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Special GA committee seeks to keep momentum going on a unified budget

The Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee is also seeking information on fund restrictions, which could complicate crafting a unified budget

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee continues to discuss ways to help three of the denomination’s entities — the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the A Corporation/Administrative Services Group — develop a unified budget to present to the 225th General Assembly next year.

“We’re at a very interesting part of our work,” said Committee Moderator Marco Grimaldo, who’s been working with the Coordinating Table to help develop a unified budget process. The Coordinating Table took a pause from meeting in April and is set to resume May 13. The special committee met via Zoom on Tuesday and will meet again May 11 and 25 as it refines the report it will make to General Assembly. Its report to the 224th General Assembly (2020), which was referred to the upcoming Assembly, is here.

Grimaldo said the work of the Coordinating Table “is playing out in a way where agency leadership is working collaboratively together. I am taking that as a win. We have often said this work is so much stronger when we can do it collaboratively across agencies.”

The conundrum remaining is determining the existing restrictions on at least some of the thousands of funds that support PC(USA) entities and their programs. Funds that are restricted to certain uses can’t readily be used for other purposes.

“It’s the thousands of restricted funds that are the complication,” said Kerry Rice, Deputy Stated Clerk in the Office of the General Assembly and staff to the committee. “It requires an examination of wills in some cases, rather than just trusting the summary written years ago.”

That kind of analysis has been performed on “certain families of funds,” Rice said, such as the funds that were given years ago for the support of the Montreat [Conference Center]-housed historical society. “We looked at about 20 funds,” Rice said, “which took weeks to review to research the entities to whom the gifts were given to see if Presbyterian Historical Society could now use those funds.”

Committee member Mathew Eardley said it’s one thing to analyze which funds can be used for which purposes, an important step for sharing resources under a unified budget. “It’s a completely different thing to say, ‘Let’s do it,’” said Eardley, who’s been working with Grimaldo and fellow committee member the Rev. Debra Avery on the Coordinating Table. “I think we’ve got to get some teeth in there. That’s why I struggle with incremental change.”

“I don’t want us to spin our wheels until February [2022], when it’s too late to do something else,” Eardley said. “If there’s something else to do, I’d rather lean into that.”

The committee discussed briefly its work in relation to the Special Committee on Per Capita and Financial Sustainability, which like the Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee has discussed the possibility of unifying the OGA and PMA. Committee members decided to take up a merger discussion beginning with their May 25 meeting.

“Agency leaders are working in really important ways I think we should affirm,” Grimaldo said. “I’m not ready to say [merger] is the right thing to do, but I think we can talk about whether it will be helpful. An important goal is collaboration across agencies in a way that honors the mission and ministry of Presbyterians. That’s a conversation I would like us to have. I think it would be instructive going into the Assembly.”

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly had the “what and if” conversation about merger last year, Rice said. “They hope to engage the [Presbyterian Mission Agency Board] in the ‘what and how’ conversation later this year or early next year,” Rice said.

Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart and the Rev. Gregory Bentley were elected last summer to be co-moderators of the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Board members decided to seek guidance from the Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly, the Rev. Gregory J. Bentley and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, on naming a successor to the committee’s former co-moderator, the Rev. Larryetta Ellis. Ellis remains on the committee but has decided to give up the co-moderator role, leaving Grimaldo as moderator for the time being.

“The work has gotten a little stickier,” Grimaldo said, indicating he’s eager for a new co-moderator to come on board.

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