions have received a communication asking for the completion of annual reports to the Presbytery and the annual statistical report to the General Assembly. The deadline for these reports is February 9, 2019. In this article I would like to focus on another annual “ritual,” the annual review of the pastor’s terms of call.
Each year, the Committee on Ministry makes a recommendation about cost-of-living adjustments to terms of call for pastors as well as any increase to the minimum terms of call within the Presbytery. In September 2018, the Committee reported to Presbytery its recommendation “to congregations to make a cost of living adjustment of 2.5% for 2019 as they have the ability.” The minimum terms of call were increased to $42,271 (4.3%) as the next step in COM’s strategy to raise these minimum terms until they reach the level of the minimum participation salary for medical benefits under the Benefits Plan ($44,000 for 2019).
The review of terms of call is a three-step process that begins with the session, which “shall review annually the minister’s terms of call and shall propose for congregational action (G-1.0501) such changes as the session deems appropriate, provided that they meet the presbytery’s minimum requirements.” (G-2.0804) This review should be conducted face-to-face with the pastor, co-pastors, or associate pastor. At one time the annual statistical report to the General Assembly asked specifically whether this face-to-face review had been done.
Next stop for terms of call is the congregation. The congregation is not a governing entity, but has a few specific powers given to it by the Book of Order. One area of responsibility is matters related to “calling a pastor, co-pastor, or associate pastor,” including “changing existing pastoral relationships, by such means as reviewing the adequacy of and approving changes to the terms of call of the pastor or pastors.” (G-1.0503b,c)
The congregation’s authority in pastoral terms of call is two-fold. One aspect is approving any changes to the terms of call recommended by the session. The other aspect is broader and must be performed even if the session recommends no changes to terms of call. The congregation is empowered to review the adequacy of the terms of call. In other words, the congregation has the opportunity to review whether the session is maintaining the terms of call in an adequate fashion and can request the session to conduct a new review if no increase is proposed or the recommended increase is judged to be insufficient. Operative here is the complementary reality that the session approves the annual budget while the congregation funds it.
The final destination for all terms of call changes is the Presbytery. Terms of call changes (or even that no changes were made) must be reported to the Presbytery annually. Terms of call change forms are available on the Presbytery’s web site (COM page) for this purpose. Terms are reviewed by the Membership Subcommittee of the Committee on Ministry and then recommended by the full COM for Presbytery approval.
Frankly, we all need to do our part to do a better job of this reporting. If terms of call are not being changed, that needs to be communicated to the Committee on Ministry through the Presbytery Office. We need to know that the required annual review did take place, and that the congregation reviewed the adequacy of the terms of call and approved any changes. It is likely that all congregations have done these reviews prior to the March meeting of Presbytery, yet we still get terms of call change forms coming to the December stated meeting. In 2017, all terms of calls changed because the Benefits Plan dues increased, but Presbytery did not get changes in terms forms from all congregations.
The Membership Subcommittee of COM has made it a priority of theirs to be more active in seeking reports of session and congregational actions on terms of call for 2019. You will be hearing from the Committee on Ministry soon about this. Recognize that this is part of our Presbyterian “we do things decently and in order” DNA and complete the terms of call change form as quickly as possible. Also remember to notify the Board of Pensions of these changes using the Board’s online reporting system. This will keep us all on track concerning this important part of our life together!
Finally, a disclaimer that I invariably make in such circumstances: the above is the opinion of the Stated Clerk of Central Florida Presbytery on the meaning and implications of matters related to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Authoritative interpretations of the Constitution are rendered by the General Assembly in session or through decisions of the GA’s Permanent Judicial Commission.