The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a denomination of connections – and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board spent time in its March 28 meeting exploring what that means.
Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the PC(USA), brought greetings – saying both the denomination and Christianity are in a time of transition, “and it feels good.”
People of faith are working together on contextual issues in their communities and learning that “Christendom is a whole lot bigger than our own church, our own denomination,” Nelson said. Christians are struggling to “become the church that Jesus Christ wants us to be. It is not always comfortable. … We are walking in God’s way until the answers come.”
Cindy Kohlmann, who serves as co-moderator of the 2018 General Assembly along with Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, brought greetings on behalf of them both, as Cintrón-Olivieri is grounded at home in Miami because of illness.
Kohlmann summarized their travels since the assembly last summer, including four international trips and eight national church gatherings. As she travels, Kohlmann adds stickers from each city to her suitcase and Cintrón-Olivieri adds pins from those places to her moderatorial stole, “as a way of bringing the church with us wherever we go,” Kohlmann said. At gatherings, Kohlmann passes her moderator’s cross around the crowd, telling the Presbyterians who touch it that “their fingerprints are now part of this cross.”
Kohlmann said “we’ve done some political stuff” – for example, Cintrón-Olivieri stood in a picket line with Coalition of Immokalee Workers, trying to get the Wendy’s restaurant chain to pay higher prices for the produce that migrant workers pick – “because we know Jesus speaks into political spaces.”
She showed photographs from their travels to Kenya, Liberia, Cuba and more – including her with church leaders in Africa and Cintrón-Olivieri in a cemetery in Texas where migrants who die along their journey north are buried. “Many of the graves are just markers,” Kohlmann said. “Many of them don’t have names.”
The PC(USA) is seeking reform of immigration laws, “but there is still so much sorrow and so little hope. Yet we are there, as the hands and feet of Christ, living into being a Matthew 25 church.”
Moving Forward Implementation Commission. The commission met in Louisville March 25-26, and some of its members have stayed on to observe and make connections with the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (meeting March 27-29) and the PC(USA), A Corporation board, which is the corporate entity for the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (meeting March 28-29). The three groups decided to meet in proximity to one another to encourage collaboration and connection.
The Moving Forward commission representatives, led by co-moderators Larryetta Ellis and Marco Grimaldo, introduced themselves and explained briefly their mandate from the 2018 General Assembly and how they’ve organized their work.
“The General Assembly really wants this to be a good place to work” said Eric Beene, a commission member who’s a pastor in Georgia – this part of the meeting was being held at the denomination’s national offices in downtown Louisville – and to make sure “there’s trust and transparency.”
A Corporation Board. The co-chairs of this board, Bridget-Anne Hampden and Chris Mason, stressed to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board their desire to have a collegial, respectful working relationship focused on supporting mission.
The unspoken subtext: the intense battle waged last year to reconfigure the A Corporation board to provide broader representation across the church, beyond the Presbyterian Mission Agency – a matter that was resolved when the 2018 General Assembly voted to approve the realignment. Earlier this year, that process also led to the movement of about 80 employees of what’s now known as the Administrative Service Group from the Presbyterian Mission Agency to the A Corporation.
“We are sister boards,” said Joe Morrow, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, in introducing the A Corporation representatives.
“You have invited the plumbers in to talk to you,” Mason said, stressing that the PMA board has responsibility for mission in the PC(USA). “We are here to serve the church. …. We really are your servants.”
Hampden expressed thanks for the work of Mike Miller, who had been the acting chief financial officer for the A Corporation and who died unexpectedly March 12. She described work in progress, including the search for an A Corporation president and an effort to create a simpler, easy to understand system for allocating costs for administrative services the A Corporation provides to PC(USA) entities.
“At the end of the day, our goals and objectives are very, very similar,” she told the PMA board. The A Corporation board is working to make sure PC(USA) mission “is carried out in the best and most effective and productive way.”