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Board approves new mission budgets; leaders praise new conference space

Board votes:
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted to approve mission budgets for 2023 and 2024.

Explaining that for the church, dollars add up to ministry, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted April 27 to approve a proposed mission budget for PMA of $70.1 million for 2023 and $70.7 million for 2024.

That budget will go to the 2022 General Assembly for its approval this summer.

On May 2, the boards of three groups – the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) board, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) and the board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation – will meet jointly via Zoom to approve a unified budget document to go to the assembly from the three groups. This mission budget just approved will be one component of that, along with budgets for the Administrative Services Group that the A Corporation board approved March 31. The PMA board and COGA also will vote that day to recommend a new General Assembly per capita rate for 2023 and 2024.

On April 18, COGA discussed a preliminary, draft recommendation that the General Assembly set its per capita rate for the next two years at $9.75 per member for 2023 and $10.75 per member for 2024. That compares to the current per capita rate of $8.98 per member — so would be a proposed increase of 77 cents (or 8.6%) for 2023 and of $1 (or 10.3%) from 2023 to 2024.

Diane Moffett

The mission budget the PMA board approved includes about $54.6 million in revenue for 2023 and $70.1 million in expenses — so it will be balanced using designated and restricted funds from prior years.

In a presentation to the board, Diane Moffett, PMA’s president and executive director, and her staff painted a picture of a budget that supports key priorities that PMA has set in its Mission Work Plan.

That means that over the next two years, PMA will center its work around:

Board votes:
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted to approve mission budgets for 2023 and 2024.

Moffett also announced some key promotions on her leadership team, with the appointments of three new deputy executive directors for PMA:

  • Sara Lisherness as deputy executive director of mission programs;
  • Barry Creech as deputy executive director for budget, board, General Assembly and administration; and
  • Corey Schlosser-Hall as deputy executive director of visioning, rebuilding and innovation.

In addition to those, Mienda Uriarte has been named acting director of World Mission, and DeEtte Decker acting senior director of communications, following the retirement of communications director Kathy Francis on April 1.

In her executive director’s report to the board, Moffett praised the work of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and of Kathy Lueckert, president of the A Corporation, to renovate the first floor of the PC(USA)’s national offices in Louisville, to make a conference center that General Assembly committees will use this summer and that the church hopes to monetize by renting out the facility to other groups after that.

That space will be “a real blessing for this church and the community,” Moffett said.

Later, Lueckert showed the board photos of progress on the project, which will include three gender-neutral bathrooms, three conference rooms, a production studio, welcome space, and a catering kitchen. She thanked Kerry Rice, the PC(USA)’s deputy stated clerk, for his vision for the project, and said the church hopes to hire a conference center manager by the end of 2022 to market use of the space with its “outstanding technology” and capability for holding hybrid meetings.

Kathy Lueckert. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.

On May 23, the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky will meet there to test out the space and the technology “before it’s show time” with the assembly, Lueckert said.

Creech outlined for the PMA board some of the key business coming to the assembly. And Moffet touched on one issue – a possible restructuring of the national church – that the PMA is watching carefully.

And as the hybrid General Assembly approaches, with the first plenary set for June 18, “let us pray for the spirit to touch the hearts and minds of the commissioners, as we discern God’s will,” Moffett said. “This is a spiritual endeavor that we are involved in. If we are going to be making disciples, if we are going to be making a difference, we need the power of the spirit to set our agenda side and empty out our storage and let God have God’s way.”

She spoke specifically of one recommendation: a proposal coming from the Special Committee on Per-Capita Based Funding and National Church Financial Sustainability, that the General Assembly form a commission to oversee and facilitate the unification of PMA and OGA into a single agency. Later in its April 27-29 Zoom meeting, the PMA board will consider making a comment to that recommendation indicating that starting with a commission is not the right way to proceed.

Rather than forming a commission to work towards merger, the comment suggests that the assembly consider directing PMA and OGA to explore together possibilities for collaboration, and to bring a merger proposal to the 2024 General Assembly if needed.

Or, if the assembly does create a merger commission, the commission should spend the next two years working on vision, report those findings to the assembly in 2024, then return to the assembly in 2026 with a recommendation involving merger, the proposed comment states.

Warren Lesane. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.

In her remarks, Moffett said the question of unification of PMA and OGA is “primarily a vision issue even more than a structural issue. … A shared understanding of God’s vision should be the motor that pulls us into God’s future.”

Moffett also said: “There may be a better way forward than forming a commission. It is better for these agencies themselves to design the way forward, being pulled into the future by God’s vision for the church, being accountable to the whole church” than to have a commission do it.

PMA board member Ken Godshall asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the proposed budgets for 2023 and 2024. Two years ago, anticipating declines in giving of up to 25% because of the pandemic, the 2020 General Assembly approved budgets that were significantly scaled back.

“This budget does not have the same reductions … but we are not yet back to 2019 levels,” Creech said.

“We are coming out of the pandemic, but we’re not back completely to where we were three years ago,” said Ian Hall, the A Corporation’s chief financial officer.

Warren Lesane gave his last report as PMA board chair before his service ends this summer. Lesane said he’s seen “seismic shifts” during his six years on the board – “six years of highs and lows,” of learnings, structural changes, chances to serve across the church, a trip with World Mission to Thailand, endless meetings, his recent struggle with cancer. “Hats off again to our very talented staff,” Lesane said, describing Moffett as a visionary leader and agent of change, who is being nominated to serve another four-year term as PMA’s president and executive director.

“I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey,” Lesane said, citing the words of an old spiritual.

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