OUTLOOK — The All Agency Review Committee and the Way Forward Commission have jointly decided not to recommend a merger of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
The All Agency Review Committee announced that decision Aug. 21, following a two-hour closed session.
Both the Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review held closed sessions during their most recent meetings to discuss personnel matters.
After the Way Forward’s closed session Aug. 9, moderator Mark Hostetter said the commission had taken the following action: “The Commission empowers the Way Forward–All Agency Review coordination committee to create a joint WFC-AAR joint statement regarding a PMA-OGA matter.” No details were given, but the announcement today clarifies what was involved.
Deborah Block, moderator of the All Agency Review Committee, said one reason was a “concern for the level of anxiety” such a merger might bring. The decision is being announced now, she said, because a search is ongoing for a new executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, so the decision may bring “some clarity about what the job of that person will be.”
Tony De La Rosa is sent to end his term as interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency at the end of November.
Block’s comments came after the decision had been made in closed session to approve the recommendation. There essentially was no public discussion of the proposal, with both groups citing personnel issues.
Frank Spencer, president of the Board of Pensions – who along with representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s six agencies is attending the All Agency Review meeting Aug. 21-22 in Louisville – said after Block spoke that he hopes both All Agency Review and the Way Forward Commission “will emphasize the importance of ongoing management of the balance sheet of the PC(USA).”
Here is the full text of the recommendation:
THE PRESBYTERIAN MISSION AGENCY & THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: A recommendation
Over the past several years there has been much discussion of whether the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), two of the six separate agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), should merge into a single agency. Recommendations and overtures to explore this possibility have come from several different directions.
The Way Forward Commission and the All Agency Review Committee have together examined the question of such a merger and have mutually agreed that at this time such a merger is neither feasible nor desirable. Given that the ongoing consideration of a possible merger has contributed to a high level of uncertainty about the future for the staff of both agencies, we are announcing this decision now.
As the All Agency Review Committee and the Way Forward Commission considered the merits of a PMA-OGA merger several considerations weighed against it:
- Both the Commission and the Committee are in the process of developing recommendations that strengthen our agencies and offer solutions to the variety of concerns each one is charged to address.
- The work and callings of the PMA and the OGA are sufficiently different from each other in nature and scope that few synergies in undertaking tasks together can be envisioned.
- The constitutional and judicial process of the PC(USA) resides with the Stated Clerk within the OGA. Maintaining the independence of the Stated Clerk’s function is an important consideration for good order.
- The review and analysis of the PMA by the Committee and the Commission suggests that the PMA is already challenged by its broad and substantial responsibilities for providing many different critical services that require significant time and attention at the Board and management levels. Some of this time might better be devoted to the missional thinking and action that lies at the heart of the PMA mandate. To increase the number of responsibilities and services of a single agency would exacerbate this concern.
- Similarly, the OGA’s responsibilities for working with mid-councils and its responsibilities for the biannual General Assembly create a rhythm and pattern of work quite distinct from those of the complex and multinational engagements of the PMA.
For these reasons, the Way Forward Commission and the All Agency Review Committee have agreed not to explore further the option of a PMA-OGA merger. The Committee and the Commission believe that any gains that might be achieved through a merger could better be realized through a broader and more comprehensive approach to structural renewal.
In sharing word of this determination, it is hoped that the staff and boards of these two agencies might be freed to pursue greater clarity in their present tasks and responsibilities.