For leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), there is much work to be done in the months to come. Among the tasks:
- Find an interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, to replace Linda Valentine, who has announced that she is resigning effective July 10.
- Work on the next Mission Work Plan – a framework which will guide the PC(USA)’s mission budget for 2017 and 2018.
- Consider at the September 23-25 meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board a process for a churchwide conversation on mission, priorities and structures of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Some board members also have raised the possibility of whether the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly (the denomination’s ecclesiastical arm) should merge, in recognition of growing financial constraints and continuing membership declines.
During a conference call June 25, members of the board’s executive committee discussed some of the complexities of those tasks – including the difficulty of trying to embark on a four-year planning process (which had been the original intent) at a time when the executive director is leaving.
The committee also discussed a request for clarification of the roles of Presbyterian Mission Agency staff and board members as this work begins – particularly as a long-term Mission Work Plan is being developed at the same time an interim executive director is being chosen.
“Everyone in the strategy process is well-aware that we are functioning under new circumstances,” an informational report to the executive committee states. “There is a great desire on the part of elected and staff members to do their work well. There is also potential for role confusion, since everyone feels an obligation to get the strategy ‘right’ and to listen to the voices of the church.”
On July 1-2, the board’s Mission Work Plan Strategic Advisory Group will meet on a retreat in Dallas – bringing together seven members of the board with a group of Presbyterian Mission Agency staff members to talk about next steps. At its April 2015 meeting, the board’s executive committee ratified the appointments of seven board members to serve on the Strategic Advisory Group: Mark Brainerd, Kenneth Godshall, Chad Herring, Regina Meester, Joseph Morrow, Jo Stewart and Wendy Tajima.
According to the report, the original idea had been this: In April 2016, the board would take final action on a Mission Work Plan for 2017-2020 and a budget for 2017-2018 that would be presented to the 2016 General Assembly in Portland.
“Staff will develop the proposal for board feedback and approval over a period of months,” the report states. “The staff team working on this effort will be called the Strategy Working Group. Consultation with board members will occur at board meetings and between meetings through occasional listening sessions. In addition, several board members will be appointed members of a Strategic Advisory Group.”
That Strategic Advisory Group would:
- Meet at regular intervals to provide feedback to the Strategy Working Group as the Mission Work Plan is being developed.
- “Provide input and insight into the strategic planning process from the perspective of stakeholders.”
- “Surface opportunities, sensitivities, concerns and/or potential areas of disagreement, and address or forward them appropriately.”
- “Review and provide feedback on key strategic planning documents drafted by the Strategy Working Group.”
During the conference call, the Executive Committee discussed the reality that it will be difficult to draft a four-year Mission Work Plan in the midst of changing leadership at the executive director level – recognizing that whoever is selected would want to have a voice in the process.
The decision was made to take on the work in this order:
- Start first by working on a “strategy bridge” to guide development of the Mission Work Plan and budget for 2017-2018.
- Develop for the September 23-25 board meeting a recommendation on a process to consider a churchwide conversation on the mission, priorities and structures of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
- Begin the efforts to search for a new Presbyterian Mission Agency executive director (following the appointment of an interim).
The board also will hold a retreat July 22-24 in Philadelphia, at which these issues likely will be discussed further.