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Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meets in preparation for General Assembly 223

First day of meeting sets agenda for work, engages in cultural competency training

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
   additional reporting by Rick Jones

CINCINNATI — The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) began its second meeting of 2018 to discuss matters pertinent to its reporting and recommendations to the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meeting in St. Louis in June.

Joe Morrow (left) and David Shinn at the Coordinating Council April 25, 2018 meeting of the PMA Board in Cincinnati. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Coordinating Committee

A meeting of the coordinating committee – formerly called the executive committee – set the agenda for the three-day meeting of the board and introduced the topics to be addressed during the gathering.

Mike Miller was introduced as the new chief financial officer of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and head of shared services for Louisville-based agencies. The former Deloitte partner and CFO at Fender Guitars and Churchill Downs said he has been working with the financial staff to “restructure the budget presentation” for the board and General Assembly during his first few days on the job.

The Coordinating Committee went into a closed session to discuss personnel matters, presumably to determine future leadership of the agency. The committee returned from its hour-long closed session reporting no actions were taken.

Speaking on behalf of the Governance Task Force (GTF) of the PMAB, Conrad Rocha said revisions to the manual of operations would be presented for vote during the board’s plenary session. Rocha also gave an update of the “summit” held April 8-9 to discuss the ramifications of suggestions made by the All Agency Review Committee (AARC) and Way Forward Commission (WFC) regarding revisions to the structure of the legal entity of the PC(USA) known as the A Corp.

A draft of a revised deliverance — the foundational documents of the A Corp — has been made by the GTF and task force members hope this will be used as the basis for any operational changes. The GTF has also issued a series of comments to the WFC/AARC recommendation to the General Assembly. Rocha noted, as was agreed at the summit, the WFC and AARC groups would address the PMAB in open plenary later this evening.

Molly Baskin offered a preview of the Resource Allocation and Stewardship report. The report proposes the PMAB make the ministries of Stony Point a PMA priority and that the PMAB fund $3 million of deferred maintenance and capital expenses over the next three years. The report also encourages continued collaboration between the PMA and Stony Point Center and asks the PMA and PMAB to consider hosting events at Stony Point Center.

“If the board chooses not to make these investments there’s a real decision on whether or not this is a mission priority,” said Baskin.

Denise Hampton presented an overview of the 2019 and 2020 budgets of $71.6 million and $70.6 million respectively. The balanced budgets do not use unrestricted reserves to offset expenses in accordance with a 2018 plan to restore these reserves, which currently have a balance of $12.5 million. Also proposed is an across-the-board flat rate cost recovery rate of 17 percent.

“I think this is a good news budget for the church,” said Ken Godshall, PMAB chair.

The coordinating committee returned to closed session to discuss personnel matters for the remainder of their meeting and reported no actions from this closed session.

Cecil Corbett offers words of thanks for Buddy Monahan during a service of remembrance for Monahan and Susan Osoinach at the April 25, 2018 meeting of the PMA Board in Cincinnati. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Wednesday Opening Worship and Plenary

The opening worship service of the PMAB included memorial recognition for recently deceased board members Susan Osoinach and Buddy Monahan.

Board member Shannan Vance-Ocampo said of Osoinach, “She and also Buddy would have us live into their vision for us today, to be bold, to not hoard or control and to open ourselves up to wherever the winds of the spirit may take us.”

Honoring his friend Monahan, board member Cecil Corbett said, “Buddy was a shy Choctaw Indian boy who became bold for Jesus Christ.”

J. Herbert Nelson, II speaks at the April 25, 2018 meeting of the PMA Board in Cincinnati. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

PC(USA) Stated Clerk, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, brought greetings to the PMAB, saying the denomination is “challenged, in many ways, to find a way forward for what is needed for the 21st century ministry.”

Elaborating on some of these concerns, he continued, “The PC(USA) has a history of engaging many significant struggles of the 20th century; including race, women’s equality, concerns of the LGBTQ community — each needing our acceptance and embrace.”

“We are being challenged to renew our understanding of who we are as people of faith,” said Nelson. “It’s not easy work to be a turnaround denomination, but I’m convinced God is walking with us. We’ve struggled through difficult times, but the time is now to close ranks with God. I believe we serve a God who can do abundantly more for us that we can do for ourselves. The question is not what we will do, but what we will allow God to do through us.”

Delivering remarks as the chair of the PMAB, Godshall called the A Corp proposal submitted to General Assembly by the WFC and AARC, “a major structural change,” adding “It’s been described as a modest adjustment, it is much more than that.”

Saying the PMA board’s goal was to support the joint proposal of the two groups, Godshall said the board “agree[s] with the central insights” of the recommendation.

“The PMA will work better if we can focus on mission alone,” he said. “The PMA over the last few years has not done a good job running Shared Services. Shared Services will work better in the future if participating agencies, including PMA are include at the table. In my opinion, agencies such as the [Presbyterian] Foundation, should not be included.”

Major objections to the proposal, reflected in the board’s comments to the resolution, include the delegation of power to the A Corp board, which the PMAB fears separates the PMAB from direct oversight by the General Assembly. Citing several examples, Godshall hoped the comments and revision made by the PMAB would “ensure we have not only the responsibility but the authority to run our own affairs.”

“I want to thank WFC and AARC for their work,” Godshall concluded. “It’s structural work done once a generation. They were asked by the GA to do this work, and the suggestions by the PMA are intended to make this structure work better for the good of the church… Our task is to participate to the best of our ability and trust the spirit will be present in the final outcome.”

Alex McNeill speaks on cultural competency to members of the PMA Board. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Following a report from outgoing PMA interim acting executive director Dave Crittenden, the board engaged in an hour-long cultural competency training led by Alex Patchin McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians.

“What does humility mean in our context,” he asked. “Humility is an invitation to vulnerability.”

The training explored the questions: Why is LGBTQ inclusion important for the PC(USA)?; What do we mean by sex, gender, and sexuality?; and How can we be the most welcoming?

Following administrative committee meetings, the All Agency Review Committee and Way Forward Commission will deliver a presentation on the details of its A Corp proposal to a plenary of the PMA Board.

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