After much discussion as a council and within its committees, the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a set of 11 “guiding principles for planning decisions” Feb. 26.

The guidelines aim to focus and prioritize the council’s service on “the mission of the whole church,” acknowledging that “there are good ministries that we can no longer support within the General Assembly Mission Council.”

The most immediate use of the guidelines will be seen in the 2011-12 General Assembly Mission Budget. The GAMC will have to adopt that budget at its May meeting.

In a Feb. 25 presentation to the council, Joey Bailey, the GAMC’s chief financial officer, showed projections that anticipate reduced unrestricted income of 15 percent in 2011 and 4 percent in 2012. One guideline states that the council will “operate according to fiscally sustainable principles in a commitment to live within our means and in alignment with funding trends.”

The guidelines state that the GAMC will focus on ministries that can only be done at the PC(USA)’s national level and will stop those than can best be done by other parts of the church.

The GAMC will also avoid duplication of work and will focus on ministries with the greatest impact, the guidelines state.

They also establish a “sunset rule” which includes evaluation of all programs by senior leadership at least every four years “to ensure that we are relevant, faithful, effective and accountable.” And the GAMC will “honor the value and loss of programs that may change or be eliminated.”

GAMC Executive Director Linda Valentine said the guidelines are intentionally unspecific. They are to be used as a framework for making decisions as the situation arises, she said.

The guidelines come after three and a half years of discussion among various groups, including members, elders, clergy, middle governing bodies and educators, who participated in paired weighting surveys, interviews, listening sessions and a Presbyterian Panel survey. GAMC staff also had input.