Stony Point proposal to be presented at PMAB this week

After a long and somewhat contentious stretch of trying to figure out the future of Stony Point Center, here’s what the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board will consider this week. The board, meeting in Louisville April 23-25, is being presented with a recommendation that it:

  • Affirm the mission of Stony Point Center – including the center’s interfaith work, which would be considered to be “consistent” with a paper from the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations setting forth the proposed Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The General Assembly will consider the Interreligious Stance paper when it meets in Detroit in June.
  • Establish a series of milestones to move Stony Point on a path of full financial sustainability over a period of three years, ending on December 31, 2017. The determination of what would happen next with Stony Point would depend on whether the center was to meet those milestones – with potentially different outcomes depending on different results. The options range from keeping Stony Point as a mission of the PC(USA) to making it a separate nonprofit corporation to discontinuing the mission and selling or leasing the center’s property outside New York City.
  • Enhance Stony Point’s relationship with the Synod of the Northeast. Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase, Stony Point’s co-executive directors, have drafted a request to the synod for an innovation grant that would be used to help fund a staff position for marketing and fundraising.
  • Move Stony Point’s reporting relationship within the internal PC(USA) structure, from reporting to the director of Evangelism and Church Growth to reporting to the director of Theology, Worship and Education. The latter office houses the denomination’s Interfaith Relations office, and its director, Charles “Chip” Hardwick, is a minister who also earned a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University and previously worked in management consulting – so his expertise could prove valuable to Stony Point in its efforts to become financially self-sufficient.
Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase, co-directors of Stony Point Center, discuss the center's future with Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Matt Schramm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, at the board's February meeting.
Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase, co-directors of Stony Point Center, discuss the center’s future with Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Matt Schramm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, at the board’s February meeting.

Over the past two months, a group has been meeting to try to come to some resolution regarding the future of Stony Point – with the group consisting of Kitty and Rick Ufford-Chase, along with Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Roger Dermody, the agency’s deputy executive director for mission. That approach was agreed upon after task forces had worked on the question for several years; after a proposal was made to separately incorporate Stony Point; and after the question threatened to become contentious at the board’s meeting in February. Facing that, the leaders in the group sought both a process of reconciliation and a way to sort through the difficult issues in a more productive way.

That group considering the future of Stony Point, which the report refers to as “The Sponsors,” has met face-to-face and via telephone and video-conferencing since the February meeting and is bringing this recommendation to the board’s April meeting. Here’s more about what the recommendations involve.

Finances. Benchmarks will be established to try to lead Stony Point to financial self-sufficiency – with the benchmarks to be in place by June 1 and with annual reports being made of whether the benchmarks are being met. “If the milestones are met, the plan will continue for another year,” the report states. “If the milestones are not met for two consecutive periods, staff will begin the process of winding down Stony Point Center.” Also, if Stony Point doesn’t meet the goal of self-sufficiency by Dec. 31, 2017, “proceedings should be considered to wind down operations,” the report states.

That goal of becoming financially self-sustaining would include making capital investments to make sure all facilities are safe, hospitable and welcoming; covering an allocation imposed by the Presbyterian Mission Agency to pay for administrative costs; and generating enough revenue to pay all costs in Stony Point’s operating budget.

The plan also includes a mechanism for monitoring and managing what’s described as the “negative interfund balance” – accumulated losses that the Presbyterian Mission Agency says Stony Point already owes it. If Stony Point achieves financial self-sustainability by December 2017, “we will negotiate an appropriate plan to begin to pay down the negative interfund balance, taking into account Stony Point Center’s need to continue to make significant investments in campus improvements,” the report states.

Multi-faith focus. One question that had been raised in the earlier conversations was whether the board supports Stony Point’s emphasis on multi-faith peace and justice work – including its creation of the Community of Living Traditions, a multi-faith intentional community at Stony Point of Jews, Muslims and Christians. In this report, the group says it affirms Stony Point’s mission statement: “Stony Point Center, modeling the love of Jesus, welcomes people of all faiths and nations to discern, discover, learn and lead. Together, bold dreamers experience the movement of God’s Spirit to create pathways to peace, nonviolence and justice.”

The report states that “the Mission Agency Mission Work Plan affirms the importance of interfaith relationships, given the increasingly diverse faith environments in which Presbyterians find themselves. Stony Point Center, through its various ministries, including the Community of Living Traditions, strives to nurture the multi-faith movement for justice, peace and nonviolence and to strengthen the PC(USA) to offer a distinctive witness in that movement. Its work aligns with the proposed Interreligious Stance and the Mission Work Plan, and complements existing work within Theology, Worship and Education.”

Collaboration. The recent conversations have included discussions with Harold Delhagen, transitional leader of the Synod of the Northeast, and Susan Andrews, general presbyter of Hudson River Presbytery. “Out of that conversation came an invitation to Stony Point Center to seek funding from the synod to build financial strength by helping to support a full-time staff person for fundraising and/or marketing,” the report states. “It was also clear from that conversation that the synod welcomes further discussions to expand the connections between the synod and Stony Point Center.”

Governance. The Stony Point Governance Board would be renamed as an advisory board—a change which would allow members to be added to the board representing members of the various faith traditions involved in the Community of Living Traditions. And a new covenant that’s been drafted would clarify matters of oversight and operations at the center.

The Stony Point proposal is expected to come up before the board’s Finance Committee. Here is the agenda and meeting papers for the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s April meeting.