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Employment issues regarding PCNCI staff reach conclusion

Presbyterian Mission Agency Board issues statement

June 1, 2015

Louisville

The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has issued the following statement regarding the resolution of employment issues following the results of an independent investigation into the incorporation and funding of a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation by PC(USA) evangelism and church growth staff.

 Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Statement

June 1, 2015

At its April meeting, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board empowered attorney John Sheller to work with the Executive Committee and Executive Director to take appropriate steps to resolve employment issues with four staff following the 2013 creation of an independent corporation related to the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Innovations, Inc. The four employees are no longer with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Because this is a private personnel matter, we cannot provide any other details. These four individuals have made significant contributions to the Presbyterian Mission Agency and to the wider denomination over the years. They have been and continue to be faithful servants of the church.

 Rev. Marilyn S. Gamm

Chair, Presbyterian Mission Agency Board

No details were given to the nature of the employee separations and, due to employee confidentiality concerns, the final report produced by the independent investigation is not expected to be released publicly.

The Finance and Accounting office of the PC(USA) reports paid administrative leave for the four employees, including salary and benefits, from November 14, 2014 until their separations is approximately $242,000. The total cost of legal fees for the investigation, across several legal firms, is estimated at $850,000.

Costs of the administrative leave and legal fees will be allocated from the unrestricted reserves of the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund (PMPF). The resultant reduction in available reserves is expected to affect future budgeting cycles as early as fall 2016.

In the six-month period of the investigation, the 1001 Worshiping Communities initiative has added 42 communities to its roster while 26 have ceased to function as worshiping communities. As of this writing, there are 279 new worshiping communities active in 113 presbyteries.

Editor's update from the June 1, 2015, 4:00pm EST conference call held with Marilyn Gamm, John Sheller and Linda Valentine, Presbyterian Mission Agency executive director:

During the call, Valentine said there were no immediate plans to replace employees no longer with the PMA. She noted the dedication of staff that provided mission support for the “temporary arrangement” in place during the investigation, saying the PMA “will decide if we make any changes going forward” in the near future.  

When asked how the work of the 1001 Worshiping Congregations initiative would continue, Valentine said, “We have made changes to processes and systems … The fundamental mission continues.

“It’s been a difficult matter for all concerned,” she said of the investigation and interim leadership. “I’m grateful for the staff who’ve helped and stepped in to carry on the mission.”

An email to PC(USA) staff, which included Gamm’s statement, included comments from Valentine in which she said, “We will continue to stay focused on executing God’s mission throughout the world. The temporary organizational changes that have been in place since November will continue while we move forward. I am thankful for your hard work and continued dedication to our important work.”

  1. It's really sad that this report is not being released - it leaves the reputations and integrity of the four employees in question and creates a perception of secrecy and malfeasance on part of the PMA. In one of the brightest and most hopeful things to come out of the PCUSA in years, to react in this manner is really unacceptable and a detriment to the mission of the church. I would urge that this report be released in it's entirety as soon as possible for the sake of these pastors who have been wronged and the church as a whole.

    by John Zechiel

    June 12, 2015

  2. I call for the Alston and Bird report to be made public. I believe this matter has been handled in a way that is unchristian. I love my denomination, but I am ashamed of the way this matter has been handled. Also, as a person who moderates a Church Development/Redevelopment committee at the presbytery level, I can indeed say that the temporary arrangement in employment made working with the Office of Church Growth rather difficult since November. I hope to see improvements soon. Plus, I hope to see these four colleagues in ministry vindicated.

    by Rev. Desiree M. Youngblood

    June 5, 2015

  3. The handling of this entire issue, and particularly the treatment of these four employees, is deplorable. I see only two ways in which trust can be re-established: 1) The release of the Alston and Bird report, or 2) the resignation and replacement of the entire PMA Board. Obviously, the first option would be preferable. Until then, I will urge my church and Presbytery to financially support ministries that actually prioritize ministry over legal fees, wasted investigations, and needless secrecy.

    by Rev. Neal Locke

    June 4, 2015

  4. Time for coming clean about this. It looks bad for the denomination. Not what we need at this time. At least give the 4 the details of the report. There seems to be enough conflicting information about this that the whole report should be made public. The question is quickly becoming, what are you covering up?

    by Doyll Andrews

    June 4, 2015

  5. In my work with non-profit corporations that provide various services for those in need, I've never heard of over $1 M being spent to terminate four employees who did what "a reasonable and prudent person should know not to do." At the very least PC (USA) should quickly have an "outsider" review of its system of checks and balances. At this point in time things such as 30% budget overruns, etc. are inexcusable, given everyone's knowledge of PC ( USA)'s growing financial woes.

    by Dick Chubon

    June 3, 2015

  6. Another example of the inept and incompetent management at the OGA. Nearly a million dollars wasted because nobody knew what to do.

    by Larry S. Lindsay

    June 3, 2015

  7. This is a totally inadequate and unacceptable way to conclude. All appearances are of an effort to sweep this under the rug - just make it go away. We in the PCUSA deserve to receive the full report for which we paid.

    by Rev. Dana Sutton

    June 3, 2015

  8. As is often the case in misconduct, the system allowed the misconductors to drive the process. If the four employees had been terminated for cause immediately, we would not now be well over a million dollars in the hole and having to retire, terminate or delay hiring missionaries who themselves serve faithfully in the field. PMAB glossy pleas for new funding land in my mailbox almost daily---regretably, I no longer feel connected to or trust funding my own church's global mission.

    by Rev Sim Gardner

    June 2, 2015

  9. I am disgusted with how this has been handled since it came to light. There is no excuse for this action, especially based upon the information that has been made publically available. If the Rev. Olt is correct and the employees were refused access to the report based upon attorney-client privilege, this entire scenario is all the more outrageous and disheartening. Based upon the information made public, I did not believe the four employees in question should have been terminated. Based upon what is public regarding how this whole situation has been handled since it first came to light, I have no confidence in the PMAB. They need to be held accountable for how this has been handled.

    by Jonathan Hughes

    June 2, 2015

  10. It should be noted that the employees requested access to the report, which was refused by the Board on grounds of "attorney-client privilege", not employee confidentiality.

    by Rev. Schuyler Olt

    June 1, 2015

  11. I am severely disappointed in this action and more disappointed in the lack of explanation. I understand that it is a personnel issue. I work with this often. Something needs to be done quickly to restore confidence that God is indeed working within the GMA and not a spirit of jealously and partisanship. . Further, I think this will have an undeniable effect upon the giving to the GMA as this was one of the bright spots in the PCUSA and these individuals provided the leadership for that. I hope that some major efforts are being made to manage the damage control and to reestablish trust in many ways from many groups.

    by Steve Shive

    June 1, 2015