On May 22, the Way Forward Commission held its second-to-last meeting before the 2018 General Assembly convenes in St. Louis in June – using most of that time to provide updates on its ongoing work, and a sense of how it will proceed in the time it has left.
The commission – which has some power to act on its own – has already made its report and formal recommendations to the assembly. It can’t add any new recommendations to that report now, said Mark Hostetter, a minister from New York who serves as the commission’s moderator.
What the commission does seem prepared to do is to prepare “a collection of observations,” as Hostetter put it, that it would send to a new Moving Forward Commission, if the assembly decides to create that entity as Way Forward has recommended, or to agencies or other groups within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
At the commission’s next meeting, June 5, those reports are likely to be presented regarding a number of areas — including communications in the denomination; the structure of mid council ministries in the Office of the General Assembly; ideas for how the denomination might approach an analysis of financial sustainability; and how a Diverse Voices Table might be structured, what representatives from the six PC(USA) agencies might participate in it and what the top priorities of the table, which is to focus on issues of inclusion and equity, might be.
Another area of consideration: shared services, starting with what the best, most cost-efficient approach might be for providing payroll services and information technology. There’s also interest among some entities – including the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program and Presbyterian Women – in having a more “holistic conversation,” said commission member Mathew Eardley of Idaho, about other areas in which they would like to explore potential cost or service-sharing arrangements.
Hostetter also described some recent communications he’s received, and he answers he’s given.
First, Hostetter said representatives of the Governance Task Force of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board asked whether more discussions regarding the ongoing dispute involving the PC(USA), A Corporation, might be fruitful. Hostetter said he responded that the commission is focused on making progress on its continuing work, and will address that ongoing A Corporation dispute with the assembly’s The Way Forward committee.
Second, he said he’d received word that Presbyterian Men wanted to know if the commission would consider recommending that that organization be given a seat on a reconfigured A Corporation board, as the commission is recommending be done for Presbyterian Women. Hostetter said he gave the same reply: that the commission is focused in the closing weeks before the assembly on completing as much of its ongoing work as possible, not on altering the recommendations it’s already made.