Step by step, the groups working on big-picture reports to the 2018 General Assembly are getting closer to nailing down their recommendations.
Those reports are due by Feb. 16, 2018. The All Agency Review Committee met by conference call Dec. 6, circulating for that meeting a very preliminary draft of an outline the committee may use to shape its report – basically, it’s a starting point for the writing team.
While specific recommendations have yet to emerge, committee members said they would like to find a way – along with the Way Forward Commission – to make sure that commissioners to the 2018 General Assembly have opportunities before the assembly begins to become familiar with those groups’ reports and their complexities.
For All Agency Review, there’s a lot that could go into the report. There’s the idea of whether mission directives built around the language of openness, taken from section F-1.0404 in the Book of Order, could be used as a way of evaluating the work of the six agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
There are internal structural questions, also being considered by the Way Forward Commission, which meets next by conference call Dec. 12. Among them: Should there be changes in how the denomination handles shared services (such as human resources or legal services) – perhaps by putting them into some sort of a separate entity? Or should there be revisions in the governance structure of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, the corporate entity for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly?
Jim Wilson, a lawyer from Ohio who serves on All Agency Review, said the committee’s coordinating team continues to have productive conversations with representatives of the Way Forward Commission, saying of Way Forward: “They are making good progress but like ourselves are a little daunted” by all that needs to be done by the February 16 deadline.
Another question: Should All Agency Review recommend that the General Assembly authorize another eight-year cycle of review for the PC(USA)’s six agencies – with reviews being done first for the individual agencies (two agencies at a time over three two-year cycles), followed by an all agency review?
The current All Agency Review “revealed the inefficiencies of the system now,” said Eric Beene, a pastor from Georgia – as the current committee has struggled to understand exactly what its work should consist of. Beene said it would be unusual in the secular world for an entity to “do a review without criteria for review.”
Before the meeting ended, All Agency Review met in closed session to discuss personnel matters; Way Forward’s last meeting, Nov. 29, was conducted in entirely in closed session.
All Agency Review has scheduled its next conference call for Jan. 11 and is set to meet in person in Louisville Jan. 22-24.