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PC(USA) governance groups to begin a conversation on the future of the Presbyterian Center

The A Corp Board plans to help get the conversation started soon, although talks will take some time

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Center stands near the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board plan to, along with partner governing boards and committees, begin discussing the future of the Presbyterian Center in downtown Louisville.

As many as 150 members of the national staff are in the office on any given day, A Corp President Kathy Lueckert told board members Friday on the second day of a two-day quarterly meeting. That’s less than half the combined workforce of the Administrative Services Group, the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Before the pandemic, most of the national staff worked at 100 Witherspoon Street. “What’s the best stewardship for that space going forward?” Lueckert asked. “How do we live into the new reality Covid has brought us? What is our obligation to future ministries?”

“So many” congregations with fewer than 100 members “are having this conversation,” said the Rev. Heidi Bolt, a board member. “How can we dream about God’s possibilities outside of a structure we love?”

The Rev. Jason Micheli, a board co-chair, commended Lueckert for thinking “proactively,” and cautioned the board to be “careful how we proceed. There will be an emotional connection” to the denominational headquarters, he said.

“This will not be a short, uncomplicated or unemotional conversation, but I think it needs to get started,” Lueckert said. A Presbyterian Center neighbor, Louisville-based Humana, has announced it will leave its Humana Tower in the next 18-24 months, and Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank plans to leave the downtown next year.

“There may be some interest in someone else buying it from us just because of the location” near the Ohio River, Lueckert said of the Presbyterian Center. “It’s a long conversation that will take a while, but I think we should get it started.”

Also as part of her report to the board, Lueckert recommended against installing solar panels on a portion of the Presbyterian Center’s roof. The 225th General Assembly encouraged all councils of the church to explore alternative energy sources and implement them if possible. Cloudy weather in the Ohio River Valley “works against us,” Lueckert said, and the Presbyterian Center faces north and has other buildings around it, preventing some direct sunlight from reaching the roof.

After energy savings and a federal grant, the panels would cost nearly $170,000 to install, which would result in a 24-year payback. The board concurred with Lueckert’s recommendation.

The board approved the final report on the 2023 ASG Business Plan and the business plan for 2024, which includes 50 goals over 14 lines of business. Twelve goals were carried over from 2023 into 2024, Lueckert said, mainly because of supply chain issues and timing issues.

The board said yes to new accounting guidelines for honorariums received by A Corp employees. It also approved a 3% compensation award for all eligible A Corp employees effective on April 1 and responses to referrals from the 224th General Assembly (2020) and the 225th General Assembly (2022).

Financial reports

The PC(USA)’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Ian Hall, and its controller, Denise Hampton, led the board through financial reports for the 11 months ending Nov. 30.

The A Corporation’s total net assets were up by about $5 million over the same period in 2022, from about $661 million to about $666 million. Income was up $14.7 million compared to the budget, primarily due to year-to-date unrealized market gains. Gifts, bequests and grants increased by $4.1 million due to several large gifts and the receipt of grants from outside foundations. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance increased by $6 million over the same period in 2022 due to giving related to international disasters and refugees, including aid for Ukraine and the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Hawaii wildfire receipts are $1.3 million.

Investment return is $7.4 million greater than the budget because of unrealized gains on investments. Investment gains or losses are not budgeted.

Total expenses are $14.9 million less than the budget and $3.2 million more than last year’s expenses. Salaries and benefits are $3 million less than the budget due to position vacancies. But compared to 2022, salaries and benefits are $2.3 million greater due to a 3% pay increase in 2023, an 8% Board of Pensions medical dues increase, the filling of some vacant positions and several newly added positions.

Administration expenses are $5 million under budget, including underspending in the OGA ($1.8 million), PMA ($1.7 million) and ASG ($1.5 million).

Program expenses are $2.9 million below budget, and grant expenses are $3.1 million lower than budget, although $1 million higher than in the same period in 2022.

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