The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (formerly the General Assembly Mission Council) has approved “a path and process” to establish the denomination’s Stony Point (N.Y.) Center as separate corporation related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The unanimous vote by the board at its Sept 12-14 meeting here came upon recommendation of a task force that was appointed a year ago. It was charged to “study the missional alignment, viability, financial sustainability and management performance of Stony Point.
“Undeniably, the task force was excited by what we learned at Stony Point,” said task force chair and PMAB member Melissa DeRosia. “The mission alignment of Stony Point highlights a unique witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today.”
Located about 40 miles north of New York City, Stony Point Center began about 150 years ago as a place of hospitality for international religious visitors and retired and furloughed PC(USA) missionaries. But in recent years ― until 2008 when former General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and his wife Kitty became co-directors ― Stony Point had struggled with both its identity and its financial viability.
Kitty Ufford-Chase told the board that during the Ufford-Chases’ tenure the center has “pursued two mandates: to build the church and to ‘create a home for the faith-based movement for peace and justice.”
Rick Ufford-Chase said that effort has centered on three program areas:
- “to support the church by making it easy for all levels of the church to come to Stony Point”;
- to work with church, interfaith and other humanitarian groups to make Stony Point “THE home for interfaith non-violent study and action for peace and justice; and
- create a multi-faith residential community for non-violence and peace.
The residential community ― named the Community of Living Traditions ― includes Christians, Muslims and Jews who, Kitty Ufford-Chase said, “share their religious practices and traditions with each other and engage in study and action around non-violence.
The community also sponsors a summer internship program for young adults ―18 this year ― to operate Stony Point’s community garden in the mornings and participate in the community’s peace and justice work the rest of the day.
The garden furnishes much of the food for Stony Point’s dining hall.
Current General Assembly Moderator Neal Presa called this transformed Stony Point an unqualified success. “Stony Point is a crown jewel, a unique witness by and for the church ,” he said. “Stony Point is a place of welcome to the multi-cultural, multi-faith world in which we live.”
Stony Point’s successful transformation is also showing up in its financial statements. After running up a cumulative operating deficit of $1.5 million between 2007 and 2011, the center is on track to finish 2012 with an operating surplus “for the first time in as many years as any of us can remember,” Rick Ufford-Chase noted.
The PMAB appointed a seven-member “Transitional Task Team” to work with the Stony Point board of directors and appropriate denominational staff over the next 18 months to move toward Stony Point’s separate incorporation. Currently, the center doesn’t qualify for separate incorporation under PMAB guidelines.
Stony Point’s business plan to get there includes:
- creation of a new mission statement and “brand”;
- alignment of Stony Points fiscal policies and procedures with those of the PMAB;
- establishment of fundraising goals and means to achieve them;
- capital improvements to the Stony Point campus (estimated at $1.4 million); and
- marketing that will create long-term occupancy agreements with a variety of groups ― “it’s all about heads on beds,” Rick Ufford-Chase noted.
PMAB member Jan Herring praised the plan. “I’m impressed by the work of the task force and of Stony Point’s leaders,” he said. “This strategy, and the efforts to date, gives a clear opportunity for Stony Point to survive as a Presbyterian-branded conference center.”
The other two national conference centers related to the PC(USA) are Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and Montreat in North Carolina.