Work restructure, bridge Mission Work Plan, budget highlight actions
by Gregg Brekke, Rick Jones, Emily Enders Odom and Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concluded its April 2016 meeting with an approved 2017-18 bridge Mission Work Plan and a budget with 15 percent reductions over the same period. The board also approved a work restructuring plan that includes job reassignments, elimination of programming and staff reductions.
J. Herbert Nelson, II, current director of the PC(USA) Washington-D.C. Office of Public Witness and nominee for Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, addressed the PMAB saying, “I pray we have the courage to move in these difficult times and I am convinced the world needs church to be faithful, hear the voice of the Lord in everything we do. That has been my calling for the last 30 years of ordained ministry and it will be my calling if elected to this position [Stated Clerk] in the days to come.”
At the conclusion of the April 29, 2016 meeting, Ken Godshall and Marsha Zell Anson were installed as chair and vice-chair Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
In addition to receiving the Corporate Report and delaying action to receive the completed Audit Committee Report, specific actions by the PMAB on committee recommendations and reporting groups include:
Approve the Staffing Rationale for 123 Presbyterian Mission Agency staff and 71 elected members or guests to attend the 222nd General Assembly (2016) in Portland, Oregon.
Approved comments to overtures and reports for consideration by the General Assembly in June.
- Overture 067 – “On the PC(USA) Continuing its Efforts to Dismantle Racism Within Our Denomination”
- Recommendation 2 of “A Resolution to Expand Family Leave Policies” (ACWC)
- “Recommended Benchmarks for OGA and PMA” (GACOR)
- “A Resolution to Ensure Just Compensation Practices for Those Employed via Third Party Contractors” (ACWC)
- Overture 078 – “On Achieving a 5:1 Ratio Between the Highest Paid and Lowest Paid Employees of PMA”
- Overture 018 – “On Merging the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly into a Single Entity”
Approved Board of Pensions revisions to benefits plans, including:
- All eligible employees participate in the Pension (11 percent) and Death and Disability (1 percent) plan.
- All eligible employees will be given the opportunity for no cost coverage for member only Medical coverage level.
- For any other Medical plan coverage level, eligible employees will pay a percentage of the unsubsidized premium rate for the option of their choice based on their salary level.
- If salary is less than $44,000, then 2%
- If salary is between $44,000 and $88,000, then 5%
- If salary is greater than $88,000, then 10%
Approved replacement of the current Lay Equalization Program with a 403(b) benefit program for eligible employees who are not “ministers performing services in the exercise of ministry.” (H.109)
Appointed Jo Stewart, Chad Herring, Glen Snider and Marci Glass to a task force to represent the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board in conversations with the Ghost Ranch Governing Board regarding the development of future ministry opportunities at Ghost Ranch Conference Center.
Approved a referral to the Executive Committee for approval the 2014 and 2015 year-end financial reports, budgets, and other reports for the 222nd General Assembly (2016), pending approval of the 2015 audit and reconciliation of the numbers. (A.103)
Approved the 2017 Presbyterian Mission Agency Budget in the total amount of $63,530,297 and the 2018 Presbyterian Mission Agency Budget in the total amount of $63,450,591. (A.102)
Recommended several actions for board approval around the issues of racism and ethnic concerns including the Churchwide Conversation on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentricity Report for the 222nd General Assembly.
Among its recommendations is the translation of all communications and resources in order to connect and encourage engagement of all levels of the denomination. The committee also wants to see translations of materials to include other languages such as Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Portuguese and Twi.
The report would also direct the six agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to conduct a complete review of their practices and policies as they impact people of color and racial diversity.
The committee recommended the approval of the revised Churchwide Antiracism Policy, which challenges the church to conduct a personal self-examination of its participation with structures supporting and maintaining racism and direct the Office of the General Assembly to make the revised policy and study guides available to congregations. It would also direct the OGA, the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Board of Pensions to host a series of regional conversations on race.
Approved and forward to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) ten comments on overtures that will be before the assembly.
At its meeting on April 28, the committee had devoted considerable time to amending and expanding upon several of those comments, namely those written to inform the commissioners on Overture 047, “ On Communicating Gratitude for the Study of the Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’” and Overture 065, “On Offering an Apology to Native American, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.”
Of the committee’s amendments to the comment on Overture 047, Nancy Ramsay, Leadership Committee chair, clarified for the board that the overture refers to an encyclical from Pope Francis concerning challenges to the environment.
“We believe we enriched the comment by adding a reference to an available PC(USA) resource, ‘Covenanting For Justice in the Economy and the Earth’ and to our ecumenical colleagues,” Ramsay said.
With regard to the comment on Overture 065, Ramsay presented the committee’s rationale for its several amendments.
“In our comment, I call your attention to the ways in which we inserted language to assure our apology by acknowledging the harms done by the PC(USA),” Ramsay explained. “We also inserted language to include a reference at the end of the comment to include a repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, and to reference a previous action by the World Communion of Reformed Churches.”
PMAB member, Cecil Corbett of Lapwai, Idaho, stood to speak to various factual errors that he had identified in the body of the overture.
To accomplish the goal articulated by Corbett, PMAB member, Wendy Tajima, moved “to amend the comment to this overture to request that factual data and edits be revisited by the relevant GA committee.” The motion was approved.
Ramsay lifted up for the board several key information items included in the committee’s report. Among those were updates on Presbyterian Women, which will hold its 2018 Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women, August 2–5, 2018, in Louisville, Kentucky, and a reminder to the board that the deadline for the next new class of Young Adult Volunteers is June 1.
Ramsay also called the board’s attention to the committee’s information item C, which reported that the committee had approved a motion related to the “Churchwide Conversation on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentricity Report,” an action item that was before the PMAB’s Justice Committee. The motion was to facilitate a conversation between the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) and the Office of the General Assembly in order to add to the available resources for mid councils as they engage the work of antiracism training in presbyteries and synods.
In making the original motion to the committee on April 28, PMAB member, Shannan Vance-Ocampo, transitional presbyter for Albany Presbytery, cited the critical need for such training at the mid council level.
“Since the seminaries have already been developing such curriculum, it can be a blessing for us as we engage this topic for the larger church,” said Vance-Ocampo in presenting the motion to the committee.
Approved comments on three overtures to be forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016):
1) Overture 040 “Regarding who Can Access the Lords Supper” seeks to amend language of the current Directory of Worship. Already before the Assembly is a recommendation by Presbyterian Mission Agency to revise the entire Directory for Worship. Recommends this overture by answered with action on action on the revision, which includes the following new language around the Lords Supper:
“The opportunity to eat and drink with Christ is not a right bestowed upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the underserving who come in faith, repentance and love. All who come to the table are offered the bread and cup and regardless of their age or understanding. If some of those come have not yet been baptized, an invitation to baptismal preparation and Baptism should be graciously extended.” [W-3.0409] [D.105]
2) Overture 030 On Choosing to be Church committed to the Gospel of Matthew 25
Affirms the overtures “spirit and intention” and that “we are a church already living into Matthew 25, “through the programs led by Compassion, Peace, and Justice and Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries.” Gives “special thanks for congregations that support these ministries by giving to special offerings.” [D.104]
3) Overture 029 Regarding GA endorsement of the Clergy Letter Project which affirms “the timeless truth of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.” Urges Presbyterians to “contribute to discussions about the teaching of evolution in public education.” [D.103]
The PMA Board also approved that 2016 Sam & Helen R. Walton Recipient, First Thai-Laotian Presbyterian Church, receive a one-time award of $50,000.
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