On Saturday, June 8, General Synod 2019 voted to approve a recommendation to replace the current per-member assessment funding with a new method based on a percentage of income.
Under this new funding method, called covenant shares, each classis will contribute a flat percentage of the contributions received by each church within its bounds to support the work of the denomination. Currently, classes collect assessments calculated based on the membership numbers of churches within their bounds.
The General Synod will approve the percentage rate based on contributions as reported on the Consistorial Report Form as of December 31 the previous year. The total contributions received by each church multiplied by the General Synod–approved percentage rate totals the amount due.
Curious how a percentage of income assessment compares for your church? Download this calculator.
The name, covenant shares, emphasizes the covenantal nature of the denomination.
“Just as churches are in covenant with one another, our denominational staff is in covenant with our churches,” said Jillisa Teitsma, RCA chief financial officer and General Synod treasurer. “We are here to support [our churches] in the work that an individual church cannot do alone.”
Covenant shares, like assessments, will fund the work of Transformed & Transforming initiatives, the work of General Synod, denominational ministry support services, theological education, and the Board of Benefits Services assistance fund. The percentage discussed—2.7 percent—would raise the same amount of money currently raised by per-member assessments.
The covenant shares proposal came from a GSC-appointed committee, which was tasked with finding an alternative to assessments in response to wide-ranging discussions around the limitations of the current method.
The alternative-funding committee deliberated for 18 months, ensuring the new method was biblical, equitable, simple, and congregationally supported. The committee has also visited classes across North America to collect feedback and answer questions.
Following the covenant shares proposal to General Synod 2019 delegates, there was extensive discussion. A motion to refer the recommendation for decision at General Synod 2020 was also debated at length but was not adopted.
Delegates also voted to create a review committee that will evaluate significant issues that arise in the first three years of the new system.
Moving to covenant shares requires a change to the RCA’s bylaws and requires approval from a subsequent synod. If General Synod 2020 also approves the change, covenant shares will be implemented in 2021.