News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
A NOVEMBER POTPOURRI
The Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Team has asked all ministers, commissioned pastors, and inquirers and candidates to take the Clergy Ethics Course offered by Safe Gatherings. This includes all honorably retired members who are active in presbytery in any form, such as pulpit supply or service on a committee. My article in the October News outlined the steps to access and complete this course. The Team has asked all who are to take this course to complete it by the end of 2021. Please send a copy of the certificate received upon completion to Dan Williams and Christina Greenawalt. The cost of the course is paid by CFP.
Through the past 19-20 months, we have seen at least three surges in coronavirus infections with peaks in July 2020, January 2021, and August 2021. Despite the presence of the vaccines, the last surge was the most serious, with over 150,000 new infections in Florida per week at its peak. We are seeing less than 10% of those numbers as October ends, but still over 10,000 new cases each week. Will we see another post-holiday surge this year?
As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and wrestle with questions like these, perhaps two questions are most prominent for many congregations: (1) What will be the final financial impact of the pandemic? (2) How many members do we really have now?
The first question is before many sessions now as stewar4dship campaigns are concluded and budgets are adopted for 2022. The second question is perhaps the most significant one. When the threat of the pandemic has fully passed, will all of the members we had before it all began return to the life and work of the congregation? What will become of all of the new connections made through the online efforts of our congregations?
We have encouraged sessions to address these questions and plan for ways to welcome people back to their ministries as we emerge from this unsettled time. How can we continue to reach out to our members, particularly those who haven’t been able to connect with the virtual church over the past year-and-a-half?
In an ordinary year, budget concerns often connect to the constitutionally-required annual review of the active members roll. Removals from this roll translate to savings in per capita costs down the line, as membership totals reported at the end of 2021 will impact the per capita total owed in 2023.
Please remember that before its is an administrative task, the review of the active members roll is a pastoral concern. Through it, the session is fulfilling the call of G-1.0304 to encourage its members to review and evaluate “regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.”
Before the session acts to remove anyone from the active members roll, this pastoral process of encouragement should take place. Removal should only happen after the session has sought “to restore members to active participation.” (G-3.0204a.) This same paragraph indicates that a person should not be removed unless they have failed to participate in the worship and work of a congregation for at least two years.
The bottom line is not “how much is this person costing us in per capita apportionment?” Rather, it should be, “are we encouraging our members in their relationship to Jesus Christ and helping them to receive the spiritual benefits of membership, if not in our congregation, then in some worshiping fellowship?”
TERMS OF CALL REVIEW
Sessions are required to review the pastor’s terms of call annually (G-2.0804), and to report the terms of call (whether changed or not) to the congregation so that the congregation can approve any changes and assess whether the session is maintaining the terms adequately (G-1.0503c). The annual terms are then reported to the presbytery for final approval, again, whether changed or not.
At the September stated meeting, the Committee on Ministry provided this advice about cost-of-living adjustments to pastoral terms of call:
In previous years, the Committee on Ministry has made a non-mandatory recommendation on a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to terms of call for congregations that were able to afford an increase. The current situation has made giving this guidance more challenging than prior years, including but not limited to:
In October, it was announced that social security payments would be increased for const-of-living by 5.9%. This is the highest increase to social security over the past 40 years.
Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams