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Re-envisioning and then rebuilding the Presbyterian Mission Agency

In a town hall, Diane Moffett describes a process that will better align the agency with the Matthew 25 vision

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

We are a Matthew 25 Church Image

LOUISVILLE — Over the next eight months or so, the Presbyterian Mission Agency — with input from its many partners — will embark on a three-phase Vision Implementation Plan to, as the PMA’s president and executive director put it during a staff town hall meeting Thursday, discern “what the Holy Spirit is already doing and join God in doing it.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett said the VIP process has already begun through a retreat process involving senior PMA staff. Answering two questions will be key to the entire process, she said: What does being a Matthew 25 church look like? What must the PMA do to live into the Matthew 25 vision?

The three-step process entails:

  • Reflecting, which will run through February 2021. The team will listen to pastors and staff, PMA Board members, mid council leaders and subject experts on the three Matthew 25 focus areas: building congregational vitality, eradicating systemic poverty and dismantling structural racism. New Testament scholars will be invited to exegete that crucial chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
  • Re-envisioning, which begins in February and is slated to end in May. A Leadership Innovation Team will develop goals, objectives and outcomes to help the mission agency live into the Matthew 25 vision — and “not just the PMA,” Moffett said, “but the church at large.” The product for this phase is a draft vision impact statement, which Moffett called “a narrative of a preferred future” for the mission agency.
  • Rebuilding, a process scheduled to begin in May and conclude in July. As Moffett explained it, the task will be “to design and build a new organizational structure that helps the PMA realize the Matthew 25 vision,” including the tactics needed to accomplish that goal.

“This can be uneasy,” Moffett told the nearly 200 people participating in the town hall. “It is a repositioning, a letting go, a lamenting” for having to jettison some of “the ways we’ve worked in the past.”

“We have to move forward now that we are in a difficult time” brought on by the pandemic, racial injustice and the economic downturn and how that’s affected giving to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations, mid councils and the national church. She said the agency’s senior leadership “is seeking to be as transparent as we possibly can” throughout the process.

“It can be messy, painful and hard” to take on the changes that the process will suggest, she said. “Let’s be patient, and let’s extend each other some grace.”

The purpose of rebuilding, the final of the three phases, is “to define and refine an organizational structure that aligns with the Matthew 25 vision and is positioned to help the PMA become a Matthew 25 church,” Moffett said. For example: the process could reveal that the PMA should add an office of reparations and reconciliation.

“We will determine the key roles needed to fulfill the vision and identify the persons skilled and gifted to do the work, and then assign personnel to do the work,” Moffett said.

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

Moffett said her role will be to “direct and shape the vision implementation process and provide a completed plan to the PMA Board that incorporates innovation and creativity along with biblical, theological and ecclesial principles.”

In a question-and-answer session following Moffett’s presentation, Barry Creech, director of Policy, Administration and Board Support, was identified as the person through whom staff can funnel their ideas for recommended change. Moffett said that Research Services will be providing significant data to inform the process. A consultant, Prof. David Hooker, a clergyperson and attorney who teaches the practice of conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, has been retained and will speak to staff during its development day Dec. 10.

“To be relevant, the church has to listen to what’s going on,” Moffett said. “To be always transforming, the church is always in the rhythm of death and resurrection. When you’re reforming, you’re letting go … We cling, and God is saying let go and allow us to be reformed.”

“The church is in crisis. There’s a lot going on for pastors right now, and we are the agency of mission. They need our help, and so do mid council leaders. We need their help, too,” Moffett said.  “Our churches have got to be strong.”

Ecumenical and interfaith partners will be part of the dialogue, she said, as will young people, with whom “we have a lot of work to do,” Moffett said. “I think we have a great opportunity there.”

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly is undertaking a similar process, Moffett said, one in which she is participating.

Near the close of the hour-long town hall, Moffett thanked those in attendance and said she appreciated their comments and questions.

“We will endeavor to do the very best we can to discern what the Spirit is saying to the church,” Moffett said, “and then be bold enough to make the adjustment we need to make as we look forward to passing on the legacy of who we are as the Body of Christ to the generations beyond us.”

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