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Coordinating Committee approves comments on two significant General Assembly reports

The full Presbyterian Mission Agency Board will also consider the comments during its April 27-29 meeting

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Coordinating Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved comments on two important items of business that will come before commissioners to the 225th General Assembly this summer. With the committee’s approval on Thursday, consideration on the comments will go to the full board for consideration during its meeting April 27-29.

One is on the report of the Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee, which will be considered by the Moving Forward/Vision 2020 Committee. The other comments relate to the report of the Special Committee on Per-Capita Based Funding and National Church Financial Sustainability. That report, found here, will be considered by the Financial Resources Committee.

Both committees are scheduled to meet this summer in the final group of GA committees, June 30 through July 2.

On the Moving Forward report, two proposals received comments. One would move Mission Engagement & Support from the PMA to the Administrative Services Group. The comment touches on the work of mission being “central to the PMA.” It notes that if the recommendation is approved as written, MES will lose about $1 million in funding that comes from cost recovery from restricted funds.

Another proposal by the Moving Forward committee would change the division of funds that are shared between PMA and OGA. Owing to the larger size of the PMA, the current split is an 80-20 division; the committee proposes “all unrestricted bequests and unrestricted gifts” be divided 50-50.

The comment urges the assembly to be precise in its language over which funds are to be divided evenly. Depending on which funds are to be divvied up, the difference could mean reductions in the PMA’s annual budget of between $282,500 and more than $2.5 million. “The assembly may wish to change the ratio,” the comment states. “We just ask that commissioners are clear about the financial impact of the change.”

The Rev. Ken Godshall

“The 80-20 sharing was agreed to by [the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly], the PMA Board and the A Corp Board,” said the Rev. Ken Godshall of the Coordinating Committee, who helped draft the comments. He called the current arrangement “a stable sharing of resources.”

The report of the other special committee, this one on per capita-based funding and national church financial sustainability, recommends forming a commission to “oversee and facilitate the unification” of the OGA and the PMA into a single agency and “work to align the entities, boards, committees and constituent bodies of the General Assembly toward long-term faithfulness and financial sustainability of its mission within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

“We acknowledge that OGA and PMA have not always worked well together,” the comment states, “however, the past four years have fostered healthier and positive relationship building and the sharing of resources. The PMAB is open to this possibility but believes there is a better way forward; hence these comments are shared to assist you to discern the way forward.”

Those comments include the view that the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, and the president and executive director of the PMA, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, “are working together very closely,” with several examples noted.

If GA commissioners discern that forming a commission is the best course forward, “PMA believes that the first assignment for the commission should be the establishment of a single vision for the national church facilitated by a third party,” the comment states. “A unifying vision is key to a healthy merger.”

Considering “the effective work already underway,” if a commission is to be formed, “PMA suggests that its sole assignment for the first two years is the development of a vision for the national church,” which is already operating under the Mathew 25 vision, the guiding statement of the 2020 Vision Team and the vision of the Stated Clerk.

The resulting singe vision would be brought to the 226th General Assembly (2024) for approval. “Then,” the comment concludes, “the possibility of merger, based on this vision, would be the assignment for 2024-2026.”

“This is a healthy comment for us to make. It follows our polity,” said the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, the PMA Board’s chair-elect. “Right now for the PMA, Matthew 25 is our vision and our work. We need to keep doing that work until the assembly directs us otherwise.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett

At Vance-Ocampo’s request, the committee suspended its work for a few minutes when news came across of the U.S. Senate’s 53-47 vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, the first African American woman to hold a seat on the highest court in the nation. Vance-Ocampo and the board’s chair, the Rev. Warren Lesane, Jr., asked Moffett to pray.

“I am reminded the prayers of my ancestors are being embodied in Judge Jackson,” Moffett told the Almighty. “Thank you for the hope she represents for future generations … for the wisdom and the gifts you have given her and how she is mining those out … Help us get to the place where there are no more margins … Thank you for the vision you have given us to build a better community, a better tomorrow. God, we pray for your wisdom and your guidance as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson begins her service. It is with grateful hearts that we pray.”

“God’s always at work doing something!” Lesane said.

The Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

The committee approved comments to several other items of business scheduled to come before the assembly this summer, then heard a brief report from Vance-Ocampo on a proposal to realign the board. The most recent proposal is for the board to move to a co-chair model following this summer’s General Assembly, with the first two being Vance-Ocampo and the Rev. Michelle Hwang. The number of committees would be whittled to four, with a coordinating committee and administrative committee being permanent committees and two others — for the time being, a Matthew 25 advancement committee and a vision implementation committee — being the first pair of flexible committees.

With the board size getting smaller, the realignment plan also calls for just one board member to serve on other boards affiliated with PC(USA) agencies and entities — except for the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program and the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment boards, which have asked to continue the practice of having two PMA Board members each. One of those two members, Vance-Ocampo said, would be a board member who’s rotating off the PMA Board.

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