Staff reductions might well be a part of re-envisioning and restructuring the Presbyterian Mission Agency

LOUISVILLE — Restructuring and redesigning the Presbyterian Mission Agency to help carry out the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 vision, an extended process that began last fall and won’t conclude until the summer of 2022, could include job losses, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett confirmed Thursday during an online quarterly meeting of PMA staff attended by nearly 240 employees.

“We anticipate significant changes in the way we function and are organized,” said Moffett, president and executive director of the PMA. Since 2022 is a General Assembly year, changes that are made will be implemented gradually, Moffett said.

She asked national staff whose work it is to carry out the denomination’s mission to “be prayerful and careful in your thoughts.”

“I am committed to a transparent process, but we don’t have all the answers right now,” Moffett said. “Uncertainty is unsettling, yet Presbyterians believe that the Church exists for mission. Through the Holy Spirit, we are agents of power to carry out God’s mission on Earth.”

The Book of Order notes that the Church “is to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life,” Moffett pointed out.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett

“I know this is a lot for you to hear, and I want you to understand that I share with you in some of the anxiety about all of this,” Moffett said. “But I’m also excited about the possibilities and how our agency can be even more effective.”

The Leadership Innovation Team, or LIT, was formed in May to work to discern which PMA functions ought to cease, continued and added on. It’s met 17 times over the last two months, mainly in three-hour blocks on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Simon Doong

“I never thought I would feel engaged to hop on a three-hour Zoom call on a Saturday morning, but I do,” said Simon Doong, associate for Peacemaking and a member of the LIT. “I think the process is trying to be forward-thinking.”

“The LIT team loves the Church,” Moffett said, “and more importantly, the God we serve.”

Using a word cloud, Doong led participants through an exercise that LIT undertook previously. He asked participants to think of systems, practices and assumptions “that exist that you wish did not.” Think of your words as museum pieces, he said.

What emerged was a thick cloud of words to be placed in the museum, including these: hierarchy, anxiety, silos, mistrust, patriarchy, colonialism, competition, racism, risk aversion and white supremacy.

“Thank you for sharing,” Moffett said, “and for your commitment to the work of Jesus Christ.”

PMA financial report

Cynthia Embry, a financial and budget analyst in the Controller’s Office, reported that through the first six months of the year, the PMA took in about $1 million more than budgeted — about $22.3 million came in against the approximately $21.3 million that had been anticipated. And while the PMA expected to incur about $28.1 million in expenses over those six months, actual expenses — owing to the travel ban, staffing vacancies and grants that have been budgeted but not paid out yet — were about $21.8 million, about $6.3 million under the budgeted amount.

Through May 31, the PMA’s unrestricted reserve, required to be at least $12.5 million, stood at about $22 million, about $9.5 million above the required amount.

So Jung Kim

“So far this year the PMA is doing well,” Embry said. “We hope the positive results continue through the end of the year.”

So Jung Kim, associate for Theology in the Office of Theology and Worship, completed the hour-long meeting by leading a companion piece to Doong’s exercise on leaving certain things behind. Kim’s exercise invited participants to imagine a changed future after staff watched a brief film by Naomi Klein, “A Message from the Future II: The Years of Repair.”

by Mike Ferguson, Presbyterian News Service