Unification Commission workgroups take first steps

Work continues to unite the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

At the April 16 meeting of the commission to unify the Office of General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), the commission heard the first updates from their four workgroups. 

The 2022 General Assembly (GA) mandated the commission to present a new organization for mission at the 2026 GA, and gave the commission the power to review, adapt, align and organize boards, committees and constituent bodies not explicitly established in the Book of Order. The purpose of a unified new structure is for the long-term faithfulness and financial sustainability of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). If needed, the commission has the power to assume governance to achieve these purposes. 

Because of the size and scope of the commission’s mandate, the commission formed four workgroups focused on common mission, consultations, financial and governance at their March meeting to better organize their work to unite the two agencies into a unified structure. The April meeting was their first report back to the commission, which meets monthly.  

Commissioner Bill Teng, reporting for the common mission workgroup, shared that the workgroup identified two passages of Scripture and one citation of the Book of Order that help establish what and who the “church is called to do and be.” A common mission can be found in the great commission in Matthew 28, he said, and in the calls to the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20. They also highlighted the first section of the Book of Order that describes God’s mission in the world. 

Using this framework, the workgroup identified a series of common objectives between the two agencies that include evangelism, discipleship, global mission, innovation, social justice advocacy, equipping for worship and channeling financial resources.

“We may do things differently from time to time, but these are mandates from Scripture and Presbyterian polity,” Teng said in reference to the differences between the agencies. “We have to honor the DNA – the essentials – of these two agencies. Not necessarily how they do it as much as the DNA they have that makes them who they are today.”

The consultations workgroup shared their process for listening and consulting with different constituencies. The commission’s mandate requires consultation with representatives from OGA, PMA and all other agencies, committees, staff and denominational entities and boards, including the advocacy and advisory committees and mid councils.  

Commissioner Dee Cooper shared the initial questions that the workgroup intends to ask these representatives: What would you like the unification commission to know and consider in their work? What are your hopes? What are your concerns? What questions should we be asking? 

If time permits, the workgroup plans to ask, “Thinking about how your work relates to OGA and PMA, what impact would unification have?”

The workgroup has begun scheduling consultations, the first of which was at the joint meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) and Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) on Wednesday, April 19.

Commissioner Scott Lumsden shared that the financial workgroup intends to consult  Presbyterian Foundation – which holds the endowments, planned gifts, and mid- to long-term investments of the PC(USA) – to better understand the development and designation of funds for PMA and OGA. 

The governance workgroup shared a list of questions that they believe will guide the commission’s work in considering the governance of a new organization for mission. 

The governance workgroup, said Commissioner Debra Avery, would like to explore the shape, leadership and core of governance. Among questions from the workgroup: How does governance impact, establish, create, change and manage systems and day-to-day processes —or does it? How does governance impact, establish, create and change agency culture? This group would also like to explore the needs of mid councils, advisory committees and caucuses. 

The workgroup has committed to learning more about PMAB and COGA and how their work intersects.

Citing similar restructuring initiatives in other denominations like the Reformed Church of America and the United Methodist Church, commissioner Debra Avery shared that the workgroup has received a chart from Kathey Luekcert, president of the PC(USA), A Corporation, describing structures of other denominations. 

“We are looking at best practices and practices we don’t want to reproduce,” Avery said. 

The next meeting of the commission is on May 20 on Zoom. 

 A recording of the meeting can be viewed at