SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Last fall, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board decided to add a new twist to its work: creating short-term ministerial teams to consider specific questions or issues. At the board’s meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 22-24, five of those eight initial teams will report, with the other three continuing their work.
The board is expected to vote on these reports during its final plenary session on March 24.
Role of print
This ministerial team is recommending that the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) consolidate five Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) publications into a single bimonthly publication. Those five publications are:
- Presbyterians Today;
- Mission Crossroads;
- Racial Ethnic Torch;
- Mission Mosaic;
- PHP Post.
The report states that Presbyterians Today, which currently is published six times a year, has 22,000 paid subscribers, and also receives income from advertising sales, donations and the sale of resources.
A number of ministry areas within the Presbyterian Mission Agency produce their own publications, including Mission Crossroads and Mission Mosaic, which are distributed without charge to their own constituencies, the report states. Consolidating those single-focus publications with Presbyterians Today could “increase awareness, understanding and relevancy of the PMA as a consistent, trusted resource,” the report states.
The projected cost savings from the consolidation would be $200,000, the report states – and the recommendation is to “move entirely away from a paid subscription model” for Presbyterians Today. The proposal suggests developing a timeline and appropriate steps for the proposed consolidation by January 2019, and that the consolidated publication be given a new name – possibly The Presbyterian. It also acknowledges “there is understandably opposition to consolidation.”
Why continue to use print at all? The report states that a Research Services audit “showed strong continued interest in print. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that given the PC(USA)’s demographics, there is an important segment of constituents who rely on traditional print.”
Here’s the ministerial team’s full recommendation on the role of print: I.005 Role of Print FINAL
Next steps for the Young Adult Volunteer program
This team encourages members of the board to become more familiar with the Young Adult Volunteer program – which it describes as a “solid and successful” program. It also raises the possibility of exploring two additional topics:
- Ways to involve retired Presbyterians in some sort of “volunteers in mission” program;
- Ways to broaden the goals of the Young Adult Volunteer program to emphasize more completely formation through service for young adults. That focus would explore possibilities for collaboration between the Young Adult Volunteer program and other formation programs such as the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, held every three years for high school students, and the college UKirk
The report also lists more than 20 questions that it discussed, and that other Presbyterians may want to look into more. Among them:
- Why do so many in the pews not know the Young Adult Volunteer Program exists?
- Why are a growing number of people who are offered spots in the program not accepting them?
- Do we need more rural sites?
- Is there a possibility of bringing volunteers in from other countries for a cultural exchange?
Read the full recommendation here:I.001 Next Steps for the YAV Program
Intercultural competencies for domestic mission
This ministerial team considered how intercultural competencies developed by PC(USA) World Mission might be applied to the denomination’s mission work in the U.S.
The ministerial team suggested a range of approaches – including implementing training, “because self-awareness regarding one’s own privilege and marginalization is essential for effective change.” It also suggests developing resources “to deepen understanding and skills for resisting: classism, sexism and heterosexism.”
The team also recommends investing in training of facilitators (or identifying those who already have been trained), who could provide a geographically accessible and affordable network for intercultural training which congregations and mid councils could use.
Read the report of this team here: I.002 World Mission Competencies in Domestic Mission
Next steps for 1001 New Worshipping Communities
The report refers to the possibility of additional funds being freed up for use by 1001 through legal actions in which a court is asked to make a determination regarding the use of endowment funds whose donors had imposed restrictions.
Originally, many of those funds were given for the construction of church buildings. The court actions, known as cy pres filings, will ask whether it’s proper to use those funds now for other forms of evangelism, such as the 1001 program. Church leaders said last fall that about 10 endowed funds are at stake here, involving roughly $90 million.
The ministerial team report asks the board to thank those at the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Foundation who have been working on the cy pres filings, and to ask that a new budget for 1001 be developed if the additional funds become available. That could include hiring two additional regional associates.
Read the ministerial team’s full report here:I.003 Next Steps 1001 New Worshiping Communities
Implementing the Belhar Confession
Last summer, the 2016 General Assembly voted to add the Confession of Belhar from South Africa to the PC(USA)’s Book of Confessions.
The ministerial team is encouraging the Office of Mid Council Relations to set up a designated period of implementation of the Belhar Confession and to disseminate resources for using the confession.
It also urges the Presbyterian Mission Agency to promote use of the confession in the worship and study life of mid councils and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
The report also states, “mid councils have indicated a lack of resources for ‘getting started’ (in using Belhar) or lack of ideas about what to do.”
Among the concerns respondents raised in a survey:
- Belhar doesn’t seem relevant here because U.S. Presbyterians are almost all-white;
- We’re struggling to stay afloat here, so can’t devote time and energy to this;
- Why is it more important or urgent to implement Belhar than any other confession?
The ministerial team’s report can be found here:I.004 Implementing Belhar
Three other ministerial teams are still continuing their work
They are focusing on:
- Presbyterian Mission Agency coordination with the Office of the General Assembly. A progress report from that team notes that some areas of collaboration and cooperation already exist – both formal and informal – and that there is confusion in the church about shared services and about how per capita is allocated and used. The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly also is meeting in San Juan this week, and has set up a work group to collaborate with the board’s ministerial team in discussing these issues. A progress report from this ministerial team can be found here: 206
- Allocating and communicating overhead costs.
- Questions of power and privilege.
The board may create two new ministerial teams at this meeting
The recommendation is that those teams would consider these questions:
- How shall the Presbyterian Mission Agency respond to each of the 91 referrals that the 2016 General Assembly sent to the agency?
- “What are the three most important strategic responses the Presbyterian Mission Agency can offer to advance Christ’s prophetic and compassionate mission in a divided nation?”