LOUISVILLE – Here’s the impact of the just-approved new 2017-2018 mission budget for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A): Eight Presbyterian Mission Agency workers lost their jobs and five programs were eliminated as a result of the 15 percent budget cut.
These five programs will no longer be funded by the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA):
- New Beginnings;
- Small Church Residency Program;
- Special Offerings Ambassador Program;
- Korean English Ministry;
- Justice Unbound, a social justice journal from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
One caution: Because of work restructuring and reorganization, the employees who lost their jobs do not necessarily work for the programs that are being eliminated. To protect employee privacy, the PC(USA) is not releasing the names of workers who were notified on April 29 that they’d lost their jobs.
In an interview the evening of April 29, Tony De La Rosa, the PMA’s interim executive director, praised the way the PMA staff responded on a difficult day.
Those who’d learned they were losing their jobs “have handled it with extraordinary, immense grace,” De La Rosa said. “And I think for our management, that makes it even harder, to know how incredibly gracious people are in greeting this news. They are being so gracious in their reaction. They want to stay part of the community, they want to stay in some way connected to the work.”
Those leaving aren’t gone from their jobs immediately, he said. Some will take a few days to finish up, some a few months, depending on the nature of their assignments.
On the morning of May 2, De La Rosa will gather to talk to the PMA staff. On May 4, a chapel service will be held to honor the service of those who are departing.
A document providing budget details states, “some of the position eliminations are due to program elimination, while others are as a result of agency-wide work restructuring.”
It also states, “we expect our work restructuring to result in 35 job openings. Some will be posted in the next few weeks, other vacancies and new positions will be posted closer to the end of 2016. Employees whose positions were eliminated are eligible to apply for these positions.” To attempt to minimize the impact on staff, ministry directors held off on hiring in 2015 as positions became vacant. That resulted in 54 vacant positions – plus 26 employees opted to take voluntary separation packages offered earlier this year to workers who were at least 60 years old and had at least five years of consecutive service with the PC(USA).
The document states that because of work restructuring “the nature of some positions is changing. When the duties of a position are changed by more than 50 percent, that employee is given the option of accepting the revised position or receiving a severance package. Eight staff members have been given that choice.” These eight staff members are different individuals from the eight workers who lost their jobs.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency board voted April 28 to approve mission budgets for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 2017 and 2018. The budgets represent a 15 percent decrease from the 2016 mission budget.
The board voted to approve a mission budget of $63.53 million for 2017 and of $63.45 million for 2018. The 2017 and 2018 budgets are more than $11.2 million less than the revised mission budget for 2016 of $74.82 million.
The budgets also will need approval from the General Assembly when it meets in Portland in June.
De La Rosa said the board did not make changes to the budget he presented when the board’s meeting began April 27. In closed-door discussions, “they asked many questions,” he said. “They asked good detailed questions. … I know for a fact and I have heard that affirmed this week in the strongest possible ways that our board is solidly behind our work. I’m going to redouble our efforts to see that our denomination is as well.”
This is one of a series of budget cuts and layoffs the Presbyterian Mission Agency has endured going back to at least the early 2000s – with revenues and membership in the denomination both declining, and about 80 percent of funding now coming from funds that are restricted in use by the donors and only 20 percent from unrestricted receipts.
As of April 18, the agency had 269 employees, including full and part-time workers and term employees. That figure doesn’t include mission co-workers or employees of camps or conference centers.
Here is a summary of some of the impact of the new budgets on particular ministry areas, based on information provided in the budget detail document.
Theology, Formation and Evangelism
- The unrestricted budget decreased by 28 percent in 2017 and an additional 4 percent in 2018 – for a total 32 percent reduction in unrestricted funding compared to the 2016 budget. Overall, the total budget for the ministry unit decreased by 11 percent for 2017, and was essentially unchanged from 2017 to 2018.
- PMA will no longer administer or fund the New Beginnings program. The New Beginnings tool will still be available to churches and presbyteries that want to use it through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where the program originated.
- A new position will be created in Financial Aid for Service to help students graduating from seminary (many of whom are concerned about educational debt) learn how PMA can help eliminate or reduce financial barriers to service.
- A new position will be created in the Office of Formation (formerly the office of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries) to provide support for Christian education and for college ministries. The Office of Formation also includes support for youth ministry and camps and conference center ministries.
Compassion, Peace and Justice
- Compassion, Peace and Justice reduced its 2017-18 budget by more than 25 percent.
- The changes include reducing a staff position at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations; eliminating the associate position for the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA), and ending the publication of Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice.
- Staffing for the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., will continue, even if J. Herbert Nelson, who has been nominated to be the PC(USA)’s next stated clerk, is elected to that position by the General Assembly in June.
- Compassion Peace & Justice has created a new position: Leader Development, Racial Justice and Networking. That position has been created in partnership with Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries and PMA’s human resources department, and will work with social justice networks across the PC(USA), including PHEWA. The director of the PC(USA)’s United Nations office, whose position has been eliminated, will fill this new position.
Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries
- The unrestricted budget for Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries for 2017-2018 was cut by 30 percent from the 2016 budget. Because of vacant positions, the cuts involved “minimal impact on existing staff,” the document states. According to Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries, “a deployed field staff position for Korean English Ministry, which has been vacant since 2015, was removed from the 2017-2018 budget, as this work is now being done by a Korean English Ministry network. This position worked with Korean English Ministry congregations, as well as those attached to Korean first generation congregations, by advising and coaching pastoral leaders. A Korean teaching elder in Seattle is currently heading this Korean English Ministry network, which will continue to relate to the Office of Korean Emerging & Intercultural Ministries. The network is planning a conference in May.”
- The 2017-2018 budget will not require World Mission to pull any of its mission co-workers from the field, “if revenue goals are met,” the document states. “World Mission is relying on expected attrition in 2016 to meet budget requirements.”
- Four positions are being eliminated from the World Mission staff in Louisville, and one new position will be created. The work of the reconciliation initiative will continue with work done by area coordinators, mission co-workers and global partner churches.
- “Exceeding our funding goal was critical in 2015, but we will have to continue that momentum or we will face more difficult decisions in the future,” the document states. “Because mission co-workers make a commitment for multi-year-terms, we cannot look at a single year in isolation.” The document also states that “open mission co-worker positions will be replaced – and new positions listed – when the needed funds are committed by congregations and individuals. ”