The Moving Forward Implementation Commission, which is meeting by conference call every two weeks, is continuing its work on a variety of initiatives – living into the mandate given it by the 2018 General Assembly.
During a conference call Feb. 12, commission members gave updates on their work.
Advice from the stated clerk. The leadership of the A Corporation board has asked J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to formally provide an advisory opinion regarding the scope of the commission’s authority. One question is whether the commission has the power to change the Manual of Operations – a question that matters because the PC(USA), A Corporation, the corporate entity for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly, doesn’t technically have a budget.
The A Corporation leadership is trying to determine whether the commission has the power to make budgetary realignments before the 2020 General Assembly. Marco Grimaldo, a ruling elder from Washington D.C. who serves as co-moderator with Larryetta Ellis of the Moving Forward commission, said the A Corporation leadership wants clarity on what entity is responsible for funding decisions, and then “it can be a two-way conversation” between the commission and the A Corporation board once Nelson issues the advisory opinion.
The commission members said they would ask Nelson if he can participate in Moving Forward’s next conference call Feb. 26 to try to address that question.
Role and composition of the A Corporation board. A commission subgroup is working on questions and a timeline for discussing with A Corporation leadership how well the board’s new more inclusive configuration – the subject of much debate at the 2018 General Assembly and in the months leading up to the assembly- is working.
Commission member Debra Avery, a minister from California, said that approach, to some extent, “feels adversarial to me.” And Adan Mairena, a minister from Philadelphia, said, “Our role is to help support them. It sounds like we’re rehashing things that would take forever.”
Mathew Eardley, a ruling elder from Idaho who is leading subgroups doing that work, said the commission is committed to supporting the A Corporation board, but also has a mandate from the assembly to assess and analyze how well the new A Corporation board is working. The idea is to work collaboratively, and “if there are places along the way it could be strengthened or improved, it is within our mandate,” Eardley said.
Administrative services. The subgroup also is looking at PC(USA) administrative services, now housed under the A Corporation as of January 16.
Among the ongoing work:
- List all administrative services currently being provided (such as human resources and information technology) and those that might be contracted out.
- Discuss with the PC(USA) agencies that use administrative services whether what’s being provided matches what they need.
- Assess the method for setting the rates PC(USA) agencies are charged for renting space in the denomination’s national office building in downtown Louisville, and for other administrative services they purchase. Compare those fees with market rates.
- Have conversations about the possibility that mid councils or congregations might also purchase administrative services. That’s a “lesser priority,” Eardley said, as the first commitment is providing those services well for PC(USA) agencies.
Vision and discernment. The commission will try to coordinate with the leadership of the 2020 Vision Teamto see “where they’ve been and where they’re going,” said Jackie Cummings, a ruling elder from Louisiana. The 2020 Vision Team is meeting in Louisville Feb. 16-18.
Inclusion and equity. The General Assembly co-moderators still are working on appointing members to groups that will consider the financial sustainability of the PC(USA) and examine the denomination’s per capita funding system.
The commission also is continuing work on determining whether to hire a consultant to address the institutional culture at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and whether there should be more coordination of funds development offices at the six PC(USA) agencies. “On the ground, it feels like we’re constantly being bombarded” with requests from donations from various parts of the church, said Eric Beene, a pastor from Georgia.
So the question is what coordination of funds development is taking place, Eardley said, and is there a better way to do it?