The Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) is offering voluntary separation packages to eligible staff members.

PMA staff members who are at least 60 years of age and have at least five years of continuous service with the PC(USA) by December 31, 2015, will have 45 days, starting on January 16, 2016, to accept or decline the offer.

In total, the packages will be offered to 46 PMA employees who meet the eligibility criteria. Term contract employees, conference center staff, mission personnel, and employees of Hubbard Press are not eligible for the offer.

“Through times of great challenge, I have faith that God will prevail and provide,” said Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “I also have confidence in our current staff and organization, secure in the knowledge that all decisions affecting those who serve—and are served by—the Presbyterian Mission Agency will be made collaboratively, judiciously, and in alignment with the 2016–2018 Mission Work Plan, which we are currently developing and which will guide our work moving forward.”

As De La Rosa and the PMA’s senior leadership work toward making critical decisions about which positions and programs will be impacted and possibly eliminated, they are looking carefully at the budget for ways to reduce expenses beyond programs and staff. “We want to do everything in our power to limit job eliminations,” De La Rosa said, “and as we do, it is important for us to consider such measures as a voluntary separation program, which not only gives eligible employees a choice about their future, but could also potentially lower the number of staff impacted by the projected involuntary reduction in force.”

De La Rosa also cited a challenge that was issued to the PC(USA) last spring by General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada, in which Rada named a prevailing concern that the current national structure “was formed when we had 5 million members, and that today our 1.8 million members want the same services and support which they received when our budgets were many times greater and our staff much larger.” That group of people, Rada said in his message to the church, “is calling for us to reexamine how we are organized beyond Presbyterian Mission Agency board operations.”

Because such a reexamination must necessarily take into account not only the organization but its people, a voluntary separation program allows for a more employee-sensitive approach.

In addition to a policy-based separation package, eligible employees who accept the PMA’s offer will also receive $15,000, intended to help with the cost of continuing health insurance benefits. The $15,000 amount was reached after researching sample premium rates through the Affordable Care Act, known as “kynect” in the state of Kentucky.

A similar voluntary separation program was last offered in March 2010 as an employee-friendly method to allow some staff to choose to retire and end their call to serve the church while at the same time reducing the number of staff that might be impacted by an involuntary reduction.