LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board closed out a three-day meeting April 12 with a flurry of business and greetings.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The board met the new coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Laurie Ann Kraus. Formerly a pastor in Miami, Kraus was a founding member of the PDA National Response Team.
Kraus told of how PDA has been present for congregations in times of deep need. She was a recipient herself, when her church and community in Miami got slammed by Hurricane Andrew 20 years ago. Kraus came to the church after the hurricane not knowing whether some parishioners had survived, climbing over rubble to reach the fellowship hall. Two PDA representatives showed up too. “They came to my small congregation in Miami to tell us we were not alone,” Kraus said. “The Presbyterian church was going to walk alongside us” – and it did, providing help to her congregation and the community over the long haul.
In gratitude, Kraus got involved in emergency response herself, being dispatched last December, for example, to First United Presbyterian Church in Coudersport, Pa., after church organist Darlene Sitler was shot and killed by her ex-husband during Sunday worship.
Kraus said she wanted Evon Lloyd, First United’s pastor, to know that “in the midst of the holiest seasons, she was not alone, that she would find her way to new life, and there would be an incarnation of grace even in the midst of such terror.”
Kraus described some of PDA’s recent involvements – from ongoing recovery work after Hurricane Sandy to organizing showings in churches and on campuses of the documentary film “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence.”
She also brought some good news. The American Red Cross has sent word that PDA will receive a $1.5 million grant to teach other disaster relief groups about PDA’s innovative “volunteer village” model of providing housing for volunteer workers responding to disasters.
Moderator. Neal Presa, moderator of the 2012 General Assembly, is not even halfway through his term of service – and already has logged more than 89,000 miles visiting mid councils, congregations, seminaries, Japan, South Korea, Cuba and more. “What a journey it has been,” Presa told the board, explaining how he’s connected with young people; with partners in ministry; and with mid councils experiencing everything from anxiety to hope during a time of change.
Presa also inked onto the denomination’s calendar a series of events designed to encourage discussion. Among them:
– A second ecclesiology colloquium at Princeton Theological Seminary Dec. 9-11, followed by a public discussion on unity among diversity Dec. 11-13;
– A convocation for Asian-American Presbyterians in Detroit on June 13, 2014, just prior to the 2014 General Assembly.
Yodogawa Christian Hospital. Presa introduced a delegation of visitors from Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka, Japan. The delegation’s leaders expressed thanks for the continuing relationship between the hospital and the PC(USA). The hospital was founded more than 55 years ago by Presbyterian mission workers, with support from Presbyterian Women. The relationship that has evolved into one of mutual support and respect, with a PC(USA) delegation attending last year as the hospital opened a new building to house the first hospice facility in Asia for children and their families.
Dependent care. The board voted not to adopt a $1,000 annual cap on the amount that board members can be reimbursed for dependent care expenses incurred while they travel to meetings (a limit that would have applied to the denomination’s national staff as well). The policy allows for reimbursement of up to $50 a day per child – but a proposal was presented, as part of a broader policy change, to limit that to $1,000 per family per year, although exceptions could be made.
Noelle Royer, a board member from Seattle, presented an amendment to the proposal to remove the $1,000 limit, arguing that it might serve as a disincentive, particularly to young adults who want to serve the church. The limit was being proposed even though only one board member has requested to exceed that amount, and an exception was granted in that case.
Having to seek an exemption “is a barrier to service,” contended Chad Herring, a pastor from Kansas. And “it’s not prudent policy to write limits that we plan to waive on a regular basis.”
Kathy Trott, a board member from California, said that in order to attend this meeting, she spent $100 a day to hire a caretaker for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease and who lives with Trott. Trott said she does not intend to seek reimbursement – she will absorb the expense, rather than passing it on to the church. For someone without the means do that, the cost could easily exceed $1,000 a year, Trott said, adding that imposing the limit might make some feel they aren’t welcome to serve.