Some members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board have raised concerns about to what extent the board will be involved in shaping the mission budget for the Presbyterian Church (U.SA.) for 2017 and 2018 – wanting to understand better the process that will be used to craft the specifics of a budget that is expected to include significant cuts in programs and staff.
The board members are not necessarily saying they want to make specific recommendations about what gets funded and what gets cut. But they did raise concerns about what the process will be and to what extent board members will be involved as Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and his senior staff craft a budget to present to the board in April.
That matters, board members said during a discussion Feb. 3 at a meeting of the board’s executive committee, because they want to be able to support the budget even if includes painful cuts, and help interpret it to the broader church.
The question involves this: Once the board approves the Mission Work Plan, which it’s expected to do Feb. 4, what happens next? The board will vote on a 2017-2018 mission budget for the PC(USA) when it meets in Louisville April 27-29. “How do we make this into a strategic plan, and what is the process that is being proposed for that?” asked board member Melinda Sanders of Tennessee.
Or as board vice-chair Jo Stewart of North Carolina put it: “How do we take this (Mission Work Plan) and make a budget?”
De La Rosa described it as “preliminarily a staff process, and then it’s presented to the board.”
Sanders asked: “To put it bluntly, is the board excluded in the next step? … When the budget comes back to us, it’s already completed except for our approval. So between now and April, how is the board involved in the process?”
Chad Herring, chair of the board’s finance committee, said “this tension has been lifted up many times” – how the board can provide leadership without micromanaging the Presbyterian Mission Agency staff.
If drafting the budget is a staff-driven process, “we want to hear from you what your plans are” along the way, and the criteria for providing feedback, as the budget goes “from skeleton to full body.”
There already have been significant efforts to gather feedback about PC(USA) funding priorities, said board member Mihee Kim-Kort from Indiana. “I want to be careful that we’re not downplaying or belittling the process” of that “or becoming a board that … ends up breathing down the necks of the staff.”
The board continues to struggle with what its responsibilities are in shaping the budget, Stewart said, “so that we can then go out and support that more broadly, so we understand it.”
Herring said “there’s no desire on my part to fiddle with the numbers” – the actual funding decisions – “but to hear what the procedure is and how it gets fleshed out will be of enormous help.”
In response to those concerns, the executive committee approved a motion stating that PMAB chair Marilyn Gamm “will appoint members of the PMAB to work with the Executive Director and designees to develop implementation strategies for the Mission Work Plan for the Board’s review and action at a called meeting prior to the April meeting. This will inform budget decisions in April.”
The executive committee approved the Mission Work Plan, and the full board will vote on it during the afternoon of Feb. 4.