General Assembly backgrounder: mission coordination
Detroit provides backdrop for proposals on racism, employment, income inequality, renewing urban ministry
Meeting in Detroit ― which is emblematic of the social and economic malaise affecting both the United States and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― the Assembly Committee on Mission Coordination of the PC(USA)’s 221st General Assembly will address a number of issues related to racism, employment, compensation and how to revive the nation’s urban areas and the churches in them. The Assembly meets June 14-21.
Among the matters being considered:
The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) ― in a report entitled “The Gospel from Detroit: Renewing the Church’s Urban Vision” (08-08) ― asks the Assembly to commend Presbyterians who “embody an urban Christian vision” and to encourage presbyteries to study their histories of city congregations in order to “renew their own urban strategies in response to existing racial and economic inequity and to new urban demographic, economic and transportation dynamics...”
That report also calls for the re-establishment of a metro/urban ministry staff position within the Presbyterian Mission Agency, with funding through 2020; for a series of regional conversations on “Race, Class, and the Current Challenges of Urban Ministry”; and for a comprehensive review of the church’s social teachings on urban mission.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency is proposing revisions to the Churchwide Plan for Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action (18-03), which was developed in 1985 and has not been updated since 1994. Worked on by human resources representatives of the six national agencies of the PC(USA), the revisions reflect their conviction that the plan must be updated to fit today’s employment law, General Assembly structure and the Book of Order without losing the PC(USA)’s historic commitments.
A proposal from the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns (18-06) calls on the Presbyterian Mission Agency to develop an anti-racism policy, to create and implement a churchwide anti-racism training program, recommend that all mid councils and congregations provide anti-racism training and dialogue.
ACSWP is also bringing a response (18-07) to two referrals from the 2012 General Assembly that sought a review of ministerial compensation in the PC(USA), particularly the lowest paid pastors.
In both 2010 and 2012, the Assembly encouraged presbyteries to establish voluntary salary equalization or enhancement funds, but “none are reported,” the report states.
In the report of its Special Offerings Task Force (08-13), the mission agency is recommending that the annual Peacemaking Offering be “transitioned” to a Peace and Global Witness Offering, with the 50 percent of offering receipts historically designated for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program going to the agency for “peace and global witness ministries.” In its rationale, the task force states that the offering has a loyal support network but participation has been stagnant for the past 20 years.
The task force is also recommending that the next Special Offerings Review Task Force review progress toward the goal endorsed by the 2012 Assembly of raising $20 million through the four special offerings ― One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peacemaking and Christmas Joy ― by 2020, about a 40 percent increase from their current levels; and “align offering recipients with the strategic objectives of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.”
The mission agency is recommending General Assembly Mission Budgets (08-15) of $73,671,744 for 2015 and $78,226,389 for 2016. Both budgets will likely be adjusted due to the cost of actions the Assembly takes. The revised 2014 mission budget is $79,946,530.
And the PMA is asking the Assembly to confirm its election of PMA Executive Director Linda Valentine to a third four-year term (08-16). No previous executive director has served more than two terms.
These and other mission coordination issues will be considered by Assembly Committee 8 — Mission Coordination. Jerry Van Marter and Rachel Shussett, summer intern in the Office of Communication, will cover Committee 8 for the General Assembly Communication Center.