The board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation finished its two-day meeting July 19 by working systematically through its business — nothing flashy on the surface, but with the details giving testimony to the ongoing efforts to sort through relations at the top levels of the denomination.
The reconfigured A Corporation board – an 11-member board which now has representation from five of the six PC(USA) agencies – has been making some changes that affect its relationship to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
- The board voted to approve a measure stating that the A Corporation board has authority to hire, oversee or pay for outside lawyers to act on behalf of the PC(USA) – stating that “no other person or entity” would have that power or authority without approval from the A Corporation board.
- The board voted to clarify which entities have authority to create policies on behalf of the A Corporation. That action states that policies of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board or the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly are not binding on the A Corporation board, unless they’ve been submitted to the co-chairs of the A Corporation board for consideration.
This is definitely deep in the weeds stuff. What it signifies is a continuation of marking out the chalk lines of authority — some of the fallout of the skirmishing between the Way Forward Commission and the Presbyterian Mission Agency board that preceded the 2018 General Assembly.
The most recent evidence of that: a clarification of who has authority to hire and direct outside counsel on behalf of the PC(USA), following a decision to appeal the Eric Hoey defamation case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hoey, formerly the PC(USA)’s director of evangelism and church growth, lost his job as a result of an ethics investigation involving the 1001 New Worshipping Communities program, and in 2015 filed a defamation case against the denomination.
The decision to appeal a ruling of the Kentucky Supreme Court in that case to the U.S. Supreme Court apparently raised questions of who has the authority to make determinations to do something like that – and whether the stated clerk of the PC(USA), the chief ecclesiastical officer of the denomination, should be involved in such discussions.
None of that came up openly at the A Corporation meeting, although the board’s co-chair, Bridget-Anne Hampden, did refer to a difficult few months, and her hope that the board’s leadership can “provide some healing, which is sorely needed.”
The board also heard mid-year financial reports, and an update from a team working on expanding translation services in the PC(USA).
Board members also had conversations with Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and spoke by phone with J. Herbert Nelson, the denomination’s stated clerk. Moffett has been attending the Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University, where the board also met – and has been using beach balls, pins and T-shirts to build support for the Matthew 25 initiative, launched in April. Nelson was not been able to attend Triennium because of a health consideration.
So far, 126 congregations and nine mid councils have signed on to become Matthew 25 entities, Moffett said. “We want to see an impact,” she said — to know for sure that Presbyterians at the local level are doing more than ever before to live out their faith in concrete ways.
Another challenge, said Nelson: finding ways to bring the energy and enthusiasm of Triennium back home — so teenagers and young adults find places of welcome and connection in congregations, and can continue to be a force for change.