During a half-hour plenary session on the evening of Sept. 14, Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Mark Hostetter, of the National Ghost Ranch Foundation, gave some of the context and background for that proposal.
De La Rosa traced the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with the property – going back to 1955, when Arthur and Phoebe Pack donated the land in northern New Mexico to the church.
He also reminded the board how camps and conference centers have played a deep yet hard to articulate role in faith formation for many Christians – a potent combination of spiritual programming, being far from home and close to natural beauty.
At Ghost Ranch, “you walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, of native people, spiritual pilgrims, legendary Presbyterians and even Georgia O’Keeffe, who for many years made Ghost Ranch her summer home and who spent the last 50 years of her life living in the area,” he said. “Ghost Ranch became the love of her life,” and the connection with the artist drew Ghost Ranch into the international imagination, he said.
For 60 years, De La Rosa said, visitors to Ghost Ranch and its staff have been changed by its beauty and programming, by the space it provides for peace, spiritual retreat and connection with nature.
Hostetter – a Presbyterian minister from New York and financial executive whose family has deep roots in camping ministry – spoke of the proposal itself. If the board approves the plan and if detailed agreements can be worked out, the transfer would take effect Jan. 1. The legal ownership of the property would not change (remaining with the Presbyterian Foundation), but the National Ghost Ranch Foundation – a nonprofit entity established in 1972 to support Ghost Ranch – would assume responsibility from the Presbyterian Mission Agency for day-to-day operations and fundraising.
“There’s nothing that changes legally here,” Hostetter said. “It can be reversed if it doesn’t work.”
The plan is for a three-year initial transfer, he said – with an evaluation after that of how things are going.
The board will be asked on Sept. 16 to approve two items related to Ghost Ranch – a measure already approved by the board’s executive committee (but still needing approval from the full board) for the Presbyterian Mission Agency to end its programmatic work there, and a more detailed proposal to transfer operational responsibility, which the finance committee will consider Sept. 15.