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Per Capita

Frequently Asked Questions


What is per capita?

The official definition: “Per capita is an opportunity for all communicant members of the Presbyterian church through the governing bodies [mid councils] to participate equally, responsibly, and interdependently by sharing the cost of coordination and evaluation of mission; and of performing ecclesiastical, legislative, and judicial functions that identify a Reformed Church, while at the same time strengthening the sense of community among all Presbyterians” (GA Minutes, Part I, 1995).

In essence: Per capita is a set amount of money (apportionment) per member that congregations pay to the larger Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Said another way, it is a Presbyterian Covenant Community Fund — part of the glue that holds Presbyterians together. Because every Presbyterian shares in the benefit of the PC(USA)’s system of government, the expenses associated with coordinating and performing the functions of that system should be shared by everyone as well.

How old is per capita?

The first-known mention of per capita dates back to 1734 in a letter to ministers!

Who pays per capita, and how much?

Congregations (through their sessions) pay an annual amount of money per church member — per capita apportionment — to their respective presbyteries.

The per capita amount requested from a congregation is a combined total of requests from that congregation’s presbytery, the synod in which the presbytery is located, and the General Assembly — based on their respective budgets for the coming year(s).

Example: Congregation A is asked by Presbytery A to pay a total of $23.98 per member. (The General Assembly Per Capita rate is current as of 2021) That amount breaks down as follows:

  • General Assembly’s per capita rate is $8.98 per member
  • Presbytery A’s per capita rate is (for example) $12 per member
  • Synod A’s per capita rate is (for example) $3 per member

Why does the per capita rate differ among presbyteries?

Each presbytery begins with the General Assembly per capita rate and adds the amount needed to support its specific mission and administrative functions.

A presbytery’s per capita rate requested from its congregations depends on its geographical location and size, as well as its missional needs and the needs of the respective synod.

How is the General Assembly per capita rate set?

The General Assembly per capita rate is set every two years at the biennial General Assembly meeting.

At each GA, a proposed budget for the coming two-year period is approved. The per capita rate is set by dividing the total GA-approved budget by the total PC(USA) church membership.

The rate is based on the membership of PC(USA) churches two years earlier, which are the most recent figures available when GA budgets are approved.

What is the current General Assembly per capita rate?

The GA per capita rate for 2021 is $8.98.

What do GA per capita dollars provide?

"As the Church seeks reform and fresh direction, it looks to Jesus Christ who goes ahead of us and calls us to follow him. United with Christ in the power of the Spirit, the Church seeks “not [to] be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds, so that [we] may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2)." (Book of Order, F-1.0401)

Per capita funding is how we mutually share the costs of coming together to discern the Spirit’s leading for the future.

For example, the funding provides for the cost of bringing together:

  • Bringing together commissioners and advisory delegates as the General Assembly
  • Publishing (in multiple languages) and distribution (in multiple format) of the Book of Order, The Book of Confessions, and other General Assembly publications
  • Underwriting the expenses of the Co-Moderators of the General Assembly as they travel across the church and around the world to interpret the work of the General Assembly and attend church anniversaries, presbytery meetings, retreats, and ecumenical gatherings
  • Gathering church leaders from presbyteries and synods for training events
  • Supporting work in the area of ordered ministry, helping all Presbyterians respond to God’s call in their lives as teaching elders, ruling elders, and deacons
  • Providing necessary tools to develop and administer ordination exams to seminarians preparing to become future pastors
  • Maintaining Church Leadership Connection, the online system that supports the call process for pastors and congregations
  • Supporting those elected to serve on permanent General Assembly committees, such as the Advisory Committee on the Constitution, the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, the General Assembly Nominating Committee, and the General Assembly Committee on Representation
  • Providing information, advice, and counsel to presbyteries and pastors whose members have immigration issues
  • Supporting the Presbyterian Historical Society, ensuring that our witness to the gospel today will be preserved for future generations, just as we have learned about the history of past generations
  • Providing a Presbyterian presence at ecumenical groups and gatherings in this country and worldwide-- extending our mission efforts and our work for peace and justice far beyond what we can do by ourselves to promote Christian unity

More detailed information is available in the Per Capita Budget presentation and Narrative of the Per Capita Budget.

What happens if a presbytery cannot or will not pay its per capita to the General Assembly?

The PC(USA)’s Constitution does not mandate the payment of per capita by congregations. At the same time, the Constitution provides no provision on the part of congregations (sessions) to withhold per capita as a form of protest.

If a presbytery has a congregation within its bounds that is withholding per capita because of insufficient funds or protest, the presbytery is still obligated to pay per capita, as funds are available.

"Presbyteries are responsible for raising their own funds and for raising and timely transmission of per capita funds to their respective synods and the General Assembly. Presbyteries may direct per capita apportionments to sessions within their bounds, but in no case shall the authority of the session to direct its benevolences be compromised." (Book of Order, G-3.0106)

For more information, read the Advisory Opinion on Per Capita Apportionments. (PDF)