As it wrestles with reports from The Way Forward Commission and the All Agency Review Committee that propose significant changes in the way national church agencies relate to each other and with mid councils and congregations, the General Assembly’s Way Forward Committee also heard from people Monday who want more or less than those reports call for.
Jo Stewart, a member of The Way Forward Commission, said the commission’s recommendations “fall short of what the church needs today.” Block out the rhetoric they’re hearing — even hers, she suggested to committee members — and “think about how (the recommendations) meet the changing needs of congregations.”
The Rev. Sue Krummel, Presbytery of Chicago’s executive presbyter, compared the current power dynamic to four siblings living in the same building — but one, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, owns the building, and other pay that sibling rent for some of the services they receive.
“What is the right way for this family to move forward and manage the business side so that we can spread the gospel,” she said.
“Find a way to make power consultative and broad,” said the Rev. Jan DeVries, general presbyter of Grace Presbytery. She said the committee should recommend the General Assembly delay implementation “to give (stated clerk) J. Herbert Nelson, II and (Presbyterian Mission Agency president and executive director) Diane Moffett time to build a relationship. Challenge them to bring back a collaborative model,” including consultations for mid councils and proposals on distributing per capita funds — and “identify the core values of how we govern and communicate.”
As they did during Sunday’s plenary, members of All Agency and The Way Forward laid out their proposals and answered questions, clearing up such committee queries as “What is the A Corp.,” the corporate entity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that dates back more than two centuries. The Way Forward’s proposal is to reduce the size of the A Corporation while increasing the breadth of its representation. Currently, the membership of the A Corporation and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is the same.
“Our proposal is about freeing the mission agency to do mission in the 21st century,” said Jim Wilson, an All Agency Review Committee member, “and we vitally need that.”
The co-chairs of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Governance Task Force, Melinda Sanders and Conrad Rocha, asked the committee to remove two proposals currently before it: the task force’s own request for permission to divide the A Corporation into two corporations, and The Way Forward Commission’s and All Agency Review Committee’s recommendations that the General Assembly alter the A Corporation’s board composition and create a Moving Forward Implementation Commission to ensure compliance with and implementation of whatever reform action the General Assembly takes.
“This is not a power play on the part of the PMA board,” Rocha said. “Rather, it’s a sincere and honest desire to have the tools to do the will of our Lord Jesus Christ”
According to Rocha, The Way Forward/All Agency proposal would populate the A Corporation with people nominated by the denomination’s six agencies and not the general church population, and “that’s inconsistent with our polity and church theology,” he said. “That should give us all pause.”
The committee took no action Monday on the proposals put forth by The Way Forward Commission, All Agency Review Committee, or the Presbyterian Mission Agency.