PC(USA) review and restructure discussions continue past General Assembly deadline

Stated Clerk allows extension for collaboration on corporate structure recommendation

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Way Forward Commission members Eileen Lindner, moderator Mark Hostetter, and Eliana Maxim at the group’s March 5–7, 2017, meeting at Columbia Theological Seminary. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

LOUISVILLE — Citing a decision by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Way Forward Commission (WFC) and All Agency Review Committee (AARC) will submit reports by today’s deadline but leave the door open for amendments prior to General Assembly.

The two groups were formed by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC(USA) and asked to propose a more efficient structural model for the six agencies of the denomination and conduct a review of these agencies, respectively. Over the course of the past 18 months, there has been considerable overlap of the work of these two groups — so much so that several of the proposed recommendations coming to the General Assembly have been developed jointly.

A proposal by these groups to separate the “A Corp.” — the legal entity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — and remove exclusive board oversight by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) has been met with resistance from the PMAB. At issue is what the PMAB says is its need to have the legal authority to control its own affairs. Discussion by members of the WFC and the AARC yesterday indicated that the intent of the proposal does not remove that authority, saying language clarification can resolve the issue.

Still, the PMAB has made a number of recommendations, including what PMAB Governance Task Force chairwoman Melinda Sanders called the “nuclear option” — establishing its own corporate identity. The PMAB will meet by conference call later today to discuss the following options proposed at last week’s board meeting and consider how or if it will collaborate with the joint recommendations on A Corp. from the AARC and WFC:

  1. Do nothing and allow the General Assembly to synthesize the various recommendations.
  2. Stay the course and allow the already-suggested Governance Task Force proposal time for implementation and analysis.
  3. Work with the Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review Committee to craft a joint resolution.
  4. Work with COGA to propose a mutual A Corp. resolution.
  5. Recommend a deliverance to the General Assembly — the so-called “nuclear option” — to create a separate corporation for the Mission Agency.


Where it all stands

The Way Forward Commission approved its recommendations during yesterday’s call and will submit its document — with possible minor grammatical or style edits — to the Office of the General Assembly later today. The group has set a March 9 deadline to submit its amendments to this document. The WFC also approved continued collaboration on its first recommendation, which suggests modifications to the operation and oversight of the A Corp.

Its six recommendations to the 223rd General Assembly (2018) include:

  • A joint resolution with the All Agency Review Committee on the composition of the board of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation (“A Corp.”)
  • Changes to the role of the Stated Clerk as the head ecclesial officer of the denomination
  • Appointment of a 12-person committee to assess the financial sustainability of the PC(USA)
  • A series of recommendations on inclusion and equity, addressing structural and functional diversity for the denomination
  • The formation of an implementation commission to ensure recommended changes take place
  • Concurrence with the recommendations and reports of the All Agency Review Committee

Committee members Eric Beene and Debra Avery at the Oct. 10, 2017, meeting of the All Agency Review Committee of the PC(USA). (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

The All Agency Review Committee has yet to vote on its final report. During its three-hour conference call Thursday night there was general agreement on its draft recommendations and collaboration with the Way Forward Commission, but also deep concern expressed over what it sees as the PMAB’s reaction against proposed A Corp. recommendations.

“What we have to decide now is how to deal with [the PMAB recommendations] because the PMAB Governance Committee suddenly realized it’s awake,” said committee member Debra Avery, who also served as a member of the General Assembly 221 (2014) appointed PMA review committee. “It looks like the PMA is trying to preserve some of what they had previously. It’s the same mess we had before.”

Spending a majority of its time discussing these matters, the All Agency Review Committee did not vote to approve its recommendations yesterday. The group will convene at 5 p.m. Eastern time today to deliberate and vote on the rest of its recommendations to the General Assembly.

The 2020 Vision Team also met last night via conference call to review its draft report and recommendations to General Assembly 223. No substantive changes were made to the group’s report, including the guiding statement that commits the denomination to be “prayerful, courageous, united, serving and alive” — PCUSA.

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Documents:

  1. Way Forward Commission draft recommendations 
  2. Way Forward Commission Appendix 10 report attachment
  3. 2020 Vision Team final report to General Assembly 223
  4. Links to the AARC documents will be posted as they are made available.

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