The Way Forward Commission has approved an “administrative supplement” to its work — providing guidance for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on matters ranging from financial sustainability of the denomination to translation services. (Read the full report: Way Forward Administrative Supplement 06-05-18.)
The supplement takes the form not of formal recommendations to the 2018 General Assembly, but as guidance to the PC(USA)’s six agencies and to the Moving Forward Implementation Commission that Way Forward is asking the General Assembly to create.
The Way Forward Commission also has created a website to inform commissioners and others about its work — with videos, the commission’s report in multiple languages and links to news coverage of the commission’s work over the past year and a half. Mark Hostetter, a minister from New York who serves as the commission’s moderator, also said that postcards have been mailed to the assembly’s commissioners “to make them aware of the broad-brush approaches, the goals of our work, and our recommendations.”
The Way Forward Commission voted June 5 to approve the administrative supplement, during what was possibly the commission’s final meeting before the assembly convenes in St. Louis June 16. The guidance in the supplement – which states that it’s being presented with the concurrence of the All Agency Review Committee – covers next steps and ongoing work in 10 areas in which the commission has been deeply involved in recent months.
The report also states: “The ongoing Commission administrative actions during the past two years have been extremely helpful in initiating and encouraging collaborative conversations within and among national agencies that were long-needed, and the impetus of a commission often served to overcome institutional inertia. The following are several critical initiatives that are still works-in-progress, and it is our deep hope that they continue to be encouraged by agency leadership and by any implementation commission or entity that the General Assembly may establish.”
Here is some of the commission’s guidance to the church.
Communications. The communications teams at the denomination’s six agencies need to keep working to develop a strategic communication plan for the PC(USA), including a “unified denominational look and identity (‘a branded family’)” and an easy-to-navigate website.
Inclusion and equity.The commission has already recommended that the assembly create a Diverse Voices Table with participation from all six PC(USA) agencies, to work on issues of equity and inclusion. It’s now suggesting that that table include two staff members from each of the six agencies; that it be seated by Sept. 15; that it have the support of the top leadership of each agency; and that it meet at least six times a year.
Translation services. The report suggests this structural change: that all translation services in the PC(USA) be moved to shared services under the PC(USA), A Corporation, and that they be “designated as Global Communications, and be staffed appropriately … Translation services shall include denominational websites and the translation into English of materials originally written in other languages.”
Commission member Eliana Maxim, a mid council leader from Seattle, described translation services – including simultaneous interpretation at national church events – as “an issue of equity and justice … so that everyone has access and power.”
Mid council ministries. Along with a restructuring of the Office of Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly, the report suggests a pilot project to test the idea of deployed staff in a shared staffing model between local mid councils and the Office of the General Assembly in selected regions. The commission also is raising the possibility of creating a Mid Council Visioning Team.
Financial sustainability assessment. The commission already has recommended creating a committee to look at issues of financial sustainability in the PC(USA), and in this supplement lays out ideas for the scope of work for that study.
Included would be an examination of funding agency streams for the next 10 to 15 years (including per capita, investment income, property sales, special offerings, bequests and more) and projected income from those. The work might also include an exploration of the “potential for further diversification of funding,” and an examination of generational giving patterns; legislative initiatives; and the “giving culture” of the church past and present, the report states.
Institutional culture. The report includes suggestions for further work, particularly with the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), on issues affecting institutional culture. That could include changes in policies and procedures; hiring a consultant; and evaluating practices with respect to confidentiality, transparency and the release of information.
Shared services. “It is clear that the provision of such common services continues to be critically important” to a variety of PC(USA) agencies and entities, even as the Presbyterian Mission Agency “has expressed a desire to cease providing such services for agencies other than the PMA,” the report states. Further work could include reviewing policies and procedures; conducting a cost and efficiency analysis; and considering insourcing and outsourcing alternatives for areas such as payroll, legal services and information technology.
Property and facilities usage. “Topics under continued discussion include the costs and feasibility of remaining within the building at 100 Witherspoon Street, possible use of facilities to promote mission, and hospitality within each denominational building,” the report states. “While at the current time, PMA remains in exclusive control of 100 Witherspoon where four of the six denominational agencies are located, the spirit of inter-agency collaborative and cooperative discernment and decision-making needs to be fostered, encouraged, and monitored to ensure it continues.”
Seminary relations. Collaborative conversations need to continue regarding “the nature, scope, and opportunities in the relationships among and between our seminaries and our denomination,” the report states.
Financial development analysis. The commission is encouraging more work to be done regarding stewardship and fundraising, including examining possible areas of duplication or collaboration among the six agencies. The goal is to “clarify, simplify, streamline and coordinate activities,” the report states.
The assembly’s The Way Forward Committeewill consider the commission’s recommendations, including a proposed restructuring of the A Corporation governance, as well as a competing proposal regarding the A Corporation from the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
Read here for a primer of what’s involved in the A Corporation debate.