The General Assembly (GA) commission to unify the Office of General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) has adopted a plan to move the unification date ahead six months.
The commission, re-evaluated their timelines to merge the two agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) during their August 20 virtual meeting.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), A Corporation President Kathy Lueckert provided a timeline to the commission that moved unification from Jan. 1, 2026, to July 1, 2025, a beneficial change because January 2026 is in the middle of GA planning, Lueckert said. The commission adopted the five steps included in her timeline.
The 2022 GA mandated this commission to unify the two national agencies, bringing a new organization for mission to the 2026 GA. The commission has a wide range of power 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. The commission discussed in its last meeting the possibility of hiring outside consultants to advise on unification, and decided to form a group to set parameters for what is needed in terms of consultancy.
Step one continues throughout 2023. During this time, the commission will identify key unified budget priorities, continue to consult with agency representatives, explore different governance models and analyze finances.
The design phase continues with a second step in 2024. The commission plans to submit an interim report to GA, further develop the 2025 budget, design a governance model, examine the cultures of the agencies and start working on the support systems for what Lueckert described as the “back office work,” such as payroll and administrative support.
Step three will last the first half of 2025 leading up to a unification date of July 1, 2025. During this step, the commission will begin the 2026 budget, create an interim governance framework and consider what Lueckert described as a “very high level staffing plan.”
Step four implements unification beginning on July 1, 2025. The commission will form an interim governance framework and finalize an administrative manual of operations called the Organization for Mission.
Step five is alignment in 2026. The commission expects to have a unified budget and staffing rationale. GA will then consider the Organization for Mission and elect a new governing body for the unified agency.
“If we can get some of the other pieces moving and there is momentum, we could see the possibility that Jan. 1, 2025, to July 1, 2025, as rolling deadlines. That might bring us pieces of unification little bits at a time,” said Commissioner Debra Avery. “It is not going to be an on-off switch.”
GA Co-Moderator Sharon Starling-Louis said, “Seeing the timeline and the framings is a sign the Spirit is moving. You are doing really important work.”
The commission also discussed the feedback they hear that the agencies have two distinct cultures. This observation has been shared at multiple meetings of the commission and reported back from the workgroup consulting with representatives from the agencies. The commission discussed how to engage these differing cultures and the timeline for that work.
“It is our responsibility as a commission to be attentive to the culture question and the people question,” said Commissioner Scott Lumsden. “It is helpful to hear the deadlines and the process we are going to follow. It is going to be most important for us as we talk about potential governance and finance changes that we all take responsibility to be attentive to the culture of it.
“This is about the whole organization,” he said. “This is going to affect a lot of people, not just staff. The whole church is going to be watching us very closely.
“As soon as we talk concretely about changing things, I think we may be surprised by how the conversations deepens and gives us its own timeline.”
Commissioner Kris Thompson said, “I think we need to be clear that as a commission we are not likely to change the culture. Our role is, in my mind, to do the kind of listening we have been doing, to get much clearer about what we think are the healthy aspects of the culture and the less than healthy aspects of the culture, and to be in a position to reflect those back.”
Her hope is that this can model that the commission is “not afraid to say what we have been hearing and know where we need to change and to heal and to grow.”
The commission scheduled one hour for a closed session at the beginning of the meeting. This departure from the usual pattern of ending their monthly meeting in closed session was to accommodate guests, including Acting Stated Clerk Bronwen Boswell and valerie izumi, manager for General Assembly nominations. Upon the return from closed session, commission Co-Moderator Cristi Scott Ligon announced that the commission formed a small group to “craft feedback to the General Assembly Nominating Committee as well as the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee.”
The commission meets next on Sept. 17 at 3:00 on Zoom.
A recording of the livestream can be found at https://vimeo.com/847647683.