LOUISVILLE – The question of how much money the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is willing to spend to support the Stony Point Center continues to be raised – with the leadership of the Presbyterian Mission Agency hoping to spend the next six months or so trying to get Stony Point on more solid financial ground and finding ways to integrate it with the broader work of the agency.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board has been struggling for years with the questions of how much to financially support Stony Point – with an underlying question, in part, of whether the board should expect the center to be financially self-sufficient, or whether it should declare the ministry to be vital and deserving of the denomination’s financial support.
Stony Point ran a deficit of $174,000 through the end of August, which does not include property taxes due of about $40,000, said Mike Miller, acting senior director of shared services and chief financial officer for the PC(USA), A Corporation.
And it’s facing at least $3 million in capital needs – some of them urgent, Miller said.
“I think this is a very important ministry,” Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), said Sept. 28 during a committee meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
Moffett described Stony Point as “kind of a laboratory” for PMA’s mission emphases on poverty; structural racism and white supremacy; and congregational vitality. Moffett said Stony Point, through its interfaith Community of Living Traditions and other initiatives, has incarnated these emphases. For example, pastoral Sabbath retreats support congregational vitality, she said, and strategy training for groups like Doctors Without Borders supports work on poverty and justice.
The work at Stony Point “needs to be connected to the priorities” — the work and the witness of the church, Moffett said. “It’s not stand-alone. It’s integrated, and we will be shaping the ministries and offerings there so they align.”
She said of the financial shortfalls at Stony Point and extensive capital needs: “I think that’s a legitimate concern. We have to deal with that. … I think we have some plans.”
Last April, the board expressed its support for Stony Point being an important ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and allocated $650,000 to pay for deferred maintenance and capital improvements at Stony Point – essentially the first year of a $3 million multi-year request.
That decision was based on the assumption that revenue at the facility would rise or at least cover expenses, said Conrad Rocha, a board member from New Mexico who serves as chair of the Resource Allocation and Stewardship Committee. “Stony Point appeared to have turned the corner” last spring, Miller said.
That hasn’t happened – and the question of what to do about Stony Point is back on the table. Two board administrative committees – Resource Allocation and Stewardship, along with Property/Legal – voted to recommend that the full board approve the creation of a Stony Point Round Table, under Moffett’s direction, to bring recommendations to the board’s meeting next spring. A.107 – Stony Point Round Table Review-2 ) That would include recommendations “for the steps that must be taken to reasonably ensure the economic viability of Stony Point, and to prioritize the ministry of Stony Point, in relation to all other ministries and missions” of PMA.
So far, the staff has limited capital spending at Stony Point to $238,600 on projects of an urgent or emergency nature — putting a lid on all other capital spending as of June because of the operating deficits, Miller said.
The committees also are recommending that the board extend until April 2019 authorization to spend the remaining the remaining $411,400 for capital needs that the board allocated last spring, at the discretion of the staff. (A.106 – Stony Point Capital Improvements)
Ray Jones, PMA’s acting director for Theology, Formation and Evangelism, said the Stony Point Round Table – made up of a team from the PMA leadership – already has met once, and will work to assist the Stony Point management team, led by co-directors Kitty and Rick Ufford-Chase, and to develop an updated business plan that focuses on finances, ministry and how Stony Point is integrated into the life of PMA.
“I love the word laboratory,” Jones said. “I think it can be a ministry and mission laboratory,” demonstrating for congregations how to build community.
Moffett said she wants to consider the question of, “How does Stony Point connect with the goals and vision and purpose of PMA? … We have to connect the dots and interpret ministry,” connecting Stony Point to the work of PMA ministry units.
Rocha said of Stony Point: “That’s why it gets so much scrutiny. Because it’s sitting separate and apart.”
During the committee discussion, some committee members asked questions about PMA’s commitment to Stony Point.
“We’ve been talking about this for four years,” said Jeffrey Joe, a board member from Idaho. “What is it really going to take to get out of triage and get to a place where we are stable?” In doing that, “can we talk about the real numbers instead of Band-Aids?” he asked.
Board members also asked questions about deferred maintenance at the center – including about whether it’s realistic to expect the Stony Point team to increase occupancy if money isn’t spent to update the facility.
Kathy Maurer, a board member from Michigan who served on a board strategic team that brought the Stony Point recommendations last spring, asked whether Stony Point should be considered a ministry that the PC(USA) is willing to support financially.
“Are other ministries within PMA given such scrutiny regarding numbers?” she asked “Is it because it’s tied to property that it’s making it more complicated? … Does this have to be (financially) sustainable in order for us to continue … or is it part of ministry?”
The board has made decisions for years to defer capital improvements at Stony Point, Maurer said – that’s partly why the capital needs are so high now. (Here’s an 11-year history of Stony Point financial operations and anticipated capital needs: A.208 – Stony Point Update.)
Miller said some buildings at Stony Point have holes in their roofs. “If the roof blew off this building (the denomination’s national office building in Louisville), it would be fixed, because this building houses PMA,” Maurer said. At Stony Point, “we’ve neglected the property for years. Now we’ve got to pony up.”
But Melinda Sanders, a board member from Tennessee, said, “What we’re projecting spending on Stony Point would put it in the top five ministries of the agency.”
Another board member asked: So what are we not doing, because of that spending?
“That is the question,” Sanders responded.