LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Mission Agency board voted April 28 to suggest to the General Assembly that the all-agency review of the six Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) agencies possibly include a discussion about the idea of merging two PC(USA) agencies.
In January, the Committee to Review the Presbyterian Mission Agency released its report – including the recommendation that the General Assembly delay the all-agency review, and instead convene a committee to explore the possibility of merging the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).
The review committee raised in its report concerns about the stressful organizational culture within PMA, a lack of coordination with other PC(USA) entities and a lack of a clear strategic direction at PMA.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency board doesn’t think setting up a committee to discuss a possible OGA-PMA merger is the way to go – and voted instead to approve comments, including one favoring the all-agency review process. The team which drafted the comments described proposals for merging OGA and PMA (including the review committee recommendations and overtures related to merger) as “premature and unduly narrow in scope.”
If an all-agency review is conducted, then each of the six agencies (OGA, PMA, the Presbyterian Foundation, the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation) would have a representative at the table, along with four General Assembly commissioners and four at-large members, said Nancy Ramsay, a board member who served on the team which wrote the proposed comments.
The first all-agency review was conducted from 2008-2010, then was followed by individual reviews of each of the six agencies – including, in this past cycle, both PMA and OGA. The next all-agency review is scheduled for 2016-2018 – but some question whether a discussion on PC(USA) restructuring and reform needs to happen more quickly than that.
The board had a vigorous discussion on the issue April 27. The next day, board members voted to amend the language of its comments to suggest that the review committee’s first recommendation, involving exploring the idea of a potential merger, “be referred to the all-agency review committee as an intentional part” of the committee’s work.
Board member Mihee Kim-Kort described the idea of pursuing the all-agency review as “a posture towards accountability, connection, mutuality.”
Eileen Lindner, who is a corresponding member on the board from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA), said COGA has concerns about the independence of the stated clerk’s office should a merger take place. “Nothing is more central to our polity than the idea of an independent office of the stated clerk,” Lindner said.
Board member Chad Herring, however, raised the idea of the board offering no comment at all – instead merely thanking the review committee for its work.
The review committee’s report and other proposals involving the structure of the denomination will come before the General Assembly’s The Way Forward committee when the assembly convenes in Portland June 18.