A routine report to GA is elevated by the heart of a minister
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation turned to one of its own, the Rev. Mark Koenig, to tell its story to the 225th General Assembly.
Koenig, who handles internal communications for the Administrative Services Group, penned a piece that won widespread praise Thursday during the first of two meeting days for the A Corp Board, both from board members and from Kathy Lueckert, president of the A Corp.
“A shoutout to Mark, who’s a pastor and comes to things with a theological framework,” Lueckert told the board. “We have always struggled when we talk about how we do what we do — not just numbers, but how the work we do is ministry. Mark has done a great job putting our work in that context that we hope will resonate with commissioners and the Church at large.”
On Thursday the board approved the report which, with minor edits, will go on the General Assembly.
Koenig used a Palm Sunday framework to help explain just what it is that the A Corporation does.
“On Palm Sunday, Mark’s Gospel tells us, Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem to find a colt,” the report states. “Those two disciples had a ministry: to obtain the resource — a colt — Jesus needed for his entrance into Jerusalem. Today the ministry of administration involves helping manage an array of resources.”
“As what is sometimes called the ‘business office’ of the national church,” the A Corporation “engages in the ministry of administration,” Koenig wrote. “Our purpose is to help ministries flourish.”
The ASG, which is the staff of the A Corp, helps connect agencies and entities of the PC(USA) “with the resources they need,” the report states. What are some of those resources, and how did A Corp supply those resources since the time of its last report, to the 224th General Assembly in 2020?
- Financial resources, including receiving the 2020 and 2021 financial audits, both of which had clean opinions. It managed average net assets of more than $700 million each of those two years, and it disbursed more than $70 million, including “numerous COVID grants to presbyteries.” It also applied for — and was awarded — loan forgiveness from the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Human resources, including supporting 400 employees of the ASG, the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency through training, payroll management, benefits administration and information, mail and print services, information technology and language hospitality, among other services. It supported organizational changes within the PMA. It also helped shepherd a refugee resettlement effort, providing “a welcome to  refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.
- Informational resources, which included publishing reports and stories about the Minister’s Survey, working with other agencies to adjust fund restrictions to better support new worshiping communities, shipping 96,000 resource orders from the Distribution Center, supporting mid councils with language hospitality through simultaneous interpretation conferences and presbytery meetings, and reviewing 2,088 contracts through Legal Services.
- Values resources, including working with tribal entities about the return of Native American church properties to tribal control (where appropriate), translating more than 2 million words into Spanish and Korean, and, along with the A Corp Board, guiding the renovation of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville to become a conference center capable of hosting the 225th General Assembly.
“Administration helps Presbyterians proclaim and live out the Good News of Jesus Christ,” the report states near its conclusion. “Administration helps ministries flourish. Administration is ministry.”
“I too found [the report] really compelling,” said the Rev. Heidi Bolt, co-chair of the A Corp Board. “It’s a great way to show what we do is important and feeds other ministries of the denomination.”
A clean audit
Theresa Batliner, a partner and the not-for-profit team leader with MCM CPAs & Advisors, gave the board an “unqualified, clean opinion” on the church’s financial statements for 2021. Board member Chris Mason, who chairs the Audit, Legal and Risk Management Committee, thanked Lueckert, Controller Denise Hampton and Ian Hall, who’s both chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the A Corp, “for making this a process that was on time and had a lot of background from the prior year … We should hold staff up.”
“The part of the audit that makes me feel so much better is the cash flow situation,” said Lueckert, which was significantly stronger in 2021 than it was in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.
“For those of us who lived through that period of time here, we are in a far different place,” Lueckert said. That’s “due to the faithfulness of Presbyterians, and I give thanks to God for that.”
The board is set to vote Friday on accepting the 2021 audit.
Should the Presbyterian Center be a sanctuary?
Before entering into closed session to discuss personnel and property matters, the board approved a comment on a proposal scheduled to come before the upcoming assembly to make the Presbyterian Center a sanctuary space.
The board voted to join a comment made by the Office of the General Assembly recommending against the resolution, proposed in 2020 by the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee to create sanctuary space for immigrants in the Presbyterian Center, utilizing vacant space.
The current remodeling would make that conversion difficult and expensive. At Mason’s suggestion, the A Corp Board comment will include a paragraph found on the OGA’s webpage concerning sanctuary: “A stronger PC(USA) begins at home by participating in serving people who are spatially displaced by moving our advocacy agenda forward and taking other actions to establish solidarity with those without shelter.”
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