The Governance Task Force of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board has released an updated recommendation. That recommendation still calls for reducing the size of the board by attrition – from its current size of 40 voting members to 16, saying that the current size is “too large for effective collective discernment and governance.”
The updated nine-page report, released Aug. 31, also provides more specifics of how the board would be structured and how relationships would work between the board and a variety of groups around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
It states that the board’s current structure, with 40 voting members, 15 corresponding members (who have voice but not vote when the full board meets), two ecumenical advisory members and four at-large committee members creates a hierarchy of membership categories.
“The current differentiation of membership categories creates confusion for participants regarding who has a vote and builds a hierarchical system that challenges the equality of members,” the recommendation states.
“This is often seen when the Executive Committee needs to convene for decision-making between full Board meetings. The large size also creates the impression that individual choices do not matter — that someone else on the Board will pick up the task or will represent diversity.”
The task force states that under the new proposal:
- Diversity on the board would increase over time.
- Professional expertise, rather than geography and membership within particular groups, would be the basis for nominating people to serve on the board. “The Governance Task Force believes that there is no justification for the belief that professional expertise cannot be found within the full diversity of the church,” the recommendation states. “In our proposal, professional expertise is the primary qualifier for Board service. The General Assembly Nominating Committee will ensure demographic, racial-ethnic, and age diversity, as well as church size and ordination parity, without the need for additional demographic requirements.”
- Members would be elected to four-year terms (rather than the current six-year terms), with the possibility of re-election for a second four-year term. “Our research shows that in today’s mobile society, individuals often have difficulty making a six-year commitment to a Board,” the report states.
- The board’s committee structure would change, as would the composition of the board’s executive committee. The board would have three administrative committees (audit; personnel and nomination; and property/legal) and three program committees:
- Nurture the Body – focused on the needs of congregations and mid councils;
- Outreach to the World – focused on work outside the congregational context; and
- Resource Allocation – focused on effective stewardship.
- The number of corresponding members – currently 15 people – would drop to 10. The Committee on Theological Education would not longer have a corresponding member; the General Assembly moderator would move from a voting member to a corresponding member; and the five PC(USA) agencies other than the Presbyterian Mission Agency would each have one corresponding member, rather than the two representatives each currently has.
- The board would deploy fewer of its members to serve on the boards of other PC(USA) organizations. The report states deployments would be made for “basically only those directly mandated by the General Assembly through the Organization for Mission to facilitate collaboration with other General Assembly agencies and integrated auxiliaries (for example, Presbyterian Women).” The report also states “the Board would continue to send members to groups whose only access to the General Assembly is through the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, such as Mission Responsibility Through Investment.”
- The reconfiguration would eliminate slots on the board for two ecumenical advisory members and for at-large Finance Committee and Audit Committee members (two each), although those currently serving in those rules could finish out their terms.
The report also describes what it refers to as “best practices” the board would follow. Among those recommendations:
- Any information shared in a closed session of a board committee would be made available to any other board member, also in a closed session. “We want the Board to guard against the temptation to keep secrets from one another; and thus immediately change a culture where some are in the know and others are not,” the report states.
- The board would meet quarterly (four times a year) rather than five times over two years. Some meetings might be held electronically.
- When electing leadership, the board would select both a chair and a chair-elect.
- The board’s executive committee would have seven members (the chairs of each of the board’s committees, plus the board chair).
- The Personnel and Nominating Committee would nominate the leaders for the board’s committees to elect, rather than the committees making those nominations. With a smaller executive committee, “a commitment to diversity among its leaders is a major priority.”
- The executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency would “bring a staffing rationale and structure for review and approval by the Board.” In addition to confirming candidates for deputy executive director positions, that process would be “extended to include staff positions that have key fiduciary responsibilities with the Board: Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel. Because these positions have Board-related responsibilities across the organization, we believe that the Board should be involved in decisions regarding their employment.”
- The Manual of Operations would be reorganized “to make it more usable and more deliberate as to whom and what the policies affect.”
The proposal does not include any recommendations for the board of the PC(USA), A Corporation, the denomination’s corporate entity. In recent months there has been increasing discussion about how the A Corporation function, and whether the Office of the General Assembly has sufficient voice on it. Typically the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board formally reconvenes during its meetings to sit as the A Corporation board, to conduct PC(USA) corporate business as well.
The board created the Governance Task Force in February 2016 – it’s been working for the past 18 months, meeting in both open and closed sessions. The full board will consider the recommendation at its meeting in Louisville Sept. 21-23.
The All Agency Review Committee, meeting in Louisville August 21-22, discussed that issue extensively, and a joint working group from All Agency Review and the Way Forward Commission hopes to produce a report by Sept. 20 (just before the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meets) regarding shared services costs and the A Corporation structure.
The board’s executive committee briefly discussed the report in its conference call August 31.