LOUISVILLE — Linda Valentine, the new executive director of the General Assembly Council, is working to assemble her new administrative team — and to reconfigure the pared-down national offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
A plan that will be presented to the council at the end of September for its approval calls for the top leadership to be structured with three deputy executive directors (an earlier version of the plan had called for just two). They would be:
Â· A Deputy Executive Director for Mission.
Â· A Deputy Executive Director for Shared Services (responsible for information technology, finance, human resources and distribution).
Â· And a Deputy Executive Director for Communication and Development (responsible for development, communication, mission education and promotion).
There also would be an executive administrator, responsible for a range of activities, including General Assembly coordination, relations with General Assembly agencies and with the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns.
Valentine said she is proposing three deputy executive directors, rather than two, because it seemed like too much to expect one deputy to be responsible for everything from finance and technology to communications. “They just seem to be very different skill sets,” she said.
And she said a previous proposal to have a Deputy Executive Director for Witness was changed to call it a Deputy Executive Director for Mission, because in conversations around the church, “people seem to be confused by the term witness.”
Clifton Kirkpatrick, the PC(USA)’s stated clerk, said he likes the change. The word mission is “a rich theological term,” Kirkpatrick said, and this summer he’s heard lots of conversations around the PC(USA) about what it means to be a church involved with mission.
The plan — presented Aug. 31 to the General Assembly Council’s executive committee in a conference call — also calls for a further winnowing down of the top levels of the PC(USA)’s administrative structure. Ten high-level positions (the jobs of nine associate directors plus the publisher of Congregational Ministries Publishing and Christian Education) would be eliminated as of Dec. 31.
People holding those jobs could apply, if they wished, for six reconfigured directors positions — those being:
Â· Program Area 1: Theology, Worship, Christian Education, Stewardship;
Â· Program Area 2: Evangelism, Church Growth, Vocation and Leadership;
Â· Program Area 3: Social Justice, Peacemaking, Washington and United Nations Offices;
Â· Program Area 4: Relief and Development;
Â· Program Area 5: Worldwide Mission in Partnership;
Â· Program Area 6: Women’s and Racial Ethnic ministries.
“We’re not wedded to these names as they are,” Valentine told the executive committee. The exact names of each division will be determined by Oct. 1. She described the focus of Program Area 2 as “what does it take to grow congregations?” and said Program Area 6 was created to intentionally give emphasis to work with women and racial ethnic groups.
In response to a question, Valentine said she still considers the proposed new structure to be a streamlining of the old one — “it is a slimmer senior team,” she said.
But some executive committee members warned that Valentine needs to be prepared to make that case. Some skeptics already have predicted that the staffing cuts won’t last — saying, “Oh, give it a year and they’ll be added back in again,” said council member Manley Olson from Minnesota.
Valentine also said she will be asking the council to make some additional changes to the budget. This next round of staff changes should produce a savings in personnel costs of $665,000, she said.
But in crafting the budget last spring, two items were overlooked — involving maintenance and service agreements — that will cost $738,000, she said.
That results in a shortfall of $73,000, which Valentine will ask the council to take from the PC(USA)’s reserves.
The proposed changes will be implemented on a staggered schedule throughout the fall.
By Oct. 1, the leadership structure regarding the deputy executive directors would be in place. The council would confirm the appointment of the Deputy Executive Director for Shared Services at its September meeting, and that person would start work Oct. 1.
The Deputy Executive Director for Mission would begin work Nov. 1.
This fall, a transition management team would be named to help smooth the road to the new system — to make management decisions considered routine, and to bring to Valentine’s attention more significant matters she would need to resolve.
During the Aug. 31 conference call, the executive committee voted to approve the plan’s broad outlines. The council will consider it at its meeting in Louisville Sept. 26-29.