The leadership of the Presbyterian Mission Agency is proposing a new focus for Stony Point Center— moving from the current emphasis particularly on “radical hospitality” to a broader ministry offering programs and mission experiences that would align with the Matthew 25 focus of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, meeting in Louisville March 27-29, will consider a recommendation (A.104 An Integrated Vision for PMA and Stony Point Center) from Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, to hire a consultant to help develop a vision for how Stony Point can be developed as a mission arm of PMA.
If the board approves that recommendation, the report from the consultant, Run River Enterprises, would be presented when the board meets again Sept. 26-28. The cost for retaining the consultant is estimated at $38,000, plus about $3,200 in travel expenses.
This is a busy week for national Presbyterian meetings in Louisville – with the Moving Forward Implementation Commission meeting March 25-26 and the board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation – which is the corporate entity for PMA and the Office of the General Assembly – meeting March 28-29, including a joint session of the PMA and A Corporation boards on March 28.
This will also be a time of recalibration, as the boards figure out how to proceed following the unexpected death of Mike Miller, acting chief financial officer for the A Corporation, on March 12.
The financial future of Stony Point – a conference center about an hour outside New York City – has been an ongoing point of discussion for the board for years now, surfacing again last fall, with a report that Stony Point was running a deficit for 2018 and faced at least $3 million in capital costs. At the heart of the matter: the difficulty that Stony Point has had in becoming financially self-sufficient, and whether the Presbyterian Mission Agency is willing to continue to provide funds to underwrite its operations.
A report on Stony Point finances (A.200 Presbyterian Church USA Stony Point Center) shows that Stony Point ended 2018 with expenses exceeding revenue by nearly $373,000. And a 10-year financial report (A.208 Additional Information on Stony Point) shows Stony Point running deficits (ranging from about $8,300 to nearly $365,000) in all but two of those years, being in the black only in 2012 (by more than $247,000) and 2017 (by $11,200).
A staff Round Table has been working to develop a plan for what to do next at Stony Point, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency board held a closed-door meeting March 18 to talk about the conference center.
Ray Jones is acting director for Theology, Formation and Evangelism for PMA, and leads the Stony Point Round Table. “This has been a good but difficult process,” Jones told the board’s coordinating committee, meeting by conference call earlier this month. “We really want Stony Point to succeed,” but need outside expertise to figure out how to put Stony Point on a path to financial sustainability.
The report states that an earlier consultant helped Stony Point move from 20 percent occupancy to 45 percent, but the work this year will focus on the question of how Stony Point can become a mission arm of PMA, with a focus on congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty, which are PMA’s three mission emphases.
A report coming to this board meeting refers to Stony Point Center by a new name – the Stony Point International & Educational Conference & Retreat Center for Discipleship, Transformative Mission and Community Engagement.
It states that the cost for fulfilling the new vision for Stony Point “will take considerably more than the $3 million allocated by the PMA board for Stony Point’s deferred building maintenance. However, the investment could help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develop its work and witness to Jesus Christ now, and in years to come.”
Also up for discussion at this meeting will be PMA’s Matthew 25 Initiative – based on the calling in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel to give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, welcome the stranger and visit the prisoner. In the new Matthew 25 Initiative, PC(USA) congregations will be asked to declare themselves to be Matthew 25 churches.
“We recognize Christ’s urgent call to be a church of action, where God’s love, justice and mercy shine forth and are contagious,” a website for the initiative states. “And we rejoice how our re-energized faith can unite all Presbyterians for a common and holy purpose: our common identity to do mission.
PMA also has compiled a list of resources (P.202 Matthew 25 Resources) Presbyterians can use to take on the work – including Bible studies and devotional materials; books, articles and websites; training resources; and videos and films.