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PMA Board affirms per capita increases, hears committee reports

Stony Point Task Force continues work for April meeting

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
  additional reporting by Rick Jones and Paul Seebeck

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), brings greetings to the February 2018 Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting in Louisville. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) concluded its February meeting here today approving a recommended an increase in per capita funding to be considered by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly 223 (2018) this summer in St. Louis.

Speaking on the topic in his greetings to the PMAB, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), said, “We have voted for an ambitious budget. It is ambitious for what we have been through over last 30 years in the life of this denomination. … There are a number of reasons for the decline and over the years, [and] we’ve struggled to keep up with the work needed to repair this denomination.”

Saying Presbyterians have one of the highest per-capita incomes among mainline Protestants, he said the PC(USA) has an opportunity and obligation to respond to people suffering in a divided nation.

“This is a challenge for the whole denomination,” he said. “Don’t forget we are a faithful group of people. The world belongs to God; in life and in death we belong to God. It’s not a question of whether we have enough but if we are faithful. … If every Presbyterian gave one dollar a month it would meet the budget, and the number we put on the table will make this a turnaround denomination. One dollar a month…

“By grace, we woke up this morning and God gave us that. What are we willing to give in return?”

PMA Board members vote to accept per capita recommendations for consideration by General Assembly 223 (2018). (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Ken Godshall, PMAB chair, called the vote on the per capita increases and gave his encouragement for a yes vote, saying 100 percent of the OGA budget is funded by 86 percent of per capita giving, while 14 percent is allocated to the PMA, which represents just two percent of its budget.

In a reversal of course from yesterday’s Executive Committee vote (1-7) not to approve the per capita increases — from the current $7.73 to $10.71 in 2019 (+39 percent) and $11.45 in 2020 (+7 percent) — the PMAB as a whole voted overwhelmingly to approve the recommendation and forward it to the General Assembly.

Stony Point

Citing “decision fatigue” the Stony Point Sustainability Task Force delayed its final report to the PMA board until April. But in its progress report, it gave a preview of difficult questions the board will face at its next meeting.

In reporting Stony Point’s “hospitality, interfaith and justice ministries are sustainable on an operational basis,” task force chair Molly Baskin said, “No one is more surprised than I by this outcome.”

For years, Stony Point which is owned by PMA produced revenue losses. But since 2013, it has doubled its average occupancy rate from 22 to 45 percent. And Stony Point’s Community of Living Tradition (CLT) — an interfaith community that is one-third each Christian, Jewish and Muslim — is the denomination’s most visible and intentional demonstration of the interreligious stance adopted by the 2014 General Assembly.

“Is this a ministry we want to be a part of?” Baskins asked. “I suspect the answer is yes.”

But Stony Point is facing estimated deferred maintenance costs of $2.5 million, which she indicated the center can’t cover in a reasonable amount of time, leaving the board with difficult questions to answer in April.

“Should Stony Point and the CLT continue to be a part of PMA?” she asked.

“If so, should we provide money, the capital needed for the deferred maintenance in the relative near term? Is it a priority versus other programs we’re spending money on?

“If the answer is no,” she said, “we’ll have to reconsider our answer to the first question. Do we want to be a part of Stony Point’s ministry?”

Shannon Vance-Ocampo, who yesterday proposed an amendment to the Governance Task Force recommendation to add two ecumenical advisory delegates to the board, introduced a clarifying motion to clarify these delegates are to be corresponding, and not voting, members of the board. The motion passed without debate.

Program committee reports

Jan Edmiston (left), Co-Moderator of General Assembly 222, and Heath Rada, Moderator of General Assembly 221, speak during a break fo the Feb. 2018 meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

The program committee on Resource Allocation and Stewardship received and forward a report from the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) in addition to two actions pertaining to the transfer of the Congregational Ministries Publishing (CMP) group from the PMA’s Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry area to the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC).

First, a grant of $129,882 is to be affected in 2018 pursuant to the transfer. Second, grants derived from Presbyterian Foundation funds allocations of $150,118 in 2018 and $280,000 in each 2019 and 2020, will ensure the efficient transfer of personnel and assets required for PPC to assume the functions of CMP.

David Shinn presented the Nurture the Body program committee report, recommending the board approve Presbyterian Intercultural Network (PIN) resolution, continue the board’s relationship with Presbyterian Women, and affirm the board’s relationship with related racial-ethnic schools. The group also presented the Women of Faith Award nominees to be forwarded to General Assembly 223. All action items were approved by the board.

The Outreach to the World program committee held its inaugural meeting during the PMA Board meeting this week with Joe Morrow serving as committee chair. The committee received a final report and recommendations for the General Assembly from Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).

Recommendations include affirming the need for urgent and robust responses to the threat of climate change, a report on MRTI’s engagements with companies in the last two years and affirming guideline metrics to measure progress with corporations.

“We want to continue to encourage this as denominational wide conversation. It is an urgent issue and threatens the well-being of many communities,” said Morrow. “We also ask that the General Assembly underscore our commitment to working through this issue and provide assistance for those most adversely affected by climate change. We are committed to advocate and stand with the poor and those that are under threat and under-resourced in our nation.”

MRTI has been engaging with corporations since 1971. Rob Fohr, director of the Mission Agency’s Office of Faith Based Investing, reported that 83 percent of its work the past two years has centered around environmental discussions with auto, utility and chemical industries.

The board concluded its work with a closed session from which no actions were reported.

The next meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency will be held April 25–27 in Cincinnati.

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