Unification Commission greenlights uniting the communications ministries of three PC(USA) entities

Commissioners vote unanimously to combine communications efforts among the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Mission Agency and Administrative Services Group

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Vonecia Carswell via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — On Saturday the Unification Commission took its first major step toward unifying the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, combining communications ministries in the two entities as well as the Administrative Services Group. Their senior leadership has until the commission’s next meeting Nov. 12 to determine who will run the combined efforts and to whom that leader will report.

Meeting publicly in St. Louis Saturday morning after spending Friday in closed session, commissioners unanimously approved this proposal:

“The Unification Commission supports and gives the green light to the request of the executive leadership to move ahead immediately in unifying the communications functions of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of the General Assembly and the Administrative Services Group. The executive leadership will provide a report to the Unification Commission as soon as possible and no later than its November meeting on the communications staffing and supervision plan. Specifically, the executive leadership will report on the naming of the leader of the unified communications team and to which current executive that position will report. If no plan or decision is made, the Unification Commission is prepared to take action specific to a leadership and supervision plan.”

“The request was to let us begin the operation of unifying communications immediately,” said the Rev. Dr. David Davis, a member of the Unification Commission.

“Our trust is staff will come up with this. We feel this is important,” said the Rev. Dr. Felipe Martínez, the commission’s co-moderator. “We will be ready to take the names in November or say, ‘Here is what we recommend as a commission happens.’ This is urgent, and that’s the whole point of this exercise.”

“Nov. 12 is not very far away,” said Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation. “We will keep you apprised of where we are.”

Additionally, commissioners unanimously approved a working mission statement from its Common Mission Work Group and a working purpose statement from its Governance Work Group.

Common Mission’s working mission statement is this: “The New Agency [the unification of the OGA and PMA] exists to resource mid councils and equip congregations to engage others in thriving, vital covenantal communities as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Here’s Governance’s working purpose statement for “NewGov,” the body that will oversee the management of “NewAg,” or the new agency: “NewGov sets the vision for NewAg, providing the resources and wisdom to assess emerging needs, develop program priorities, evaluate agency effectiveness and serve as a bridge between General Assembly directives and the NewAg.”

Finance Work Group’s recommendations

The commission unanimously approved four recommendations by its Finance Work Group. With the approval, the Unification Commission directs:

  • The Administrative Services Group to develop a unified chart of accounts for the 2025 fiscal year working in consultation with PMA’s executive leadership under the direction of the Finance Work Group.
  • The ASG to develop plans for changing the organization’s fiscal year from the calendar year to one that better coordinates with the General Assembly.
  • The Finance Work Group to oversee the 2024 fiscal year budget review. The Unification Commission empowers its Finance Work Group to provide regular updates to the full commission and to bring any requests which may come from executive leadership for expenditures outside the current 2024 fiscal year budget for commission approval.
  • The executive leadership to continue to prioritize programmatic, operational and administrative work that ties directly to unification during the 2024 fiscal year. This will require increased strategic planning, coordination and executive-level conversations about potential cost/program reduction in order to begin moving all areas of ministry — programmatic, operational and administrative — into alignment as we move toward a unified budget in the 2025 fiscal year.

Funding Model Development Team update

The Rev. Dr. Michael Wilson, co-moderator of the Funding Model Development Team, presented an update on the team’s work to date.

Wilson said the team has been given permission to find partners among mid councils to “do experiments” on various funding models, but “that’s been challenging.”

“We are refining models and looking for people to experiment with us,” Wilson said.

Commissioner Kris Thompson suggested to Wilson that the team consider the term “pilot” rather than “experiment.”

Like the Unification Commission, the Funding Model Development Team is tasked with delivering a report on its progress to the 226th General Assembly, which meets next summer for its online committee work followed by in-person plenary sessions in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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