Commissioners also decide to meet in person more frequently to help prepare their interim report to the 226th General Assembly in 2024
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — On Saturday the Unification Commission, which is working to unify the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, unanimously approved a 2025-26 Unified Budget Process that features the development of key unified priorities to help lead development, beginning in 2025, of a unified budget among the PMA, OGA and the Administrative Services Group.
The process, suggested to the commission by the Coordinating Table consisting of leadership and representatives from each of the three agencies and entities, is described in a memo found here. Click on “Process for Unified Budget.”
“The development of the 2025-26 unified budget is not only complex, but there are layers of responsibility and processes at play that could/should inform the development of the budget,” the memo describing the process states. “First and foremost, a unified budget requires shared priorities for the three agencies of A Corp,” that is, the ASG, OGA and PMA.
The process includes these steps, all of which are scheduled for completion by October:
- A group is formed to include the three Unification Commission members from its Finance Work Group — the Rev. Scott Lumsden, the Rev. Dr. David Davis and Ruling Elder Kris Thompson; the co-moderators of the Unification Commission, Ruling Elder Cristi Scott Ligon and the Rev. Dr. Felipe Martínez; and the executives of each of the three entities/agencies as well as an additional staff person from each.
- The group will identify and draft key unified priorities.
- The Coordinating Table will refine those priorities, which may include operational and programmatic priorities.
- The three executives will review and refine the priorities.
- The group will review the priorities and send a recommendation to the Unification Commission.
- The commission will consider the recommendation as key unified priorities for 2025-26.
- Interpretive materials and a communication plan will be developed and implemented around the key unified priorities.
“We want to know from executives and agencies what are the key budget priorities that really need to be considered a priority,” Lumsden told fellow commissioners meeting at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday. Those could be existing ministries or “something they’re not doing but would like to budget for. By getting those out on the table, we will have a full discussion of how this looks all together” by asking questions including “how do you envision this will affect the budget?” and “will you need more funds in an area?”
“It may shed some light on areas not as important now,” Lumsden said.
ASG, PMA and OGA staff “may already be doing work in a key unified way, and this will be a way to lift that up as well,” Thompson said. “Hopefully this will build on the work that’s already happening.”
Commissioners decided to meet in person in St. Louis in October as a part of the Polity, Benefits and Mission Conference going on Oct. 9-12. They’ll also meet in January 2024 in an effort to finalize their interim report to the General Assembly, which is due on Feb. 26, 2024.
They also plan to meet in person in April 2024 and just after the 226th General Assembly ends on July 6, 2024, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Most of those meetings were to have occurred via Zoom. Meeting in person is more expensive but is doable, according to Kerry Rice, deputy stated clerk in the OGA.
“You have the authority to change the budget as needed,” Rice told commissioners. “You tell us what you need, and we will figure out where [the money] needs to come from and make it happen.”
Asked to share any comments they might have as Saturday’s meeting was coming to an end, Commissioner José Rosa-Rivera, a ruling elder in the Presbiterio de San Juan, said the Presbyterian church in Puerto Rico “feels very much isolated from the rest of the church.” He told his colleagues he will ask the leadership of the three presbyteries in Puerto Rico what they know about the work of the Unification Commission.
“Many have no clue,” Rosa-Rivera told fellow commissioners through an interpreter. “I will share later what the Hispanic synod thinks of this commission.”
Joining the meeting via Zoom, the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the PMA, thanked commissioners for their work and promised them any help the agency can provide.
“My concern always is what’s going on on the ground floor with our congregations, the strength and vitality of their witness,” Moffett said. “We hope all the work we are doing will ultimately benefit our Church, and I trust it will. We’re here to support in any way we can.”
“Thank you for your work and presence, the positive energy and diligence to dive into the deep end of the pool,” Scott Ligon told her colleagues just before Saturday’s meeting adjourned.
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