The Presbyterian Church (USA), my denomination, will announce another $9.5 million dollars in cuts to headquarters operations tomorrow. This will be the third or fourth major downsizing (I have lost track) since the reunited church created the Presbyterian Center in Louisville in 1988. It probably won't be the last. The Presbyterian Church loses a small city's worth of members every year. As the base shrinks, the money flowing downstream to HQ dries up, too.
The church's membership losses have not been the main reason that the denominational center faces another budget crisis, though. The money going to local congregations has actually been pretty steady. However, fewer and fewer congregations have been willing to send their per capita tax – ok, it isn't really a tax, but it is a highly suggested voluntary contribution – down the line to the higher judicatories, the more centralized offices of the denomination. And while there are many members who give extra gifts to their own congregations, and even to the presbyteries (regional bodies) that make up the Presbyterian Church, fewer and fewer give directly to the denomination.
I think the main reason that headquarters is being starved for money is that the rank and file don't trust that their gifts will be well spent. Let me be clear here – I have many friends in the Presbyterian Center, and I think HQ does many important jobs for the church. The quiet work of supporting congregations gets few headlines, but is most welcome to those who get helped.
The headlines, though, go to the self-styled prophets who work for the church, who "get out ahead" of the denomination to lead the church into social changes that the prophets know Jesus – or JusticeLove – would want us to do. In my church these change just so happen to always be in a leftist direction. I would have the same objection, though, to rightist prophets working in the central church staff.
Church bureaucrats should not be prophets; prophets should not be church bureaucrats.
As a rule of thumb, I would say that people who tell you that they are prophets, aren't. In the Bible, the kind of official prophets who work for the establishment get shown up by the real prophets who are sent by God.
The church needs prophets, as does society as a whole. That is why God keeps sending them. The place of prophets is outside the house of power, speaking truth. The Presbyterian Center is a house of power. It needs servants who the local congregations can trust. If the church trusted the HQ, the money would flow.