Addressing the spring meeting of the General Assembly Mission Council – being held in
Louisville this week – Bolbach spoke of changes shaking up the PC(USA) these days.
Presbyteries are considering changing the denomination’s ordination standards, so
sexually active gays and lesbians could be ordained. The General Assembly Commission
on Middle Governing Bodies is talking to people from across the denomination about
creative ways to structure church life.
And there’s lots of talk about leadership – making policy meetings such as this a mixture
of details (specific votes on specific things) and big-picture thinking.
Here are some of the details.
GAMC meeting in Korea. The Presbyterian Church of Korea has invited the General
Assembly Mission Council to hold its September 2012 meeting in Seoul, South Korea, as
part of the Korean church’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of its General Assembly.
The Korean church also has invited presidents of PC(USA) seminaries; Gradye Parsons,
the denomination’s stated clerk; and former General Assembly moderators.
The council’s executive committee voted March 30 to accept that invitation. If approved
by the full council, council members would gather Sept. 12-18 in Korea. Their itinerary
would include business sessions, visits to hospitals and congregations and other activities
organized by the Korean hosts.
The Presbyterian Church of Korea has agreed to cover all costs beyond what it would
normally cost the council to hold its meeting, so the financial impact will be “cost-
neutral,” said Vince Patton, the council’s executive administrator.
Presbyterian missionaries helped found hospitals, schools and churches in Korea, so
the Presbyterian Church of Korea still considers the PC(USA) its “parent” church,
even though the Korean church has far surpassed the American one in size, said Linda
Valentine, the council’s executive director.
Name change. The council is considering changing its name from “General Assembly
Mission Council” to “Presbyterian Mission.” In part, that’s a response to the new Form
of Government proposal now being voted on by the presbyteries. If that proposal passes,
the use of the term “council” would change – so the General Assembly Mission Council
might take a new name as well.
But Karen Schmidt, the council’s deputy executive director for communications and
funds development, said she favors changing the name regardless of whether the
proposed constitutional amendment passes, as part of the denomination’s effort to create
a distinct “brand identity.”
Schmidt said her staff is working to increase awareness, trust and funding for the
PC(USA), and she told the executive committee that “Presbyterian Mission” is “a name
that has cachet. It is a name that is memorable. It is a name that equates with being the
mission agency of choice.”
Budget. The council is being asked to adjust the PC(USA)’s mission budgets for 2011
and 2012, in part to reflect more than $11 million in donations given for Haiti relief
and a $5.5 million bequest from the estate of Elizabeth Eva Hartman Osborn that Joey
Bailey, the denomination’s chief financial officer, called “unrestricted, unexpected and
The proposed change would raise the denomination’s operating budget for 2011 by $5
million, to $87.6 million, and increase the 2012 budget by $3.7 million, to $84.8 million.
With those and other changes, the denomination’s reserves would increase by $7,000 and
would stand at $15 million, well above the required $7 million, Bailey said.
Despite that good news, however, the PC(USA)’s revenue continues to decline in all
areas – unrestricted giving, restricted giving and the denomination’s special offerings.
The council also expects to spend time this week talking about the continuing fiscal
difficulties of the Ghost Ranch and Stony Point conference centers. For the year ending
Dec. 31, Ghost Ranch lost more than $739,000 and Stony Point more than $377,000,
according to financial reports presented to the council. Two council committees are to
meet jointly March 31 to discuss the operations of Ghost Ranch and Stony Point.
The council’s meeting in Louisville ends April 1.