LOUISVILLE (Outlook) – The Presbyterian Mission Agency board has approved a plan to transfer operational responsibility for the Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center in northern New Mexico from the Presbyterian Mission Agency to the National Ghost Ranch Foundation, a nonprofit board.
The agreement the board voted Sept. 16 to approve is contingent upon a series of agreements involving the details of the transaction, which still are being hammered out – but the intent is for the transfer to take place by January 1, 2017.
One part of the agreement that was determined after closed-door discussions is that the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) would get any money from the sale of a conference facility that Ghost Ranch owns near downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ken Godshall, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency board, said the proceeds from that sale first would be used to pay back what’s known as the “interfund balance” – about $3.6 million in funds that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has advanced Ghost Ranch over time to cover capital and operating expenses.
After that, any money left over would be considered unrestricted funds available for the Presbyterian Mission Agency to use, Godshall said.
Mark Hostetter, a member of the Ghost Ranch operating board who has been deeply involved in brokering this deal, declined to give an estimate of the value of the Santa Fe property, which was purchased in 1990 – saying that’s a “sensitive” matter because the land is up for sale. Ghost Ranch stopped operating the Santa Fe property as a conference and retreat center around 2011, and it now is vacant, Hostetter said.
When the detailed agreements are ready, a special meeting of the full board will be called “to take any and all steps necessary to enter into the agreement and covenant” and to finalize the transfer, the measure the board approved states.
Regarding the sale of the Santa Fe property, the measure states that the president of the PC(USA)’s corporate entity (that’s currently Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency) is “authorized to designate the use of proceeds from the sale of the Santa Fe, New Mexico property in a manner he reasonably determines to be in the best interests of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation” operations in New Mexico, after consulting with and approval from the chair of the board of the corporation (that’s currently Godshall).
Ghost Ranch, with 12,000 acres in northern New Mexico, is one of three national conference centers affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), along with Stony Point Center in New York and Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina.
The Presbyterian Foundation is technically the owner of the Ghost Ranch property in Abiquiu, New Mexico. In 1955, Arthur and Phoebe Pack gave the Ghost Ranch property to the Board of Christian Education of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. – in other words, to the former northern stream of the Presbyterian Church. With the reunion of the northern and southern branches of the church, the legal assets of the Board of Christian Education reverted to the Foundation in 1986, and the Board of Christian Education is now considered a constituent corporation of the Foundation.
With this new arrangement, that property ownership won’t change – the Foundation still will own the property. Oversight for Ghost Ranch would shift to the Board of Christian Education, the constituent corporation of the Foundation. The Ghost Ranch Governing Board would be dismissed, with its members being appointed to the National Ghost Ranch Foundation.
The assembly’s action states that the change would come “with the knowledge there are others ready and willing to provide similar programs missionally aligned” with the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s mission work plan. It also states that “PMA is not the agency of the General Assembly or the denomination best resourced to provide this important work, especially in view of the enormous capital needs of Ghost Ranch which exceed available and trended funding of the PMA.”
Those involved in the discussions have expressed hope for the future of Ghost Ranch, and Hostetter has said Ghost Ranch is close to being self-sufficient.
The finances are complicated – involving insurance payments for a flash flood in 2015; capitalization of property improvements; temporarily restricted funds; reserve funds the Presbyterian Mission Agency has provided for capital and operating expenses; and seasonal fluctuations in the amount of business coming to Ghost Ranch.
As of Dec. 31, 2015, a net loss for Ghost Ranch was reported of $609,236 – and that figure was reported to the 2016 General Assembly.
But adjustments have been made to that figure – including adding in more than $629,000 in insurance proceeds. There were additional expenses, too – including more than $266,000 in depreciation costs.
After all the adjustments, Ghost Ranch reported a net gain as of Dec. 31, 2015 of $16,953. The 2015 financial report of changes in net assets also includes more than $236,000 that the Presbyterian Mission Agency provided from unrestricted reserves.