The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) approved reorganization of the mission program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that its executive director, Linda Valentine, said "reflects healthy change that is adaptive to trends in the church and the world, and that is consistent with projected resources."

As part of the reorganization — which has been in development for 10 months — the GAMC approved General Assembly Mission Budgets that reduce spending by 12.2 percent in 2011 and an additional 2 percent in 2012. The cuts resulted in the net reduction of the staff at the Presbyterian Center here by 49 positions. Affected employees were notified Friday afternoon (May 14). Fifteen incumbents were offered new positions in the revamped organization.

In all 73.5 positions were eliminated. Twelve were vacant and 12 employees accepted voluntary separation offers in recent weeks. The staff reduction amounts to 13 percent, from roughly 390 employees to 340. Staff cuts occurred across the GAMC — 24.5 in Mission, 11.5 in Shared Services, 8 in Communications and Funds Development and five in the Executive Director’s office.

The proposed 2011 mission budget totals $82,097,234 — down 12.2 percent from the revised 2010 budget of $93,841,273. The 2012 budget totals $80,550,613, a further reduction of 2 percent. Both budgets will be forwarded to the upcoming 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis, July 3-10 for adoption.

"Role is changing"

"The role of the mission agency is changing from doing mission on the church's behalf to inspiring, equipping, and connecting the church for mission and ministry," Valentine told the council as she outlined the reorganization plan. "Even as we make this shift, we know that God continues to provide all that is necessary for the church's mission."

She noted that "congregations and groups are engaging more directly in mission of all sorts” and “we as a church are re-committing ourselves to expanding partnership in God’s mission and in the process expanding our witness to Christ in this country and around the world in ever more profound and impactful ways."

Statistics show that Presbyterians are giving more overall to mission than ever before. Funding for denominational mission continues to decline. Chief financial officer Joey Bailey told the council that unrestricted income declined 44 percent between 1999 and 2009. During the same period restricted income declined 29 percent. Roughly two-thirds of the mission budget is restricted and one-third unrestricted.

Research: "lack of consensus"

Development of the reorganization began with research, described by Valentine as "both quantitative and qualitative input from a broad swath of Presbyterian leaders." It included "paired weightings" in which church leaders were asked to rate mission activities comparatively, interviews with a variety of PC(USA) leaders and a Presbyterian Panel survey conducted by the denominations Research Services office.

The research "found passion among Presbyterians for a wide variety of mission activities," Valentine said. "At the same time, it found a lack of consensus around any of them as being the most important.  Instead, we are called to balance numerous functions on which the church has asked us to lead."

With the church asking for such a wide variety of ministries and programs, Valentine said, "it was clear that we could not prioritize what we do and narrow our focus to just a few areas. We can and have, though, prioritized how we do our work."

Strategic directions:

At an earlier meeting, the GAMC adopted five strategic directions to guide the reorganization effort:

  • The GAMC role is to inspire, equip and connect — to "broker, connect and facilitate" mission among Presbyterians rather than initiate mission programs;
  • We engage in communities of mission practice — focusing on "multi-party" partnerships to advance mission;
  • We will focus on the health of congregations and other communities of faith — focusing time and effort "to bring the most impact to the health and vibrancy of the local congregation";
  • We will focus on leadership development — helping all church leaders develop "core competencies";
  • We will embrace a global perspective — focusing on "global discipleship with local, national, and international components" and "working to reduce distance between the different spaces of mission."

Valentine said the strategic directions and accompanying guiding principles — focus on the whole church, fiscal sustainability, avoiding duplication, "sunset rules" and regular evaluation of all programs, focus on ministries that can only be done at the national level — enabled GAMC staff and elected members "to plan a hopeful future in a world where new giving patterns lead to decline of traditional funding sources and where new demands compete with established programs ..."

Major changes

Valentine said the reorganization "will affect every ministry area of the GAMC." Some of the highlights:

  • Congregational Ministries Publishing Congregational Ministries Publishing will be re-organized in order to be financially self-supporting in all English language curriculum and educational resources beginning in 2011. The GAMC will support the net cost of Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Braille curriculum.
  • Mission Resources (the Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study, the Presbyterian Planning Calendar, Presbyterians Today magazine) will be reorganized within Communications and Funds Development to become self-sustaining. The Children’s Mission Yearbook will be discontinued.
  • World Mission will be revamped — in line with its recently completed strategy process — to focus on "communities of mission practice" that include staff, mission networks and other mission organizations and the PC(USA)'s global partners. The ministry area will engage in mission only in places where global partners and mission "constituents" both have an interest in working with World Mission. No mission workers will be recalled and the GAMC has committed to increase mission worker support from 11 percent of the current mission budget to 13 percent.
  • Vocation will reduce its support for the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel and will discontinue continuing education grants in 2012. It will also reduce or end the National Presbyterian Scholarship Program and develop a new program to include loan forgiveness provisions to its theological student loans for seminary graduates who agree to serve "hard to call" congregations.
  • Evangelism and Church Growth will reduce funding for Mission Program Grants and will shift the focus of its Youth and Young Adult Ministries office to equipping congregations to develop youth and young adult ministries locally.
  • Racial Ethnic Ministries will shift its focus from working directly with racial ethnic congregations to working cross-culturally, partnering with European-American churches, middle governing bodies and others to promote diversity throughout the PC(USA).
  • Women's Ministries will shift its focus from policy development around women's issues to program and ministry development and implementation at all levels of the church.
  • Shared Services will shift and streamline accounting functions to take advantage of new technology and eliminate redundancies. Service levels will be reduced in the mail room and distribution warehouse.

Several programs are moving in the revamped organization:

  • Research Services will move from the Executive Director's office to the Deputy Executive Director for Mission office;
  • The Asian American Leadership office is being closed and a portion of its funding and program is being combined with the Korean Congregational Support office in Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women;
  • Interfaith Relations will move from World Mission to Theology, Worship and Education;
  • Human Resources will move from Shared Services to the Executive Director’s office and will now include Cultural Proficiency. The Cultural Proficiency office will expand to include a
    " persons of color recruiting network."

'Best interest of the church'

"The changes ... won't all be easy, but we believe that they are in the best interest of the church, and will continue to move us in the right direction for meeting the church's core needs and offering the world a visible witness of Jesus Christ," Valentine concluded.

"We're reminded in the Book of Order, she added, “that 'Christ calls the Church into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission in the world." Even in a time that feels like it is 'cut, cut, cut,' Christ provides all that is necessary."