LOUISVILLE – The Way Forward Commission is tangibly beginning to set its sights ahead – to the process of crafting what it will say to the 2018 General Assembly, proposing changes it sees as crucial and life-giving for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“We’re not restructuring the church,” said Cliff Lyda, a minister and commission member from Florida, while leading opening worship that drew from the Old Testament story of Nehemiah’s rebuilding Jerusalem. “We are going to rebuild it.”
Meeting at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary Sept. 18-19, the commission may begin talking more concretely what it may recommend to the assembly – its report and recommendations are due to the Office of the General Assembly by Feb. 16.
Mark Hostetter, a minister from New York who is moderator of the commission, said the commission will work as closely as possible with the All Agency Review Committee and noted, “We will as much as possible try to endorse each other’s work.”
During its opening session Sept. 18, the commission decided to go into a closed session for two and a half hours to discuss conversations its members have held with more than 60 people (many of them PC(USA) employees, but also includes others around the church). Hostetter said commission members wanted to respect “the sensitivity and the candor” of those conversations, so the commission voted to close the meeting, citing the personnel and property exemptions to the denomination’s Open Meetings Policy.
Before that, the commission voted to set up a joint working group with the All Agency Review Committee to look at the structure and functioning of PC(USA), A Corporation, which is the corporate identity for the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Eliana Maxim and Lyda from Way Forward will join two representatives from All Agency Review for that, according to Hostetter.
Another joint working group is already deep into its task of considering how the PC(USA) handles what are known as shared services – administrative or overhead costs for services such as human resources or legal services. That working group had hoped to report by Sept. 20, just prior to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting Sept. 21-23 in Louisville, but the task is taking a bit longer than originally projected.
A ministerial team of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board has also been examining how the Presbyterian Mission Agency allocates overhead costs, and is recommending that the agency consider charging departments at a single flat rate. That report will be up for discussion at the board meeting Sept. 22.
The Way Forward Commission’s meeting continues through noon Sept. 19.