Unification Commission considers consultants in their reorganization work

Human resource specialists from the Administrative Service Group advise the commission at their July meeting.

Representatives from the Administrative Service Group (ASG) joined the most recent meeting of the General Assembly Unification Commission to offer advice for the process of hiring a consultant as the commission works toward merging the Office of General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). ASG is the business office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation.  

During the July 22 Zoom meeting, Ruth Gardner, Anisha Hackney and Ricky Purdy, all of whom are human resource specialists at ASG, shared their experiences working with consultants on large corporate mergers, including with consulting firms like Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company. The commission approved forming a group to explore the use of consultants as an outside voice in their work.

Speaking on behalf of human resources, Gardner said, “We are happy to help you with the daunting work before you.”

“We need someone with re-organizational gifts to help us as we do the work,” said Commissioner Scott Lumsden. “We are not looking for a consultant to do our work for us, but as we do the work, it would be nice to have an outside voice.” He added that he does not want “the process of hiring a consultant to take all our time.”

The commission also heard reports from their workgroups and looked ahead to the October meeting, which will coincide with mid council leadership at the Polity, Benefits and Mission Conference this October in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The 2022 GA mandated this commission to unify the two national agencies, bringing a new organization for mission to the 2026 GA. The commission is empowered to review, adapt, align and organize boards, committees and constituent bodies. If needed, the commission has the power to assume governance of the agencies to achieve these purposes. 

Commissioner Kris Thompson identified some of the areas where consultants might be useful, such as strategic communication, change management and financial concerns. She also stressed the importance of working with consultant groups with nonprofit experience. 

Purdy said, “What we really pay consultants for is their up-to-date, current experiences in the places of reorganization across companies and bringing those best practices to consider as you go through a reorganization. They can really be valuable, but it really does get back to how they are utilized and what the expectations are that the commission sets forth.”

The commission’s decision to form a group to set the parameters around what is needed in terms of consultancy was unanimous. 

The commission also received reports from their four workgroups.

Commissioner Dee Cooper reported for the consultations workgroup, which is tasked with organizing conversations with representatives across the two agencies. Cooper invited Susan Barnett, director of research services, as a guest for her report. Barnett recommended that the commission turn the four questions asked at the conversations into a survey for the mid council leaders, who will be meeting with the commission at the Polity, Benefits and Mission Conference in October. Surveying mid council leaders before the conference allows the commission to follow up more in-depth on what they learn from their responses. 

The four questions being asked in the consultations were shared by the workgroup at the April meeting. They are: 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? 

For the survey, Barnett would like to augment these questions with some multiple-choice options based on the comments the commission has already received. This, she suggested, allows respondents to offer a “deeper dive.”

Barnett and Cooper discussed how mid council leaders are often viewed as bridges between local congregations and national offices. Cooper stressed that mid council leaders have their perspectives to offer, and she does not want to lose the opportunity to engage them. 

“Mid council leaders are bringing a set of eyes, a set of experiences and a set of input in their relationships with OGA and PMA,” said Cooper. “I hope we are utilizing that time to capture their wisdom.”

Commissioner Bill Teng reported back to the commission for the common mission workgroup.  

“We were tasked at the last meeting to come up with a simple statement to answer the ‘why’ of the commission. We batted several things around and realized that this statement may be the closest and easiest way to answer that question,” Teng said. “The statement itself is nothing creative, not even original. It comes directly from the minutes of the General Assembly and explains clearly what the commission’s mandate is.” 

Teng then read their statement from a written report submitted to the commission: “The 225th General Assembly (2022) approved ‘a commission to oversee and facilitate the unification of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) into a single agency, to align the entities, boards, and committees toward long-term faithfulness and financial sustainability of its mission within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).’”

Lumsden offered a report from the finance workgroup. The workgroup is meeting weekly and has met with representatives of both PMA and OGA. Since the last commission meeting, the workgroup clarified the budget process and shared that they would discuss those clarifications in a closed session. 

Commissioner Debra Avery, reporting for the governance workgroup, shared that she met with the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee and that she would report additional information during the closed session.

The next meeting will be on August 29 on Zoom. A recording of the livestream can be found at