LOUISVILLE – Following a six-hour closed session Jan. 23, the All Agency Review Committee announced that it had approved a series of recommendations to the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding the PC(USA), A Corporation, the corporate entity for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA).
That recommendation asks the General Assembly to create a nine-person board for the A Corporation, with one representative from each of the PC(USA)’s six agencies, plus three at-large members. The A Corporation board currently mirrors that of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
The recommendation from All Agency Review regarding the size and composition of the A Corporation board is similar to that expected to come from the Way Forward Commission, although Way Forward is still in the writing process.
Both groups face a Feb. 16 deadline for submitting their reports to the Office of the General Assembly. The 2020 Vision Team, meeting Jan. 21-23 in Dallas, released a draft of its guiding statement Jan. 23.
All Agency Review’s recommendation also asks:
- That the bylaws of the A Corporation be changed to state that the corporation would have a president serving as its chief executive officer, and that person would have voice but not vote on the boards of the six agencies. The committee asks the assembly to direct the governing board or entities of those six agencies to change their bylaws or standing rules to make that happen.
- That the 2018 General Assembly appoint to an existing or special committee the task of “reviewing and ensuring the prospective effectiveness” of the suggested changes.
- That the 2018 General Assembly appoint, in each of the two assemblies after the new A Corporation board is elected, a review committee for the A Corporation.
The committee also voted to concur, at least in principle, with a proposal from the Way Forward Commission asking the General Assembly to create an implementation group that will track progress over the next two years on things the assembly takes action on stemming from the commission’s recommendations.
The Way Forward Commission has not drafted precise language yet, but the basic idea, presented at its meeting Jan. 17-19 in Seattle, was to ask the assembly to create another Way Forward Commission, with limited powers. The suggestion: that new commission would have 12 members – four from the current Way Forward Commission; four from the All Agency Review Committee; and four appointed by the moderator or co-moderators of the 2018 General Assembly.
Way Forward has suggested that the new commission would have limited powers to follow up and make sure that General Assembly actions get implemented and that continuing collaborations – for example, an effort to develop a strategic communications plan for the PC(USA) – continue to move forward.
All Agency Review will conclude its three-day meeting in Louisville on Jan. 24, and in the meantime its members are working to draft additional recommendations – perhaps more than a dozen in all.
The committee wants to speak to the General Assembly about how the next all agency review is structured – including the timetable and process for doing the work, and the criteria for evaluation.
As part of that, committee members continue to talk about wanting to make sure some entity at the top level of the PC(USA) is responsible for articulating periodically, perhaps every two years, the vision and primary focus of the denomination. Should it be the General Assembly? The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board?
The idea is that “we wish to focus intently on one or two things,” said Chris Mason, a lawyer and ruling elder from New York. Mason said he’s “almost agnostic about who decides that. … I just want somebody to say it out loud.”
If it’s part of a regular process, setting that denominational vision “starts to be the lens through which you look, and part of the ethos,” said Deborah Block, a pastor from Wisconsin who serves as the committee’s moderator.
Block also spoke of the idea of the reviews being done with an appreciation for context – for what’s happening in the denomination and in the broader world.
All Agency Review may also recommend a period of sabbatical – two years in which no review is done, and then reviewing the six agencies three at a time (instead of in groups of two) – a change that would both speed up the process and save money.
The committee is scheduled to meet through mid-afternoon Jan. 24.