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The PC(USA)’s Unification Commission wraps up its two-day meeting with a brief public session

Governance Work Group presents a new working statement, and commissioners tweak their Covenant

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Shane Rounce via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — As they did Thursday, members of the Commission on the Unification of Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency spent almost all their time Friday meeting in closed session as a committee of the whole. Commissioners emerged Friday afternoon from their gathering at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, for a 20-minute public session before praying and adjourning.

Commissioners approved amendments to their Covenant, which can be seen in its original form here. Commissioners approved the Rev. Francis Lin’s suggestion, that commissioners “assume the best when we receive communication,” and also approved Commissioner Kris Thompson’s addition of “with the intention of gaining clarity” to the sixth item in the Covenant, “To address things authentically, transparently and directly.”

Commissioner Carson Brown called the Covenant “a great way to start our meetings for work that’s constantly changing. It’s great to be able to hold onto those.”

The Rev. Scott Lumsden of the Finance Work Group reported on the work that’s been required to build a unified budget for 2025-26. The Unification Commission will hold a special meeting via Zoom on May 9 to approve the budget ahead of the 226th General Assembly, set for June 25 through July 4.

Lumsden praised Ian Hall, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as well as others on the executive team. “We want to commend them for upholding values of being nimble and willing to change,” Lumsden said. “We know the process has not been easy.”

Commissioners did not make public the proposed budget, which is still in development.

“We continue to thank you for your work,” Commission Co-Moderator Cristi Scott Ligon told the Finance Work Group. “You’ve taken on a large task.”

Speaking for the Consultations Work Group, the Rev. Dr. Dee Cooper said just one consultation remains, this one with moderators and co-moderators of previous General Assemblies. Cooper thanked her colleagues on the commission who have served as facilitators for consultations, and also thanked staff, particularly Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, and Alejandra Sherman, executive assistant to the president, for their efforts coordinating the consultations across time zones and amidst busy schedules.

The Rev. Debra Avery of the Governance Work Group presented working statements for both the new governance of the combined entities, referred to as “NewGov,” and for the new agency itself, which the Governance Work Group calls “NewAg.”

“We envision a NewAg that is agile and responsive to dynamic and ever-changing contexts, focused on mid-council and congregational support and development,” is the Vision Statement for NewGov.

NewGov’s Mission/Purpose Statement reads: “The mission of NewGov is to support NewAg by 1) setting and ensuring the implementation of the strategic vision; 2) serving as a bridge between NewAg and General Assembly directives and mid-council and congregational needs; 3) providing wisdom, resources, and oversight as NewAg identifies emerging needs and develops program priorities; and 4) evaluates missional effectiveness.

The Vision Statement for NewAg is this: “We envision a church where congregations of every size, shape and people are thriving as they share the liberating and transforming love of Christ in their unique settings.”

NewAg’s Mission/Purpose Statement is: “The mission of NewAg is to resource mid councils and equip congregations as they seek to be in thriving, vital communities and be better able to engage their communities as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Avery also thanked staff and elected leaders “for making yourselves available to us.”

Next steps for the Governance Work Group include meeting with the leadership of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board “about the work of their respective teams,” Avery said. “We want to make sure we don’t miss anything that’s not obvious to us as we create a picture of what it’s going to take to move forward.” Those meetings are scheduled in the next couple of weeks, Avery noted.

After that, the Governance Work Group plans to “build out a timeline for the interim governance. It’s quite the generative process,” Avery said. “We will continue to develop what agency leadership needs to look like. The hope is we will get more flesh on the bones.”

“Debra, it looks like you’re on the right path,” Scott Ligon said before offering up a prayer before adjournment, thanking the Almighty “for the call of this assignment. Although it’s an extraordinary task, you assigned it to us, ordinary people,” Scott Ligon prayed. “We know if we keep our focus on you, we will not labor in vain.”

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