LOUISVILLE – Behind the scenes, leadership of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and representatives of Presbyterian Mission Agency board are hard at work crafting a new Mission Work Plan. The board met by conference call Dec. 2 for an update on that work, which is still in progress. Tony De La Rosa, a ruling elder and lawyer on his first day at work as interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, participated in the call.
Here are some takeaways from that discussion:
- At its Feb. 3-5 meeting in Louisville, the board will vote on a Mission Work Plan for 2017 and 2018 – a more thematic document that will describe directional goals and core values. Using that, the work teams will craft a mission budget for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which the board will vote on when it meets April 27-29. Vision and mission statements for the new plan are expected to remain the same as are in the current plan, but directional goals, core values and theological rationale sections will be new. The board will send the proposed 2017-2018 budget to the 2016 General Assembly for its approval in June.
- If more jobs are cut from the PC(USA)’s national staff – and the downsizings from these budget cuts could be significant – those affected will be notified after the April meeting concludes.
- Using “listening groups” plus a survey of commissioners from the 2014 General Assembly, the board is collecting feedback regarding the Mission Work Plan and what work Presbyterians think it’s important for the national church to do. Board member Wendy Tajima, a teaching elder from California who’s been involved with those efforts, said the results may not be made public because “there are implications from some of the statements we have to be careful about.” Tajima also said that the board’s role in the budget-setting process is “to set the highest priorities and to review and approve and to give input along the way … Primarily it is a staff-led process.”
- The board is responding to feedback that the new Mission Work Plan needs to more clearly state the theological underpinnings of the document than previous budgeting efforts have done. Board members spent part of the meeting discussing possible themes for that, including drawing from the Six Great Ends of the Church as listed in the PC(USA)’s Book of Order (Section F-1.0304), although potentially with the Great Ends expressed in more contemporary language. The language of the Great Ends is “beautiful, flowing” and “somewhat inaccessible,” said board member Chad Herring, a teaching elder from Kansas City who’s involved with the Mission Work Plan drafting.
- While much of the work is being done behind the scenes, some common language is beginning to emerge as board members discuss the budget. Those phrases include:
- With limited funds, the PC(USA) “can’t be all things to all people.”
- The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s primary relationship is with presbyteries. The presbyteries’ primary relationship is with congregations.
- The board has been discussing the idea of “what can the national church do that no one else can?” There also was mention during this meeting of the hope that, if the national church can’t do certain things, Presbyterians at other levels might choose to take them up.
On his first day on the job, De La Rosa preached at morning worship at the Presbyterian Center, including from Psalm 33 about “the intercession of a gracious God.”
On the conference call, De La Rosa told the board that he also met with the PC(USA) human resources department, and asked them to design a survey instrument to use with the denomination’s national staff. De La Rosa said he’s trying to assess the “corporate culture elements within the building” and to get at the question of “what are the core values that drive the folks at the center, right now?”
De La Rosa said he’s asked the human resources department to send out a survey to the staff before the Christmas holidays, asking staff members to identify some closely-held core personal values. They’ll also be asked to identify ways in which core values of the Presbyterian Mission Agency mesh with those personal values.
“My hope and prayer is there is some degree of alignment,” De La Rosa said. “If there’s wide divergence, that’s another conversation we need to have.”