The board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, has voted to ask the 2020 General Assembly to expand the board’s size from 11 to 13 voting members — which would mean adding a representative appointed by the Board of Pensions and an at-large member with particular expertise yet to be determined.
In discussing the matter during a conference call meeting Dec. 20, board members said they’re hoping to add more geographic diversity to the board (“west of the Mississippi,” as one board member put it) and possibly particular expertise, such as in real estate.
Currently, the board has 11 voting members, including representatives of five of the six PC(USA) agencies (all but the Board of Pensions), plus representatives from Presbyterian Women; the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee; the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns; and three at-large members (two of whom previously served on the Way Forward Commission and the All Agency Review Committee).
The denomination’s stated clerk also serves as a ex officio member of the board, with voice but not vote.
The A Corporation is the corporate entity for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly, and the composition of its board was a matter of considerable debate, and some contention, in the run-up to the 2018 General Assembly. The assembly ultimately supported a recommendation from the Way Forward Commission that the board be reconfigured to an 11-person board with broader representation. Previously, all the members of the A Corporation board were members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
The possibility was raised during those 2018 discussions of having a Board of Pensions representative on the A Corporation board, but that was dropped in the effort both to hold the size of the reconfigured board to 11 and to give Presbyterian Women a seat – important, some felt, because Presbyterian Women is a significant user of the services the A Corporation provides.
Chris Mason, who serves as co-chair of the A Corporation board along with Bridget-Anne Hampden, said the Board of Pensions “wasn’t being difficult or resistant when they declined” to have a representative named on the A Corporation board in 2018. He said the Board of Pensions was trying to make space on the A Corporation board for representation from other places. “It wasn’t that they were saying ‘We don’t want to play,’ ” Mason said.
Board member Sam Bonner, who served on Way Forward and who voted against the proposal to expand the board, spoke of “the tendency to have board creep” — that the size of a board grows over time, making it less nimble and focused. And Bonner pointed out that a bigger board will be more expensive.
In the end, the A Corporation board voted to recommend the expansion to the 2020 General Assembly — with Mason saying he hoped the Moving Forward Implementation Commission will join in making that recommendation. Between now and when the assembly convenes in June in Baltimore, the A Corporation board likely will get more specific about what expertise it’s seeking in new board members — such as professional experience in real estate, law, accounting and theology.
Also during this meeting:
Business plan. Kathy Lueckert, president of the A Corporation, reported on the first reading of a proposed business plan for 2020 for the Administrative Services Group, which provides administrative services to a variety of PC(USA) agencies and entities.
That work will include everything from filling key staff vacancies (such as hiring a chief operating officer and general counsel) to inventorying property held by the denomination ( including Native American properties) to expanding Global Language Resources.
Lueckert said developing the business plan “was a great exercise for us to firmly identify what the key tasks are for each of our many department areas and the goals for the coming year.”
That work includes looking for ways to expand, on a fee-for-service basis, use of Global Language Resources, which provides translation and interpretation services for Presbyterians whose first language is not English. Lueckert said the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions might be possible customers, but it’s not likely that mid councils will have enough money available to use those resources. She said Global Language Resources may be able to provide some “best practices” resources online that presbyteries and synods could use.
Financial report. As of Nov. 30, the A Corporation had more than $592 million in total assets, about $10 million more than a year ago. Close to half of that ($293 million) is permanently restricted funds held by the Foundation. For the 11 months ending Nov. 30, the A Corporation’s total income was about $109 million — including $71.7 million going to the Presbyterian Mission Agency and $16 million going to the Office of the General Assembly.
The A Corporation’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23-24.