Presbyterian Foundation Board commits to Matthew 25 initiative

November 23, 2020 by Robyn Davis Sekula

The Presbyterian Foundation Board of Trustees voted at its Nov. 13 meeting to formally endorse and support the Matthew 25 initiative.

The initiative, largely organized by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and affirmed by the General Assembly, calls on congregations, ministries and other PC(USA) agencies to Build Congregational Vitality, Dismantle Structural Racism, and Eradicating Systemic Poverty. Both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the PC(USA) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor. More information is available on the Presbyterian Mission Agency web site here.

“For several years now, the Presbyterian Foundation has invested resources in, partnered with ministries that, and supported initiatives which address systemic racism, eradicate poverty, and revitalize congregations,” says Rev. Dr. Neal Presa, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation. “The Foundation Board of Trustees and staff are fully supporting the Matthew 25 vision catalyzed by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, a unifying movement of the Spirit to make real, positive impact as part of God’s transformative justice in the world. The adoption of this Matthew 25 resolution is an intentional move as the Foundation refines its strategic vision and plan. This means that the Matthew 25 foci will be a key lens that shapes and informs how we carry out our work and towards what ends.”

The Foundation holds, grows and stewards funds for the sake of sharing of the gospel – which includes the bold charge offered in Matthew 25. In addition, the Foundation engages and assists congregations all across the country – from the most remote parts of Alaska to inner city Baltimore, and far beyond. The Foundation supports ministries around the world, including Pakistan, Colombia, Palestine and Africa, as well as in the U.S. “I fully credit our staff and board for their bold vision of new, exciting and creative ways we can serve the PC(USA) and beyond,” says President and CEO Tom Taylor. “Endorsing and committing to the prophetic vision of Matthew 25 is vitally important to our entire team as we do our part to share the love of God in Christ in word and act with a hurting world.”

The Foundation offers charitable expertise and services that unite and empower Presbyterians and the ministries about which they are passionate. “We strive to do so in a trustworthy, clear, and accessible manner that reflects the faith and values of the PC(USA),” Taylor says.

Just a few examples of how the Foundation lives out the principles of Matthew 25 in its daily operations are outlined below.

Online Giving

The Foundation’s online giving program allows churches to collect donations easily, and some use this for activities that are directly related to Matthew 25. For example, a church in Iowa collected funds through their online giving account that they have used to assist refugees and immigrants in their community. In 2020, the Foundation has added 764 more churches and ministries to the program from January 1 to September 30, nearly doubling the size of this program.

Creative Engagement and Social Witness

A portion of the Foundation’s portfolio is used for low-interest loans and equity investments in parts of the world (and the U.S.) where loans could not be easily obtained for initiatives that alleviate poverty, create jobs, support environmentally conscious programs and provide education, particularly for those who otherwise would not receive it. The portfolio includes loans for an organization serving women who produce olive oil in Israel, a university serving many low income students in Colombia, a solar energy project powering a dairy operation in Palestine, and similar works in Africa. “These efforts take a great deal of energy and time to manage and steward, but we continue because it fits both our mandate to faithfully steward church funds and our biblical call to serve the marginalized as illustrated in Matthew 25,” Taylor says.

Project Regeneration

The Foundation is in a unique position to help struggling churches to repurpose assets for their highest and best missional uses through Project Regeneration. In some instances, the Foundation assists churches in discerning whether to sell a property that has become more of a burden than a benefit. In other cases, a  church decides to close and will invest the funds in such a way that it helps those in poverty or who are facing disaster. One example is St. Stephens Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, California. The church decided to wind down its long-time ministry. Parishioners found other church homes. But the proceeds from the sale of the church property have been placed in an endowment at the Foundation that now sends regular gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Habitat for Humanity and funds a food pantry in their neighborhood.

Environmental issues

The Foundation has a fossil free mutual fund that was set up in direct response to those in our church who want to respond to environmental concerns. You can find more information on that here.

Peace, justice, and anti-militarism

Based on the 220th GA’s directive, the Foundation spends considerable time, budget funds, and staff effort in the Middle East, especially in places like the West Bank of Palestine, Israel, and Jordan, engaging organizations and endeavors that function to promote peace between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in that troubled region.

Racial equity and diversity

The Foundation is leading by example in racial equity and inclusion in its highest leadership. In the past several years, the Foundation has assembled its most racially diverse and inclusive board. Additionally, four of the last seven most recent senior staff hires have been people of color. The Foundation also has available a consulting staff of Ministers of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion who help connect the Foundation with various populations throughout the PC(USA). These numeric additions point to the real goal of nurturing and sustaining a culture that places a premium on the value of diversity, equity and inclusion as God created and intends for us.

Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation. She can be reached at robyn.sekula@presbyterianfoundation.org.