NEW YORK (Outlook) – Now the work begins.
The 12-person Way Forward Commission – empowered to create a vision for the national church structure of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – begins its work today with a meeting Dec. 12-13 at Auburn Seminary in New York.
In response to a swirl of conversation about the future of the PC(USA), the 2016 General Assembly voted 480-86 to create the commission, instructing it to “study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly entities of the PC(USA).”
The commission was part of the assembly’s response to reports of review committees for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and for the Office of the General Assembly – and to recommendations that a possible merger of those entities be explored.
The word “commission” is important. That means the assembly gave the commission the power to act – without necessarily waiting for approval from a subsequent assembly.
At this first meeting, the commission will try to come up with an initial plan for how it will proceed – including discussing ways of gathering information and input; identifying issues it wants to take on and ways of collaborating with others; and structuring its work.
The Way Forward Commission is one of three groups doing comprehensive thinking about the work of the national church and its structures. The other two are:
- The 2020 Vision Team, which the 2016 General Assembly voted 547-27 to create, asking it to set a new vision for the denomination by 2020, a guiding statement that “will help us to name and claim our denominational identity as we seek to follow the Spirit into the future.” The vision team’s co-moderators are Bernadette Coffee, a ruling elder from Tres Rios Presbytery, and Lisa Juica Perkins, a teaching elder from Grace Presbytery.
- The All Agency Review Committee, which will review the interactions of the PC(USA)’s six agencies and is a part of the denomination’s regular review process. The review committee’s moderator is Deborah Block, a teaching elder from the Presbytery of Milwaukee.
The task the General Assembly gave to the Way Forward Commission is to look at the structures and staffing at the national levels of the church – to identify a vision which:
“shall take into account the ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), but shall not be bound by the current configuration of those ministries, except where mandated by the church’s Constitution. The mandate of the commission is to engage/contract a qualified, examination team that may include some or all of the All Agency Review team, with the requisite skills and abilities to assess institutional performance, both internally among the agencies and externally as they interface with the congregations. This examination team is charged with conducting a comprehensive, detailed analysis that will provide clearly detailed, measurable recommendations for improvements to the commission for implementation by the agencies. The commission shall further describe and implement a General-Assembly level staffing pattern that will accomplish its vision.”
The assembly mandated that the Way Forward Commission’s 12 members would be chosen by Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, co-moderators of the 2016 General Assembly, along with Heath Rada and Larissa Kwong Abazia, who served as moderator and vice-moderator of the 2014 General Assembly.
The commission’s moderator is Mark Hostetter, a PC(USA) teaching elder who has worked as an executive at a money management firm and is associate pastor for mission to the corporate world at The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York.
The Way Forward commission’s members are:
Samuel L. Bonner (Presbytery of New Brunswick) serves as a member of session and co-chair of the finance committee for Covenant Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey. He is also a member of the presbytery Task Force on Mass Incarceration. Sam is a commissioned national bank examiner with large organization risk analysis expertise.
Julie L. Cox (Presbytery of New Harmony) serves as associate executive presbyter and associate stated clerk. Her portfolio includes resourcing New Harmony’s camping, congregational development, education & nurture, mission, worship & spiritual formation ministries, committee on preparation for ministry, committee on ministry, and its program and administrative councils. Julie has served as clerk of session at First Presbyterian Church, Hartsville, South Carolina, and will be teaching children’s Sunday school this autumn.
Sara Dingman (Presbytery of Missouri River Valley) serves the eight presbyteries of the Synod of Lincoln Trails as their transitional synod executive. Prior to this Sara served as an interim executive presbyter in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. Ordained a teaching elder in 1998, Sara has served the 21st century church in a variety of congregations and contexts.
Mathew Eardley (Presbytery of Boise) serves on session and as chair of the mission committee at First Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. He also serves on the committee on ministry and financial review committee for the Presbytery of Boise. Mathew fills his days working for Jitasa, a company that provides bookkeeping and accounting services to the nonprofit sector.
Mark Hostetter, moderator (Presbytery of New York City) is the associate pastor for mission to the corporate world at The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, and for the past twenty years has also been CEO of a large money management firm. Mark is the current board chair of Auburn Theological Seminary and strategic planning chair of New York Theological Seminary, recent board chair of the Ghost Ranch Governing Board, strategic consultant to the Presbyterian Foundation, and has just been elected to the board of directors/trustees of Montreat Conference Center.
Eileen W. Lindner (Presbytery of the Palisades) is pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly and serves the presbytery as a member of the committee on ministry and as president of the board of trustees. She was editor of The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2000–2013.
Raymond (Cliff) Lyda (Presbytery of St. Augustine) has recently retired as a teaching elder and has relocated from greater Chicago to Gainesville, Florida. While in the Presbytery of Chicago he served as moderator, and as a leader in renewal and restructuring efforts in the presbytery. Most recently he served as moderator of the Review Committee on the Office of the General Assembly.
Adan A. Mairena (Presbytery of Philadelphia) serves as the pastor of the West Kensington Ministry and the Yeadon Presbyterian Church. Adan is also a member of the PC(USA) Urban Ministry Team and was a director of the board for the Board of Pensions for the denomination. Adan serves on presbytery committees, local nonprofit boards, and collaborates with city government, law enforcement, and other agencies to address quality of life issues in Philadelphia.
Eliana Maxim (Presbytery of Seattle) has served as the associate executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Seattle for the past six years. Her primary focus areas include church redevelopment and revitalization, new and immigrant worshiping communities, and missional partnerships. Eliana serves on the PC(USA) Hispanic/Latino National Caucus as vice-moderator. She has previously served on the 220th General Assembly (2012)’s Committee on the Belhar Confession; the Committee on Church Wide Conversation on Race, Racism, Ethnicity, and Ethnocentrism; and the 221st General Assembly (2014)’s Review Committee for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
Patricia Rarumangkay (Presbytery of National Capital) is a ruling elder at Emmanuel Indonesian Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Maryland, where she has served as the mission committee coordinator and currently serves as co-coordinator of the education committee. She is part of her presbytery’s immigrant ministry network (IMN), and she is passionate about helping to develop programs and initiatives that will further empower the young adult and new immigrant groups. Patricia currently works at an international financial institution based in Washington D.C.
Josephene (Jo) Stewart (Presbytery of Charlotte) is a member of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, where she has served in numerous roles over the years, including chair of the global relations team. She just ended a four-year term on the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) and was vice-chair for the last two years; as vice-chair, she also served as the PMAB representative for the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. Jo is currently a member of the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Inc., Board. She is retired from Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson) where she was a principal and senior consultant.
Emily Marie Williams (Presbytery of Grace) is a junior intercultural communications major at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. She has served on a plethora of committees and planning teams at her church, presbytery, and synod level. Emily hopes to one day go to seminary, be a journalist, or do public relations for a National Hockey League team.