A salute to the work of the corporate arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

 

Board hears from A Corporation president — and from one another

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — During a time of great anxiety, grieving and loneliness brought on by the coronavirus, the corporate work of the Presbyterian Church (U.SA.) goes on, even as circumstances are trying and innovation and collaboration have become valuable traits.

The Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Church (U.SA.), A Corporation, met in both public and closed sessions via Zoom Tuesday, with another day of virtual meetings set for Wednesday.

During the public session, Kathy Lueckert, president of the A Corporation, the PC(USA)’s corporate entity, updated the board on steps that have been taken and what’s being contemplated to firm up the denomination’s financial position and to foster conversations as the Administrative Services Group, Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly submit their proposed 2021 and 2022 budgets for General Assembly approval. That work also entails adjusting 2020 budgets, she said.

Last week, Lueckert and her team submitted an $8.8 million application under the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Congress passed and President Trump signed last month. In addition, all three entities — ASG, PMA and OGA — are evaluating whether to fill vacant positions, she said.

Kathy Lueckert is president of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation.

“We are in no danger of not paying our bills or not meeting payroll,” Lueckert told the board. “But this loan would help.”

Lueckert said that proposed budgets created under a unified budgeting process are subject to change during the coming weeks leading up to May 21, the 30-day deadline before General Assembly. “We need to be realistic about the changes that might need to be made,” she said. A trust fund saw a $3 million withdrawal in March, she said. “We know our current cash position is one we need to be mindful of,” Lueckert told the board.

Plans are being made for a budget summit among ASG, PMA and OGA leadership in early May. During the week of May 11, changes based on that summit will be worked into the budget proposals. Lueckert said that the boards that oversee each of the three entities — the A Corp Board, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board — might be called to meet the week of May 18 to make revisions in all or some of the proposed budgets.

The team established to coordinate the three budgets is creating three budgeting models, which Lueckert labeled “optimistic,” “realistic” and “pessimistic.”

“The numbers from March were not encouraging, but we hear that One Great Hour of Sharing was having a good response online. That is really encouraging,” she said. “We are doing the best we can to create projections that will assist decision-makers.” It’s likely, she said, that adjustments will also be made to the 2020 budgets for some or all of the three entities.

 

Carol WInkler

A Corp Board member Carol Winkler thanked Lueckert for her communication efforts — and expressed gratitude for the Easter celebration service that featured preaching by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), and prayers and welcome by the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the PMA.

“It has reaffirmed for congregations what it means to be a connectional church,” Winkler said. “Kudos big time.”

Lueckert also unveiled a draft version of ASG’s annual report, which drew mixed reviews. Some board members said they believe the report should retain its proposed black cover but would be enhanced with color on the inside pages.

“The black cover is pretty striking,” said A Corp Board Co-Moderator Chris Mason. “It’s something the church doesn’t do much.”

Lueckert also talked about her decision on how to split the proceeds of the sale of the Santa Fe property, formerly part of the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiú, New Mexico. After speaking with others in denominational leadership, Lueckert decided $2 million of the proceeds will be divided this way: $1 million to PMA for coronavirus relief; $200,000 to OGA and $100,000 to ASG for the same purpose; $400,000 to the Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which started out as a Presbyterian boarding school for Spanish-speaking boys and is now a co-educational boarding and day school with students and graduates from all over the world; and $300,000 for the A Corporation’s property disposition fund.

There’s been “some concern” among PMA Board members about how the decision was made, according to Lueckert. That board’s Property and Legal Committee will probably discuss the decision during a Thursday Zoom meeting, Lueckert said. Mason told her, “it sounds like it’s all in very good order, as it should be.”

James Rissler, chief executive officer of the Investment & Loan Program, expressed his appreciation for the “support and responsiveness” Administrative Services Group has displayed for the agency he heads.

“The work we do is not as easily translated into working at home,” he said. “ASG has been extremely helpful making the process almost seamless for us and probably very seamless for our customers.”

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, board members took the time to check in, offering one another sympathy and love for all they’re going through. One board member said she’d recently lost three friends to the coronavirus. Another said he’s never had the experience of preaching a (taped) Easter service before Good Friday. “I’m hopeful,” he said, “that the church will never be the same again, that it will be better in many ways.”

Another board member said he was trying to get used to washing dinner dishes for himself and his wife after normally having 20 family members over for Easter. Still another said that her retirement allowed her to be creative, including sewing 75 protective masks for a local hospital. “The biggest thing I miss is hugging my grandkids,” she said.

Yet another said seeing friends and co-workers getting sick and dying is painful, as is the great number of people who have been thrown out of work by the worsening economy.

“It really brings home how many people in this country aren’t going to be in good shape even after the virus is gone,” he said. “The economy is not like a store that reopens, but we’re praying that people will somewhat get on their feet, because it is not good right now.”

“Nevertheless,” he added, “God is good.”


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