Saving its prickliest items of business for the final day, the Moving Forward/Vision 2020 Committee voted Saturday to recommend moving Mission Engagement and Support into the Administrative Services Group and dividing unrestricted bequests and gifts of any size between the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly at a 70/30 distribution rate. Commissioners to the 225th General Assembly will act on those recommendations in plenary next week.
The recommendation came from the Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee, represented Saturday as it was on Friday by the Rev. Debra Avery and the Rev. Eric Beene. Beene called MES “a group of very talented staff serving two bodies and being supervised by one of those bodies.”
“We are trying to do what the 223rd General Assembly  did — pull all the shared services into one group as a separate body,” Avery told the committee. “We feel this is the last piece of that puzzle.”
Kathy Lueckert, president of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, where ASG is housed, said the A Corp “takes no position on whether or not this is a good idea.”
“We are used to functioning in an environment where we look out for the whole,” Lueckert said. “We don’t see any major change to what MES does now. They would maintain the relationships they have now and continue to do the work they do now, which is excellent work.”
The Rev. Warren Lesane Jr., chair of the PMA Board, said that MES “belongs alongside programmatic agencies, not ASG.” Still, he said, “whatever the assembly approves, we will make sing, and sing very loudly.”
“Administration is important to ministry, but it has a different function,” said the PMA’s president and executive director, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett. “OGA and PMA are partners. We feel it’s important to lift up the stories to understand the importance of per capita and mission [giving]. These are things that are happening organically.”
As a comment to Recommendation 1, the committee adopted language used as rationale by the Way Forward Committee in a report to the 223rd General Assembly, language provided by A Corp Board member Chris Mason. Those words include: “Fundamental to our approach is the concept that the decision-making role about what our national ecclesial and missional work is, and how best to do it, resides in [the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly] and the Board of PMA, exercising authority derived from the General Assembly. Those entities are not, nor should they be, corporate in nature.”
As originally stated, this recommendation would have changed the distribution rate for all unrestricted bequests and gifts from the current 80% to PMA, owing to its larger size, and 20% to OGA, to a 50/50 split. Three of the committee’s Young Adult Advisory Delegates — Zoë Goode of the Presbytery of Cincinnati, Adriana Soto-Acevedo of the Presbiterio de San Juan and Emily Martin of North Central California Presbytery — offered an amendment, agreed to by a majority of committee members, to adjust the distribution rate to 70/30.
The financial implications for the budgets of both the PMA and OGA weren’t immediately clear under the amendment. Earlier, PMA had calculated a $250,000 impact on its budget at the 50/50 distribution rate. If the committee’s recommendation is approved in plenary, the budget impact with a 70/30 split — even considering it’s on all unrestricted gifts, not just those at $50,000 or higher as is the current practice — should be somewhat less.
DeAmber Clopton, the OGA’s Associate Director for Finance Administration, reported OGA faces projected budget deficits of $1 million in 2023 and $2 million in 2024. About 96% of OGA’s budget comes from per capita support, according to Kerry Rice, Deputy Stated Clerk in the OGA.
PMA committed $1.5 million during the 2023-24 budget cycle in support of OGA, noted the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, the incoming co-moderator of the PMA Board.
“We are only strong,” Vance-Ocampo said, “when our sibling agency is strong.”