Despite some misgivings, council members rank mission programs for budget building

MONTREAT, N.C. -- With a few protests about having to make "forced choices" and not understanding why they were doing what they were doing, members of the General Assembly Council did Friday morning what their leaders have insisted they do: rank programs according to how much impact they have on two top priorities, evangelism and discipleship.

While the particulars are still emerging, John Detterick, the council’s executive director, has said those rankings will be used to help shape the church’s budget for 2002. He’s made it clear he wants to put more resources into top priority initiatives — although it’s not clear at what cost.

For a decade, the council has “shaved here and here and here” to make its budget, to the point where “there are a lot of things we don’t do as well as we’re called to do them,” Detterick told council members this week. Now he wants “to pick some things to do very, very well.”

Already, staff members at the PC(USA)’s headquarters in Louisville are anxious about what it will mean if their programs are ranked as having a “lower” impact on evangelism and discipleship — and some council members say they’ve been lobbied hard by staff members who feel strongly that the work they do should receive high rankings. Detterick has said repeatedly that receiving a lower ranking does not mean that the work is unimportant — but concern has permeated this meeting like fog in the North Carolina mountains that lower-ranked program might well be in jeopardy.

Detterick and his leadership team have insisted that the council members not take the easy road and give every program a top ranking — saying they need to rank about one-third as having a high impact on evangelism and discipleship, one-third a medium ranking, and one-third a lower impact. They’ve made it clear that, with staff and financial resources increasingly strained, hard choices are inevitable.

“Over the years the church has offered a to-do-list that does not end,” Peter Pizor, the council’s new chair, said this week. For an overworked staff, “it is literally asking the impossible of the committed.”

In an interview Friday, Detterick said that indicating that resources might shift from higher-ranking programs to lower-ranking ones does not mean that people will be laid off. “Our first and most important resource is our people,” he said. “And if there were to be some shift, it would mean asking people to do something different, probably in a related area,” he said, and with training to help them master new responsibilities.

Detterick added: “It’s foolish to take somebody who has the kind of experience level our staff has and ask them to leave,” in order to hire someone new with less experience.

Asked if some programs might be eliminated altogether, Detterick said that’s “highly unlikely — I don’t see that happening.”

But in choosing their rankings Friday morning, council member were definitely struggling with what might happen — and what might be lost — if individual programs indeed were cut. In some programs, particularly those that have already been pared back, “the only place we have to cut is staff,” Curtis Kearns Jr., director of the National Ministries Division, said in response to questions from council members.

The council members were divided into three groups — one each for the National , Congregational and Worldwide ministries divisions — and asked to rank programs within that division. No group was asked to compare the divisions — although that analysis may come later.

Some council members expressed discomfort with the process, and acknowledged that their rankings may derive somewhat from personal experience — whether they’ve worked with a new church development, for example, or watched lives be changed on volunteer mission trips.

In discussing the system for matching pastors seeking jobs with churches that need pastors, for example, some said they’re not sure how much it’s used — some congregations go outside that system to find their own candidates. But “do a bad match,” said Paul Masquelier, executive presbyter from San Jose Presbytery, “and watch the disciples go out the door.”

In making their rankings, council members were given some specific definitions to work with — important because tension already has sprung up over the extent to which social justice work is part of evangelism.

Evangelism, the council was told, “is joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God and calling all people to repentance, to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to active membership in the church, and to obedient service in the world.”

And discipleship “is living the life of a disciple. The life of discipleship is an expression of the teacher’s message and the lessons learned put into practice. The lessons are continually learned and expressed through prayer and the study of scripture; through worship and proclamation; through unceasing labor for justice, peace and freedom for all people.”

The council is supposed to receive a full report on the rankings when it reconvenes Saturday morning. Here are the rankings council members gave for each division:

Congregational Ministries:

High Impact:
Curriculum Development
Mission Interpretation and Promotion
Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Medium Impact:
Pastor, Educator and Lay Leader Support
Publishing and Marketing
Theology and Worship

Lower Impact:
Conference Ministries
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Spiritual Formation
Theological Education

National Ministries:

High Impact:
Leadership Nurture and Support
Mission Financial Services
Racial Ethnic Congregational Enhancement

Medium Impact:
Church Leadership Connection
Higher Education: Organization and Individual Support
Racial Justice
Social Justice Ministries
Urban Ministries Office
Women’s Ministries Program

Lower Impact:
Church and Society Magazine
Higher Education: Ministry Partnerships
National Volunteers
Washington Office

Worldwide Ministries

High Impact:
Global Education and International Leadership
International Evangelism
International Health Ministries
Mission Personnel Care
Presbyterian Hunger Program

Medium Impact:
Ecumenical Partnerships: Area Offices
Global Awareness and Involvement
International Volunteers Office
Mission Service Recruitment
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Lower Impact:
Ecumenical Program Facilitation
Interfaith Relations
Jinishian Memorial Program
Presbytery and Synod International Partnerships
Self Development of People