The Moving Forward Implementation Commission will hold its first in-person meeting Jan. 14-15 in Louisville.
In preparation for that, the commission met by conference call Jan. 10 to review some history — including what led the 2018 General Assembly to create the 12-person commission, what work is before it and what’s happened since the assembly concluded last June in St. Louis.
That discussion included a review of the recommendations that the Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review Committee presented to the 2018 General Assembly — recommendations (which the assembly overwhelmingly approved) ranging from a reconfiguration of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation board to make it smaller and more inclusive, to an increased commitment to inclusion and equity in the denomination and to expanding translation services, and a lot more.
The new commission is expected to report to the 2020 General Assembly in Baltimore. In the meantime, it will shepherd work on implementing those recommendations and on denominational issues ranging from financial sustainability to communications. On Dec. 11, the leadership of the Way Forward Commission and All Agency Review released a “Welcome Letter” to the Moving Forward Implementation Commission, outlining what the assembly did and ideas from the leadership of some of what needs attention.
Eight of the 12 members of the new Moving Forward Implementation Commission already served on either Way Forward or All Agency Review, so they come in with a solid grounding in these complicated matters.
Mathew Eardley, a ruling elder from Idaho who served on Way Forward, described some of the learnings gleaned from the Way Forward Commission process — for example, the importance of relationship building, of clear communication across the church and of forming small, efficient work teams.
Eardley also spoke of the significance of the assembly’s decision to constitute Moving Forward as a commission, as opposed to a task force or committee. A commission, with the power to act on its own, has “particular weight and power,” Eardley said. And “we have a lot of history supporting us” — from prior General Assembly actions and reports of the review committees of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, all of which identified issues that needed to be addressed with some sense of urgency.
For example, the 2018 assembly approved “very significant” change in the size and structure of the A Corporation board, said Cliff Lyda, a minister from Florida who served on Way Forward. That reconfiguration “has already produced some interesting results,” he said, adding that he would never have guessed that “something so mundane would be so significant.”
Jo Stewart, a ruling elder from North Carolina who served on Way Forward as well, outlined some of the work that will be continuing — including the A Corporation transition; financial sustainability; inclusion and equity; considering the culture at the Presbyterian Mission Agency and relationships among the six agencies; vision and discernment; and how shared administrative services will be provided and priced.
Eric Beene, a minister from Georgia who served on All Agency Review, spoke of the frustration some of that committee’s members felt at the “slow pace at the beginning” of that committee’s work. The payoff down the road, he said, came from developing a clear sense of the committee’s charge, a sense of trust among the members, and the ability to interpret the committee’s work to the broader church.
All Agency Review also identified some themes, Beene said. Among them:
- That all six PC(USA) agencies bring incredible resources and talent and desire to serve the denomination faithfully;
- That the PC(USA)’s agencies used shared administrative services to varying degrees, but the Presbyterian Mission Agency was in charge of providing those services. “That led to a lot of dissatisfaction and a lack of clarity,” particularly regarding costs, he said.
- That the agencies saw opportunities for greater collaboration with broader representation on the A Corporation board. Previously, all the A Corporation board members were voting members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
At next week’s meeting, the commission expects to hear from Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and from PC(USA) stated clerk J. Herbert Nelson. There also will be updates on the Diverse Voices Table; the financial sustainability study; the expansion of translation services; and communications initiatives.
Commission members also asked for a primer on the history and significance of the A Corporation and its board, and on shared administrative services — some sort of “tutorial on how this came to be,” Lyda said.
It also will be important, said commission co-moderator Marco Grimaldo, a ruling elder from Washington, D.C., to build in time for commission members to get to know one another — to build relationships and identify talents that will be important in undertaking the work ahead.