Apparently, some presbyteries fund their administration/operations by using an endowment based on the liquidated assets of closed churches. I find this despicable. It is part of the larger pattern in our declining denomination: living off of dead people.
There is no way to avoid the perception that, in taking this approach, a presbytery is basically closing churches in order to reduce the per capita assessment, by which it supports the presbytery administration. Bluntly put: it is to feed off dead churches. Some presbyteries are actually able to keep their per capita very low because they close so many churches. How lucky for them to have so much death around them! It’s a buzzard’s paradise!
There’s so much wrong with this practice that I don’t know where to begin. First of all, I know for a fact that small churches are often already paranoid about the motives of their presbyteries. They tend to feel that the presbytery is just waiting for them to fail and close so it can swoop in and gobble up their property. I have had to reassure many small churches over the years that the presbytery has no designs on their property, that presbytery does not want to close any of its churches, and that selling property is something the presbytery does not need the hassle of bothering with. How can I give churches this reassurance if is the explicit policy of a presbytery to use the income generated by closed churches to keep the per capita assessment on larger churches low?
Secondly, it is another reason to keep the administrative costs of a presbytery inflated beyond what the presbytery really needs or wants to pay for. If we valued it, we’d pay for it directly. Since we don’t want to pay for it, we clearly don’t value it; but the powers-that-be come up with a scheme to pay for it anyway, using someone else’s money. This is ass-backwards and wrong.
Administration is the death of mission. Yes, mission requires a certain minimal degree of administration to keep going. But the trend in our society and in our institutional churches is that administration automatically gets bloated, and even assumes control over the mission, at which point it stops being Jesus’ mission and become the self-serving administration’s mission. When administration is allowed to define mission, “mission” is almost always reduced to mere institutional self-preservation.
In the current environment, churches are going to be closed. The assets of closed churches will go to presbyteries. What should they do with that money?
I propose that all such legacies and any income generated from them be designated for the planting of new congregations, the redevelopment of present ones, and educating people for this work.