Unification Commission’s May meeting anticipates first deadlines

The commission’s first task will be to create a narrative of budget priorities.

The sixth meeting of the General Assembly commission to unify the Office of General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) met on Saturday, May 20.

A mandate from the 2022 General Assembly (GA) instructed the Unification Commission to present a new, integrated organization to the 2026 GA. As a result, the commission has the power to review, adapt, align and organize boards, committees and constituent bodies not explicitly established in the Book of Order. If needed, the commission has the power to assume governance of the agencies to achieve these purposes.  

Presenting a unified structure in 2026, however, includes earlier deadlines that the commission is beginning to anticipate. On Saturday, co-Moderator Felipe Martínez shared a timeline with the commission to meet budgetary concerns.

Since agencies within the purview of GA work with two-year budgets, the 2025-2026 budgets that OGA and PMA will present to GA next summer need to include funding for unified governance. For OGA and PMA staff to begin the budgeting process, they will need some guidance from the commission by November of this year to have budget priorities ready by April 2024. 

Martínez stressed that he thought the commission would not be able to provide a full common vision before the budgeting process begins. However, he would like the commission to start “shaping a narrative of budget priorities.” This will be a primary concern for the June commission meeting.  

The commission also heard reports from their four workgroups.

The finance workgroup is meeting weekly to review the finances of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Commissioner Scott Lumsden described the finances as “broad, deep and complex.” The workgroup is requesting financial reports from OGA and PMA to better understand how incomes, expenses, surpluses and deficits are managed. 

Lumsden described the enormity of the task.

“When I look at the amount of funds we manage, a governance structure should relate to the overall organization of the church, and I am a little confused about our organizational structure. I know that we made some changes to it, but we have boards that really aren’t boards. We have committees that should have more heft to them,” he said. “We have a complicated finance structure, and we have a complicated governance structure. It’s all tied together.” 

The workgroup would like to make a financial presentation at the June commission meeting that hits the high points of what they have been learning. 

Commissioner Dee Cooper, reporting for the consultations workgroup, shared that the work group has held consultations as the joint meeting between the Committee of the Office of General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, two gatherings of mission co-workers and the Presbyterian Church (USA), A Corporation (A Corp). Consultations are upcoming with the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee, Mission Responsibility Through Investment and the Presbyterian Foundation. 

In these consultations, the workgroup has received guidance and met assumptions about the outcomes of unification. They have also heard anxiety.

“We are aware that the anxiety is there. We feel it. We hear it. We are sensitive to that. We are also very aware that we are gathering information that is not ours to do — everything from saving the denomination to growing our membership significantly. We listen. That is important to hear because that reflects what are the concerns that are surfacing,” Cooper said.

Cooper also shared some of the insights she heard in the group’s consultation with A Corp — the corporation that provides business services for the denomination.

“It was pointed out that there was a lot of anxiety before A Corp was formed. Yet, they are the living expression of a brand new structure brought into place that moved the system in a manner that brought many, many gifts and many wonderful ways of doing ministry in Louisville,” Cooper said.

She described the A Corp as a brilliant example of how God provides in the midst of anxiety and the unknown. “That journey has been a successful one.”

The governance workgroup asked the commission for clarification. They would like a better understanding of the non-negotiables and essentials that will guide their work as the commission.

A Corp President Kathy Lueckert said, “Remember that there are the constitutions and the Book of Order and then there is the organization for mission. That document is really the marching orders for how mission is done far more than the Book of Order. You are all charged with re-writing the organization for mission. I think a lot of the creativity that you want to inject into a new organization for mission, you already have the power to do. That’s where I would focus your efforts.”

GA co-Moderator Ruth Santana-Grace said, “One of the hardest things I think there will be for this body is that there are so many good things that we are doing. One of the deepest discernments will be the why of why this entity exists and who are they serving so that the church can flourish on the ground. What is it that will make this entity relevant and faithful to serve the larger membership? That will be the hard framing at the end of the day.”  

The common mission workgroup had no report.  

The next commission meeting will be held in person at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 22-25.

A recorded livestream of the meeting is available at