Guest commentary by Sam Locke
We have a Way Forward Commission, an All Agency Review, a Governance Task Force and others doing faithful work determining how to best move the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) forward. Their work has sparked conversation and controversy, but has overlooked the best (and perhaps simplest) way of moving forward: eliminating the PMA and A Corporation all together.
Don’t get me wrong — the PMA does great work. I spent seven years raising money for many of the PMA’s ministries, and the causes and people supporting them are nothing short of inspiring. But our current way of doing business isn’t sustainable.
Here is another way forward:
- Spin-off beloved PMA ministries into separately incorporated 501(c)3 organizations. World Mission, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger program and others would thrive with less bureaucracy and the agility to be laser-focused on their ministries and constituencies. Being detached from the ecclesiastical functions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would open the door for support from other branches of Presbyterianism and increase secular fundraising opportunities all while becoming more transparent to the church and general public (being subject to Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements). This setup can remain faithful to our polity by giving the General Assembly appointing authority for a bulk of the seats on these new organizations’ boards of directors.
- Move all advocacy functions of the PMA to the Office of the General Assembly, truly creating an organization that serves as the “voice of the church” in both word and deed. It makes sense for these functions to be included with ecclesiastical functions and theological interpretation.
- Consolidate all church-directed fundraising activity with the Presbyterian Foundation, who could then grant funds to these newly created institutions based on the priorities of the General Assembly.
This approach may be radical in the Presbyterian context, but it is already well-tested in the Lutheran, Catholic and other communions. Fewer layers of operational bureaucracy, diversification of fundraising and the identification of an agency representing the single voice of the church are the surest way to long-term sustainability. It just requires a hard choice: eliminating an agency that has become too entrenched to succeed.
SAM LOCKE is the former director of special offerings for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. He is currently an independent fundraising consultant, seminary student and an inquirer in the Whitewater Valley Presbytery.