While some 4,000 Presbyterian teenagers are bringing the energy to Purdue University this week at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, the board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation is meeting at Purdue as well — taking care of the business of the church.
The A Corporation board chose this location intentionally — breaking during the first afternoon of its July 18-19 meeting to worship with the young people, set aside their financial discussions and get their energizers on. Because: Who doesn’t want to see adults in khakis trying to dance?
There is, however, a more serious question of how the board of the A Corporation (the corporate entity for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly) can build connections across the church that will benefit the denomination.
For example, the board is having conversations at this meeting with representatives of both the Moving Forward Implementation Commission and the Special Committee on Per-Capita Based Funding and National Church Sustainability.
It’s trying to figure out how to make commissioners at the 2020 General Assembly better understand – in a week that’s already jam-packed with business – how to consider carefully and comprehensively the budgets of the church, even though it’s likely that the budgets of the A Corporation, the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly will be voted on by three separate committees of the assembly.
Since the 2016 General Assembly in Portland, “the church has been on a journey” trying to determine how to structure itself as a national body, said Tom Hay, director of General Assembly operations. “That journey will continue at this assembly.”
The board greeted Kathy Lueckert, who it elected in June as the new A Corporation president and who will begin work in August. “We are grateful that God has placed you in this role,” said Bridget-Anne Hampden, who serves as board co-chair along with Chris Mason.
“I’m so grateful to you for tapping me on the shoulder for this opportunity,” Lueckert said. She said she wants the A Corporation to function in an environment of trust and excellence, “so we can help ministry flourish” in the PC(USA).
Larryetta Ellis and Marco Grimaldo, co-moderators of the Moving Forward Implementation Commission, said the commission is on the verge of sending to members of the PC(USA)’s national staff a confidential survey the commission will use to assess agency culture — particularly at the denomination’s national offices in Louisville.
The 2018 General Assembly “gave us a pretty broad mandate” to assess agency culture – which a review of the Presbyterian Mission Agency in particular found to be problematic – but provided no money to hire a consultant, Grimaldo said. So the commission has developed an assessment tool — a survey with about 50 questions, which employees will be asked to take confidentially, and the results of which will be shared with the heads of the agencies and in summary form with the 2020 General Assembly. The hope: agency leaders can use the results to figure out where to focus attention and make improvements.
Several representatives from the committee looking at financial sustainability in the PC(USA) called into this meeting to ask some questions – trying to figure out, in part, how budget decisions get made, how priorities are set and how effectiveness in spending is measured.
Sometimes, “the measurable goals are not clearly defined,” A Corporation board member Sam Bonner told Laura Cheifetz, a minister from Atlanta who is co-moderator of the special committee, along with synod executive Valerie Young.
PC(USA) budgets are generally presented at the macro level, without specific line item details “that you may see in other organizations,” Mason said.
What the special committee is seeking – in trying to make recommendations to the 2020 General Assembly on financial sustainability and per capita funding – is “a level of transparency about budget that the church has not known or experienced for a very long time,” Hay said.
The A Corporation board meeting will continue July 19.