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Pray, hope, dream — and take risks

Nelson, Moffett invite A Corp board members to help boost involvement, inclusion

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II

LOUISVILLE — Looking out at the A Corporation’s board Thursday, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II told the 11 directors his prayer is they’re not seated behind an ordinary corporate table.

Make it a praying table, a hoping, dreaming, risk-taking table, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly urged.

Be like the 1001 New Worshiping Communities, he said, willing to fail, get up and try again. “We know who is in charge,” he said. “It’s not the A Corp, the Office of the General Assembly or the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It’s the God of salvation, who woke us up by grace this morning and gave us another day of life when somebody more deserving than any of us in this room didn’t make it.”

“The question for all of us will be, how will we make this place better than it was when we got here?” he said. “What will be our story? What contribution will all of us make? Welcome to this challenge. Welcome to this ministry.”

The A Corp, as it’s called, is the corporate expression of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It has three committees – Audit, Legal and Risk Management; Finance, Operations and Budget; and Nominating, Governance and Personnel, as well as a Translation Task Force. All committees met Thursday, as did the task force. The full board will vote on their recommendations Friday.

Working in response to a 2018 General Assembly directive to staff translation services adequately, the Translation Task Force discussed expanding those services, which currently include Spanish and Korean, to include such languages as Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic.

The balancing act, said task force member JoAnne Sharp, will be, “how do we do that and make sure we are taking care of everyone who needs services without breaking the bank?”

Fellow task force member Thomas Priest Jr. said it may be wise to value quality translation over quantity.

“Whether you are reading in Korean, English or Spanish,” he said, “it is saying the same thing, but it can be interpreted differently, as are different versions of the Bible.”

A review of revenues and expenses during the first 10 months of 2018 provided some healthy bottom-line news. With effort expended to budget conservatively, 2018 operating revenues are about $4.3 million higher than the $51 million or so that was budgeted for the first 10 months of the year, controller Denise Hampton told the board’s Finance, Operations and Budget Committee. Expenses, at a little above $60 million, are nearly $4.8 million lower than what was budgeted.

Contributions — giving from congregations, gifts, bequests, grants and special giving and special offerings receipts — were nearly $39 million during the 10-month period, about $5.9 million more than was budgeted. Support from congregations was nearly $1.1 million over budget.

On the expense side of the ledger, program expense was nearly $3.1 million under budget, mainly due to underspending in Presbyterian Mission Agency areas, for reasons including staffing vacancies and fewer Young Adult Volunteers coming forward than anticipated.

Many of the vacant positions have been eliminated in the 2019 and 2020 budgets.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Speaking just after Nelson delivered his lunch hour comments, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, told board members she hoped they’d share in a three-pronged effort to make congregations more vital, eliminate systemic poverty and stem racism.

Vital congregations, she said, “represent the incarnation of the living God.” Anyone who travels in the U.S. or abroad knows the extent of both poverty and racism, she said.

“We need to claim racism as a sin. Our confessions and everything we believe are against it,” and yet bias and bigotry are present everywhere — even within the church, she said. “If you don’t call it out, how can you deal with it?”

As the board goes through its work, Moffett invites directors’ phone calls and emails — “whatever you have for me to do to make the church healthy and strong, which I believe is the ultimate purpose. I am here to be in ministry with you.

“I know your work is challenging,” she said, “but I believe with God’s help and direction, the work will be done.”


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