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The PC(USA)’s Unification Commission will consider bringing on a consultant to help with its ‘daunting work’

The scope of work, timeline and price tag are to be determined

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Riccardo Ginevri via Unsplash

STORM LAKE, Iowa — Meeting online Saturday, the Unification Commission heard from three human resources experts in the Administrative Services Group — Ruth Gardner, Anisha Hackney and Rick Purdy — on how a consultant might be brought on to strengthen the work of the commission as it merges the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

All three, said Gardner, the Human Resources director in the ASG, have “lived through mergers and restructures” in their previous work. “We’re happy to help you with the daunting work before you,” Gardner told commissioners.

Once potential consultants have been identified — it can be an individual or a firm that’s selected, depending on the scope of the work that commissioners determine — they’ll “need clarity about the work that’s expected. They will also have expectations of you,” Gardner said. “The engagement together will make the process work.”

The price tag will depend on the amount of work and the level of engagement that the commission expects. “Is it getting the organization from Point A to Point B? From Point A to Point F? Is it a completely reorganized organization? You define the parameters, and you should talk about budgets, the start date and timelines,” Gardner said.

Purdy, a human resources generalist in the ASG, has seen consulting engagements last as long as 18 months, but “I’ve been involved in shorter ones, too,” Purdy said.

Hackney, the ASG’s human resources manager, said that since “the space of consulting is now so broad and expansive,” HR leaders in the ASG can “help you curate a list” of consultants to interview.

“A lot of the top experts come out of those consulting houses,” Hackney said. “If they don’t have a skillset, they know which firms or solo sources to tap into.”

Commissioner Kris Thompson asked if the three meeting with the commission Saturday can “give us some sense of groups you are familiar with who come out of the nonprofit experience.”

“I have had conversations with colleagues who directed me to people with certain bodies of expertise,” Hackney said. “Rick and Ruth are also having those conversations. We think it’s important to move beyond the traditional consulting houses.”

Purdy noted that “the good organizations should be able to handle the complexity” posed by the structure PC(USA), which is complex in part because of the denomination’s polity. “If they can’t, they should be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to form a small group to, as commissioner the Rev. Debra Avery put it, “put together parameters around a consultancy.”

Before voting to move into closed session to discuss personnel and property matters, commissioners reported on progress made by the commission’s four teams — Consultations, Financial, Governance and Common Mission.

The Rev. Scott Lumsden said the financial team has been meeting weekly and has been learning from leaders in both the OGA and PMA about their budgeting process. Some of what team members have learned would be discussed in closed session on Saturday, Lumsden said.

Speaking on behalf of the governance team, Avery was able to meet with the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee. “We will report back some information in closed session,” Avery said.

The governance team also plans to meet with valerie Izumi, manager for General Assembly Nominations, on how the nominations process could be impacted by the commission’s work.

Commissioners have upcoming meetings via Zoom on July 22 and Aug. 20. They’ll meet in person in St. Louis during the fall Polity, Benefits and Mission Conference.

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