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Getting their feet wet

Four new members of the PC(USA), A Corporation board learn about what’s ahead

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A Corporation Board of Directors eased their way into three days of online meetings Wednesday, helping four new members learn about their roles and how the A Corporation, which dates back to 1799, fits in and works with other PC(USA) agencies and boards.

Like the holdover board members who were appointed two years ago, new members Joyce Rarumangkay, Mark Lu, Heidi Bolt and Jason Micheli learned their committee assignments as part of Wednesday’s nearly four-hour meeting.

Bolt will join Sam Bonner, Bridget-Anne Hampden and Chris Mason on the Audit, Legal and Risk Management Committee, which is set to meet at 11 a.m. Eastern Time Thursday ahead of the board meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Friday’s board meeting also opens at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Both board meetings include scheduled closed sessions.

Together with Carol Winkler, Sinthia Hernandez-Diaz, JoAnne Sharp and Bill Teng, Micheli has been assigned to the Budget and Finance Committee.

Rarumangkay and Lu join Cynthia Campbell and Thomas McNeill on the Nominating, Governance and Personnel Committee.

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

A Corp President Kathy Lueckert offered the new members a primer on the A Corp’s relationships with its client partners and the goals she’s been developing for the rest of 2020 and 2021.

Services provided by the A Corp’s Administrative Services Group include legal, human resources, risk management, building, information technology, research, financial, internal audit, reporting, distribution, mail and print, and translation.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly are A Corp’s two largest clients. “Our focus all the time,” Lueckert told the new board members, “is on collaboration and cooperation in ways that make ministry flourish. That’s a big job and it’s not ours alone. We look for opportunities to improve how we do our business and help our partners do theirs.”

Since the 223rd General Assembly (2018) created an independent A Corp Board “after a great deal of study by a number of bright folks,” as Lueckert put it, the result has overall been positive, she said, “but not without a few bumps in the road here and there. We are still living into those relationships and seeing how we can improve those relationships.”

Lueckert also outlined some of the services ASG employees provide to other PC(USA) agencies, including Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Presbyterian Women, the Presbyterian Foundation and the Presbyterian Board of Pensions.

“We hope to reach out to other Presbyterian-related entities to see if there is a way to serve them,” she said. “COVID-19 has put that on hold, but we hope to see more opportunities for partnerships, cooperation and collaboration.” She noted that client partners are all represented on the A Corp Board “to keep the lines of communication open and resolve issues as they come up. Not every board has that benefit. It has been a real help to us.”

Among the goals Lueckert has identified for herself:

  • Supporting the Moving Forward Implementation Committee and the Per Capita and Financial Sustainability Special Committee in what Lueckert called “their quest for a unified budget,” presented for the first time and approved by the 224th General Assembly (2020).
  • Seeking insight into the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the A Corporation and recommending action.
  • Supporting the growth of Global Language Resources.
  • Providing leadership for cross-agency efforts including the COVID-19 financial and cash alignment teams.
  • Negotiating key agreements and contracts.
  • Providing leadership for the COVID-19 response for the denomination’s national staff.
  • Making personnel decisions related to voluntary separations offered to qualifying employees.

Mason, the board’s co-chair together with Teng, told the new members their duties include diligence and loyalty. “Take due care in all you do,” he advised. “Be prepared and informed and speak up if you have a view that’s important that no one has advanced yet.”

Former co-chair Hampden added this advice: “Perform any assignments that the board delegates to you.”

Drawing from principles of the book “Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards” by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan and Barbara E. Taylor, Campbell said that effective boards spend time on each of three functions:

  • Fiduciary, ensuring that work is being done both legally and ethically.
  • Strategic, which is aligning resources with goals, positioning the organization so it can succeed and thrive and watching out for threats.
  • Generative, sharing the vision for where the organization is going and how it can do what it does better, including fitting it in as part of a larger mission.

“The fun part of being on the board is the generative. That’s what I enjoy the most, when the board gets to think and talk about the work of the board in relation to mission and the bigger picture,” she said. “But we are primarily fiduciary and strategic … I occasionally will chafe a bit at how much fiduciary work we have to do, but I’m glad people around the table keep us focused on it.”

“Given the uncertainty of the time, we need to do our fiduciary function and be strategic thinkers, thinking about what the next few years will look like, positioning ourselves for the greatest good of the denomination and providing resources to client partners as they do their work,” said Campbell, who chairs the board’s Nominating, Governance and Personnel Committee.

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