The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board will continue conversations with the Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review Committee through Feb. 28 – trying to work through differing views regarding restructuring of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, which is the corporate entity for the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
Melinda Sanders, a lawyer from Tennessee who serves as co-chair of the board’s Governance Task Force, told the board in a Feb. 16 conference call meeting that the concerns fall in four areas:
- The use and control of unrestricted funds;
- Authority to make personnel decisions;
- Whether the Presbyterian Mission Agency would be able to determine for itself how to receive administrative services; and
- The composition of the A Corporation board — “We still have grave concerns” about that, Sanders said.
Joe Morrow, a Governance Task Force member, and Wilson Kennedy, from the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, said some of those concerns involve diversity and inclusion and the question of “who is being represented,” as Kennedy put it.
Although midnight Feb. 16 is the deadline for sending these reports to the 2018 General Assembly, J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk for the PC(USA), has given permission for the groups involved in these A Corporation discussions to amend their reports – essentially giving them more time. The hope: the three groups can reach agreement on a common proposal. Way Forward has set a March 9 “hard stop” deadline for those negotiations.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board also voted to direct Dave Crittenden, acting executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, “to begin conversations with other agencies and organizations we currently serve, regarding ending the practice of providing shared services outside the Mission Agency.” Those shared services include functions such as information technology, finance and accounting, legal services and more – services that could move to the A Corporation under restructuring.
The motion states the action is being taken “in response to Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review Committee rightly encouraging the Mission Agency to focus all its energies on mission.”
Jim Rissler, president and chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) voiced concern – saying that since its inception, PILP was instructed to use as many shared services as possible to take advantage of economies of scale. “It’ll have a significant impact on our operations” if the Presbyterian Mission Agency stops providing those services, Rissler said.
Sanders said her understanding is that the A Corporation would provide those services. “What format that we would take,” we don’t know.
The Way Forward Commission approved its recommendations to the General Assembly Feb. 15. The Advocacy for Racial Ethnic Concerns and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns responded with an open letter expressing “profound concern” regarding the A Corporation proposal.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern Feb. 28, again via conference call.