2025-26 unifying budget proposal clears its last hurdle on the way to the 226th General Assembly

Unification Commission gives the proposal its unanimous blessing. The commission will present the unifying budget to the GA next month.

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Like their siblings on the A Corp Board, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board did while meeting jointly Tuesday in Salt Lake City, the Unification Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the proposed unifying budget for 2025 and 2026.

The next step is for the commission to take the unifying budget proposal to the 226th General Assembly, which meets next month in Salt Lake City.

“The message is getting through: We are serious about this unification thing,” said Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation. Lueckert serves as staff to the Unification Commission along with Barry Creech, Deputy Executive for Administration in the PMA, and Kerry Rice, Associate Stated Clerk in the OGA. “This is real, and this is happening,” Lueckert said. “We are learning as we go along.”

Asked by Commissioner Carson Brown how COGA and the PMAB Board — as well as the A Corp Board, which joined Tuesday’s historic meeting via Zoom — had reacted to the proposed unifying budget, Rice said that “folks appreciated how easily this can be used to interpret how we’re going to move forward in a unified way.”

“Our PMA Board rarely approves [budget proposals] unanimously,” said the Rev. Dr. Dee Cooper, who’s a member of both the Unification Commission and the PMA Board. “To me, that was a big symbol.”

“God is good!” said Cristi Scott Ligon, co-moderator of the commission, following the vote. The unifying budget proposal can be seen here.

Lueckert, Rice, Creech and Ian Hall, chief operating officer and chief financial officer serving in the Administrative Services Group, made a brief budget presentation to the Unification Commission. They touched on the vision and values that went into creating the proposal in just eight weeks, a process that has in the past taken up to nine months.

“I think we have made good strides in interpreting the process and dialing things in,” said Hall. “It’s a jolly good first try at this unified deal.”

Lueckert discussed a hiring approval process put into effect beginning May 1. Developed by senior leaders in the three entities, the process will place additional scrutiny on adding new employees to the national staff.

“The 2025 budget has very few new positions,” Lueckert noted. She offered four reasons for implementing the new process:

  • To assure alignment with vision and values, mission and ministry priorities.
  • To recognize that this is a transitional period, and to provide flexibility for unification.
  • To reevaluate how work is accomplished, and to explore the gifts that team members bring to the existing body of mission and ministry.
  • To closely manage the 2024/2025 base budgets so as not to increase the reduction objective — the $5 million expense savings needed to balance the two-year proposed budget — in 2026.

In another unanimous vote, commissioners sanctioned the same per-capita rates approved during Tuesday’s joint meeting — $10.20 in 2025 and $10.62 in 2026. Those rates will next be considered by commissioners to this year’s Assembly.

Other business

After the A Corp Board’s vote last week to approve a reserve policy combining and defining PMA, OGA and A Corp reserve funds, the Unification Commission voted with no member opposed to rescind previous reserve policies developed years and even decades ago.

The reserve funds for 2025 will be about $20.7 million and are fully paid for.

In addition, commissioners voted unanimously to fully support and endorse the recommendations of the Special Offerings Review Task Force, which will come before this summer’s Assembly. The PMA Board unanimously adopted the task force’s recommendations during its February meeting.

“Special Offerings provide a unique opportunity to give to important causes that are supported by the General Assembly and its unified budget,” the Unification Commission’s comment says. “The Unification Commission has been regularly updated on the development of these changes and supports this new approach.”

“In particular, we appreciate how these changes are in line with our unification efforts to streamline and simplify the message about important General Assembly mission work — without being overly prescriptive about exactly how some of the funds are used (while wisely maintaining our strategic, long-term support relationships). We also appreciate the establishment of a unified grant program for access to some of those funds to a wider constituency.”

The Unification Commission meets next via Zoom from 3 p.m. through 5 p.m. Eastern Time on May 18. Commission meetings can be viewed here.

By Mike Ferguson, Presbyterian News Service