The All Agency Review Committee is continuing to coordinate its work with the Way Forward Commission – with joint conversations in the works particularly in three areas:
- How the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) handles administrative and overhead costs (often called shared or common services);
- The use and future of the denomination’s headquarters building in downtown Louisville, and of the Presbyterian Foundation’s office building just across the river from Louisville in southern Indiana; and
- A proposal to hire a consultant to suggest ways to improve the institutional culture in the Louisville offices, where most of the staffs from the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly work.
During a conference call Sept. 28, the committee discussed its progress and the steps ahead.
The Way Forward Commission, meeting at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Sept. 18-19, took a series of actions – some of which touch on matters All Agency Review also is considering. The two groups are working closely together – their coordinating teams meet by phone roughly every two weeks, and they held an in-person gathering in New York earlier in September.
All Agency Review does plan, however, to discuss at its meeting in St. Louis Oct. 9-10 the actions Way Forward took in Louisville. “Let’s walk through those recommendations very carefully,” to either affirm them or note any areas where the groups may have additional or differing ideas, said Deborah Block, a pastor from Wisconsin who serves as the committee’s moderator.
“I do think Way Forward moved quickly,” said Jim Wilson, a lawyer and elder from Ohio. But “I don’t have any sense that our conversation in any way would be meaningless or redundant.”
Another joint working group from All Agency and Way Forward is looking at the history, governance and structure of PC(USA), A Corporation, which serves as the corporate entity for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly. “It’s a fascinating learning experience,” said Chris Mason, a lawyer and elder from New York. When the northern and southern branches of the PC(USA) reunited in 1986, the corporation was set up to be governed “very differently than it is today.”
Marco Grimaldo, an elder from Washington, D.C., who works for Bread for the World, said he’d like another subgroup to look at racial ethnic ministry in the PC(USA) – at plans and progress “or lack thereof.”
Other issues also likely to come up at the October meeting include these:
Conversations. The committee will discuss what it’s learned from conversations its members are trying to conduct with more than 20 groups around the denomination. Representatives of those groups will be asked questions such as these:
- Describe your relationship with the six PC(USA) agencies (“what’s working, what is not working, and where is there no relationship at all?”) and with the larger church (including General Assembly and mid councils).
- How could the six agencies better serve the whole church?
- What changes to the structure of the six agencies, or the interactions among them, would threaten or harm the work of your committee?
- What role does your group have regarding evangelism and numerical growth in the PC(USA)?
- Are there other concerns you have which you want All Agency Review to consider?
Openness. The committee has sent a letter asking leaders of the denomination’s six agencies to a series of questions about the idea of using openness as a mission directive for the PC(USA). The committee discussed that idea at its meeting in Louisville Aug. 21-22 – focusing on section F-1.0404 of the Book of Order. That section states:
In Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all creation, the Church seeks a new openness to God’s mission in the world. In Christ, the triune God tends the least among us, suffers the curse of human sinfulness, raises up a new humanity, and promises a new future for all creation. In Christ, Church members share with all humanity the realities of creatureliness, sinfulness, brokenness, and suffering, as well as the future toward which God is drawing them. The mission of God pertains not only to the Church but also to people everywhere and to all creation. As it participates in God’s mission, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) seeks:
a new openness to the sovereign activity of God in the Church and in the world, to a more radical obedience to Christ, and to a more joyous celebration in worship and work;
a new openness in its own membership, becoming in fact as well as in faith a community of women and men of all ages, races, ethnicities, and worldly conditions, made one in Christ by the power of the Spirit, as a visible sign of the new humanity;
a new openness to see both the possibilities and perils of its institutional forms in order to ensure the faithfulness and usefulness of these forms to God’s activity in the world; and
a new openness to God’s continuing reformation of the Church ecumenical, that it might be more effective in its mission.
New members. The committee hopes to add two new members to fill vacancies, but so far those nominations are still in progress. One would replace Mihee Kim-Kort, a minister from Indiana who had been representing the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board on the committee, and who resigned because of other commitments. The other appointment would fill a vacant slot representing the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, a position that’s never been filled because the original nominee declined to serve.
Block said she hopes to “turn up the burner on this” so that any new members could attend the board’s next face-to-face meeting St. Louis. “Otherwise, I think we are really getting way far down the road,” making it difficult for someone new to participate and feel integrated into the committee’s work, she said.
The committee’s deadline for submitting its report to the 2018 General Assembly is Feb. 16.