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PMAB Governance Task Force reports progress

Reduced size and redefined roles suggested for Presbyterian Mission Agency Board

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – The Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) will hear a progress report from the Governance Task Force (GTF) at its January 26, 2017, meeting that suggests changes to the size and structure of the board, including the number of corresponding members.

The task force is considering a reduction in the supplemental roles that PMAB members are currently required to fill. “This eliminates the need for as many members and allows those that remain more time to focus on the issues directly facing the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA),” said the Rev. Ken Godshall, PMAB chair.

Reducing the size of the board from 40 to 16 members, the report says, would enable focused discernment on the increased mission needs of the church. It would also allow the board to operate more “efficiently and effectively,” resulting in a structure that is “more cost-efficient, more resource-efficient, [and allow for] more effective decision-making.”

These potential changes also address some of the issues raised by the PMA Review Committee related to the relationship between PMA and the Office of General Assembly (OGA), and oversight of the Presbyterian Church (USA), A Corporation. The PC(USA), A Corporation is the principal corporate entity of the General Assembly.

The GTF proposal recommends that two members from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA – OGA’s board) be invited to serve on each of three committees of PC(USA), A Corporation, which would include Audit, Personnel and Property/Legal, where they will have voice and vote.

The task force confirmed an ongoing commitment to engage with the other national agencies to deliver mission and ministry in alternative, but theologically sound and cost-effective ways. The GTF proposes replacing the current Corresponding, Ex Officio, Committee At-Large and Ecumenical Advisory members with eight representatives: one from each from of the six agencies, the moderator of Presbyterian Women, and the General Assembly moderator.

Affirming the work of the Advocacy and Advisory committees, the task force is committed to listening to and working with these groups to understand the vital role they play in a more inclusive and justice-minded church. In place of the current practice of deploying board members to Advocacy and Advisory boards and other ministry partners, the task force recommends creation of a Liaison Committee that would be responsible for ensuring ongoing meaningful communications and dialogue with these groups.

The task force is also reviewing the qualifications for potential board members. It is considering changes to the overly detailed membership specifics and focuses instead on skill sets and broad geographic, racial/ethnic, gender and age representation — a process comparable to other General Assembly Agencies.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) at its February 2016 meeting established the Governance Task Force to review all aspects of Board governance. The Task Force initially focused on ways to make the board more effective and responsive within the current structure — those things that could be done without General Assembly approval. The changes recommended were approved by the Board in April 2016 and implemented at the September 2016 meeting with positive results.

The current proposal would require the approval of the General Assembly before implementation, or possibly sooner than that, using an alternate process through the GA’s Way Forward Commission.

“The objective of the Governance Task Force is to develop a board structure that is faithful and aligns with our polity and missional values, is nimble and responsive, and provides an engaging and meaningful experience for board members,” said Godshall.

Following reception of the report by the PMAB Executive Committee, it will be presented to the Way Forward Commission during its February 7, 2017, conference call. The task force indicated the report is open for comment, saying they “welcome feedback and discussion. An open and public vetting will only improve the process and the final structure.”

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