Two of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s advocacy committees are recommending that the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board disapprove a proposal for reducing the size of the board and reconfiguring its shape.
The board’s Governance Task Force has proposed a series of recommendations to reduce the size of the board by attrition from its current size of 40 voting members to 16, plus realigning the board’s committee structure in addition to a number of other changes.
Both the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC) and the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) are urging the board to vote against the proposal at its meeting in Louisville Sept. 21-23.
The advocacy committees raise a number of concerns – about representation; about a reliance on “best practices” without defining them; and about whether the changes being considered reinforce a bias towards white dominance.
And now the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) has weighed in as well, stating the recommendations as written would make the board smaller, “but also significantly diminish its relation to the General Assembly and accountability for its actions.” That’s just one of a series of concerns ACSWP raises – although it says it can support the idea of a smaller board, four-year terms for board members (rather than six) and quarterly meetings.
ACSWP states, however, that the current proposals “appear to create significant administrative duplication” and “continue the unfortunate shift from a deliberative and representative council of the church to a non-profit board . . . ”
The ACWC response states that the Governance Task Force “continues to flagrantly disregard the status of the Advocacy and Advisory Committees as standing committees of General Assembly of the PCUSA and fails to understand the role of vital committees as a critical prophetic witness and accountability.”
That ACWC response also states: “The advocacy committees have been unambiguous in insisting that justice at the table is vital to our Christian witness and denominational heritage. The latest draft proposal by the Governance Task Force defaults to a corporate model and moves the Board in the opposite direction.”
And it states that “advocacy committees are not secondary interest groups, set asides, or extravagant ‘extras’ of our denomination’s mission; rather, we are one of the critical and prophetic underpinnings of the very substance — a reciprocal covenant relationship — of Presbyterianism.”
ACREC, in its response, raises concerns about whether the recommendations might serve to marginalize people of color. Once concern: a shift from nominating board members based on qualifying categories – such as being mid council staff or young adults – to professional experience.
The Governance Task Force’s proposal also would reduce the number of board members deployed to support the work of other organizations around the church.
“We fear the impact the proposed changes will have upon the Board’s ability to access, partner with, and live out a commitment to be accountable to minoritized communities,” the ACREC response states. “We fear that a Board reduction combined with the properly credentialed ‘professional’ board members will serve to preserve an organizational bias for whiteness and white supremacy culture. ACREC strongly encourages the PMA Board to ask, ‘How might the GTF proposal as it stands further reinforce white dominance and control and consequently how might it further marginalize and disenfranchise people of color?’ ”
The ACREC response also states its role, along with ACWC and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, “is not that of a special interest organization but that of a voice of accountability for the denomination. Finally, given the proposed size reduction and the challenges this will present for even the most basic level of representation, ACREC joins ACWC in declaring that anything short of voice and vote for the advisory and advocacy committees ensures the insights these bodies bring will be sidelined or ignored and that heteropatriarchy and white supremacy will be served.”
In a telephone conference call Sept. 14, Governance Task Force members discussed the presentation they will make at the board meeting Sept. 21, but not the ACREC and ACWC responses. The Governance Task Force report contends that the current board is “too large for effective collective discernment and governance.”
The Governance Task Force recommendations to the board can be found here (H.001 Governance Task Force Report).
The responses – formally known as “advice and counsel” regarding the Governance Task Force recommendations – are found here from ACWC (H.207 Advice and Counsel on H001 from ACWC), here from ACREC (H.208 Advice and Counsel on Item H.001 ACREC) and here from ACSWP (H.209 Advice and Counsel on H.001 from ACSWP).