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PMAB Governance Task Force seeks a smaller, more responsive board

Group updates executive committee at three-day retreat

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

ST. PAUL – The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) Executive Committee received an update on Monday from the PMAB Governance Task Force, which continues to support a smaller board that is “more nimble and responsive.”

Among the task force recommendations is to a proposal to allow representatives from the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy, the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns and the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns to remain on the agency board.

Members of the PMAB Governance Task Force discuss recommendations with the Executive Committee at a meeting in St. Paul. Photo by Rick Jones.

At its February 2016 meeting, the PMAB established the Governance Task Force to conduct a review of all aspects of Board governance. Its initial focus was to look for ways the Board could be more effective and responsive to the current structure. The Board approved the recommended changes at its April 2016 meeting and implemented them the following September.

The task force is considering a reduction in the supplemental roles that PMAB members are required to fill. In its initial report to the Board, the task force recommended a reduction in Board size from 40 to 16 members. The task force says a smaller Board would allow it to operate more effectively, and make it more cost and resource-efficient.

“The fire in our belly is not the balance sheet. It is about our ministry and mission. We need infrastructure, we are driven by directional goals,” said Greg Chan, task force member. “We can always improve and this is how we can be more effective and efficient and be a better body of Christ in the world.”

Instead of making cuts in the Board, the task force is considering reducing the Board size through attrition over time. However, the group emphasizes that keeping the “richness of diversity” should be at the forefront.

“This would actually help increase diversity on our board,” said Task Force Member Conrad Rocha. “Currently 54 percent of our board is white. If we don’t fill vacancies, we will see that drop to a 48 to 42 split during the first cycle and by the third cycle, we will have flipped the diversity of the board.”

Rocha recommends that the attrition process be continually monitored, specifically as it relates to Native American representation on the board.

“We want to ensure our Native American brothers and sisters don’t drop off the map. We could use board vacancies to ensure that population is covered,” Rocha said. “Through attrition, we will see a closer balance in male/female representation. We also have to recognize that we could go from one member under 25 to no members under 25. We have to address that.”

The task force is also looking at changing board terms from one six-year term to one four-year term with the possibility of renewing for an additional four years.

“Six years is a long time to commit as a board member. This will make it easier to recruit people who would be willing to do this,” said task force member Molly Baskin. “It will help with succession planning with the board and it would also help with maintaining and increasing diversity.”

Among the new concepts under consideration would be clarifying responsibilities of the board chair as well as creating a succession plan by the vice-chair.

“We’d like to have a vice-chair who is also chair-elect, so that this individual has two years to be a major participant,” said Al Puryear, task force member. “With seamless leadership in a board that turns over every six years, there will always be a new leader who is prepared to step in.”

A part of the task force recommendations will be presented to the full board during its September meeting in Louisville with the remaining parts to be presented at next February’s meeting.

Rocha followed discussion by making a motion to extend the task force’s work through the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in order to work in tandem with the Way Forward Commission, All Agency Review Committee and the 20/20 Vision Team. The PMAB Executive Committee approved the motion for full board approval in the fall.

The PMAB Executive Committee is meeting in St. Paul through midday Wednesday.

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