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Blueprint for the mission agency’s vision process laid out

Better equipping ‘our Church to be more fruitful’ is the goal

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

LOUISVILLE — Headed into next week’s Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting on Jan. 22, the board’s Coordinating Committee met Wednesday to learn more about a plan to better align the agency to more effectively bring about the Matthew 25 invitation with its three foci: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, the PMA’s president and executive director, described for the committee the three steps in what’s being called the VIP, for Vision Implementation Process:

  • Reflecting, the current step, which Moffett said involves listening to people with expertise, both outside the agency and from PMA staff, as well as mid council leaders, caucuses and ecumenical partners, from whom “we are seeking wisdom, guidance and support,” Moffett said. The goal was to complete this step in February, but Moffett said it’s likely to stretch several weeks after that.
  • Re-envisioning, a process that should begin next month and be completed by April or May, Moffett said. “What are the things we need to put in place to better equip our Church to be more fruitful?” is that step’s central question, she said.
  • Rebuilding, a process that starts in the spring and should be complete by the board’s July meeting. “We want to be nimble, to embody Matthew 25 to better serve the Church at large,” Moffett said. That will involve determining the key roles needed, identifying the people “skilled and gifted to do the work” and then assigning personnel to “new, reimagined roles,” she said.

The result, she said, will be “a vision large enough to include everyone and flexible enough to allow people to work on the three foci,” which she called “the basic gospel missions we see.”

“It is a great task,” Moffett said, one by which “we will come out with a re-envisioned PMA.”

The Rev. Warren Lesane, Jr., who chairs the PMA board, then asked PMA senior staff and committee members what they thought of the process.

“I want the board to know,” said the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, “that some of the things we are charged to work on are things that bright, talented people cannot accomplish,” including the racism and poverty foci. “But last summer showed there are large amounts of people not satisfied with not engaging in social justice. They are saying, ‘I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore.’”

“This gives us the chance to say, ‘We can actually make an impact in the world,’ and I think the PC(USA) is poised to do so,” Hunter said.

“I also believe it will help us truly connect mission and justice with the gospel to which we have been called,” said the Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III, director of Theology, Formation & Evangelism. “As Presbyterians we have to constantly talk about this being gospel work. It’s daunting work but I’m excited about the work — even though I’m a bit nervous.”

“It’s been amazing work, but wow, has it been an emotional roller coaster, recognizing how hard it is to change a system,” said Kathy Maurer, a PMA board member. “How do you eradicate racism when the system is built on it? … We need to recognize that more. It’s one of the things we don’t talk about in ‘polite white society.’”

“I have found the conversations stimulating,” said another board member, the Rev. Brenton Thompson, adding that hearing from outside sources has helped produce “creative, out-of-the-box thinking.”

“If we only look at it from the system we know, we will never get outside that system,” Thompson said. “We have a long way to go, but I’m happy to be a small piece of a larger dialogue.”

Warren Lesane

The Rev. Warren Lesane, Jr.

Earlier, Lesane cast a look back on the turbulent past few months, noting that board members could not have envisioned developments including the coronavirus pandemic, the racial reckoning across the nation and last week’s assault on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m still excited,” Lesane said. “Not at the negative things that happened, but I know God is in control of all of this. I am seeing the hand of God at work in us, and I am so glad to part of the PC(USA).”

“God has placed us smack dab in the middle of all of it,” Lesane said. “I’m still excited, and I thank you for the work you do.”

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