Last month the Presbyterian Church USA embraced a goal of starting 1001 new worshiping communities. For the next few weeks I will feature a couple of short videos that highlight some examples of these new worshiping communities. You can learn more at the website www.onethousandone.org. The initiative is being run out of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (formerly General Assembly Mission Council). I served on the board for the past eight years. 1001 is part of a broader transformational effort to move the Presbyterian Mission Agency from being a body that does mission on behalf of Presbyterians to inspiring, equipping, and connecting Presbyterians for mission. Because of my role on the board I've had the opportunity to meet some of the pastors of these communities and I've even had a few site visits. I hope my readers will find inspiration as well. (Series Index)
During a brief ceremony at the conclusion of the final report of the 220th General Assembly’s Mission Coordination Committee, Schramm received the stole from the outgoing Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) Board chair, Michael W. Kruse.
Kruse, a ruling elder from Kansas City, Mo., began his remarks by thanking his wife, Melissa, PMA Board Vice Chair Carolyn McLarnan, and PMA Executive Director Linda Valentine, for their support and counsel. ...
As I told many people last week, I'm glad I served and I'm glad I'm done. Eight years was enough. Matt is going to do a great job and I look forward to seeing what unfolds with the Presbyterian Mission Agencey over the next couple of years. Congratulations Matt!
It had been my hope to do some blogging last week about the General Assembly Mission Council 's 2013-2016 Work Plan and other business coming to General Assembly. I will have to delay that until the end of next week. In the meantime, Presbyterian News Service has posted a piece about changes in the focus of World Mission that are indicative of changes that are developing in other ministries of the GAMC. I'll have more to say about this late next week.
Presbyterian News Service: ‘A different time’
Reflecting the changing nature of the world and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination’s World Mission area is also evolving, moving toward a new model of communities of mission practice.
“To do all that, I know we need God’s guidance,” said the Rev. Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, during a May 14 webinar for staff.
World Mission will encourage a different relationship with PC(USA) congregations, with every staff member seeing himself or herself as a “global connector,” Farrell said.
As part of the 2013-14 Mission Work Plan and Budget — approved May 11 by the General Assembly Mission Council — World Mission eliminated 11 positions, some of which were vacant. In addition, the area created eight new positions that reflect its new vision.
One key part of that vision is the role of regional liaisons, who will work in an increased capacity to serve as point people between congregations and PC(USA) mission workers in their area of the world. They will act as diplomats and work to grow networks or communities of mission practice around World Mission’s three critical global issues (CGIs) — addressing the root causes of poverty, especially as they affect women and children; sharing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ; and being agents of reconciliation among cultures of violence.
World Mission is also creating new positions for three CGI catalysts. These staffers will each be assigned one of the CGIs and use their expertise to work with young adults, mission personnel and communities of mission practice for a strong and clear collective impact on the issue. ...
Presbyterian Church USA: Task Force encourages 20/20 Vision for Special Offerings
One of the challenges for the mission of the church is discerning what form and content the programmatic work of the church should have in coming days. But another critical aspect is discerning how best to raise funds to accomplish mission. Four years ago the PCUSA set up a task force to review the role of special offerings in the life of the church. After 3.5 years of intensive work, the task force, led by Karl Travis and Sarah Butter, is bringing their recommendations to the General Assembly Mission Council (in two weeks) and to the General Assembly (in June.) I've now seen a slide presentation of the task force's recommendations twice and I'm genuinely impressed and grateful for the changes they are proposing. Here is the news release summarizing the proposed changes:
Task Force encourages 20/20 Vision for Special Offerings
Recommends each Offering be adjusted to maximize impact
The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force, commissioned by the 218th General Assembly (2008), is recommending a new vision for Special Offerings -- $20 million in receipts by 2020. Seeking to tap the full potential of Special Offerings, the task force is also recommending one new offering and revisions in each of the other offerings.
The task force has engaged the most extensive review of Special Offerings since reunion in 1983. The Rev. Karl Travis, chair of the Task Force, and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Forth Worth, TX, said, “This opportunity to review Special Offerings and provide recommendations comes at a crucial time, as the Offerings are no longer working as they once did for the church. For the past decade, Special Offerings have been in decline. We live in a time of great transformation for the church, as evidenced by the move away from regulatory structures to approaches that are uniquely customizable locally by those seeking to be faithful in their own context. The Task Force believes that similar changes are required for Special Offerings, in order to transform Special Offerings to a place of esteemed commitment by the denomination to Christ’s mission.”
The Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter, vice-chair of the Task Force, and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Wilmette, IL, added, “Our recommendations, we believe, strengthen Special Offerings, and are faithful to the input we heard from those we engaged. We have great hope that the recommendations, if approved, will result in increased funding for Christ’s mission, as scripture tells us, ‘without a vision, the people perish.’”
In 2010, the total amount of Special Offerings received was just under $14 million. Changes proposed by the task force include:
In addition, the Task Force recommends eliminating strict percentage allocations to GAMC programs for Special Offering receipts, choosing instead to align the Offerings topically within the strategic priorities identified by the GAMC, and approved by the General Assembly. This change allows for flexibility in using the funds based on need, but within approved priorities.
The task force undertook an extensive research process throughout their term of service. Numerous Presbyterian stakeholders in wide and diverse roles, fundraising professionals, GAMC staff, and many others were consulted and their ideas, collectively, led to the recommendations of the Task Force. Input was received from nineteen focus groups, including nearly two hundred representatives of small, mid-size, and large congregations--both from those who currently participate in Special Offerings, and those who do not.
The Task Force was commissioned to:
“Special offerings are special,” said Travis, “because they connect Presbyterians in the pew with vital Presbyterian mission in the field. Everyday Presbyterians can make, and feel, a great impact.” Butter added, “We are convinced that there is great untapped potential in these offerings.”
The members of the Special Offerings Advisory Task Force are Karl Travis, chair, Fort Worth, TX; Sarah Sarchet Butter, vice-chair, Willmette, IL; Sydney Davis, Charleston, SC; Jorge Gonzalez, Louisville, KY; Taylor Lewis Guthrie Hartman, Durham, NC; Helen Morrison, Grosse Ile, MI; and Cathy Piekarski, Marietta, OH.
The Special Offerings Advisory Task Force report will be made public on February 1, 2012. The GAMC will consider some of the recommendations at its February 2012 meeting, with the remainder to be considered by the 220th General Assembly (2012) in July.
(RNS) A list of the Episcopal Church’s 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards spilled over eight PowerPoint slides during a recent presentation by its new chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.
By his count, there are also nearly 50 departments and offices in the church’s New York headquarters, and 46 committees in its legislative body, the General Convention.
Sauls, who was hired by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in May, said that he has since learned there are even more offices “that I had never heard of before.”
“It has become just byzantine,” he said. “The governance structures have grown by accretion, without any strategic plan.” Nearly half of the denomination’s budget is spent on overhead, according to Sauls.
Meanwhile, Episcopal membership continues to drop, dipping below 2 million in the U.S. for the first time in decades. Donations, too, are down. It is time for change, starting at the top, Sauls said.
“We’ve been operating in a system where certain expertise resides at the churchwide level and pronouncements get sent down the pipeline,” he said. “That model is last century. It’s a radically different time now.”
Mainline Protestants’ national offices branch into every field from liturgy to gender equality to disaster relief. But as they seek to halt decades-long declines, a number of denominations are trimming their branches and tending to their roots: local congregations. ...
Good article. The General Assembly Mission Council of the PCUSA has been moving away from programmatic initiatives to focusing on inspiring, equipping, and connecting the church for ministry. The new Form of Governement lifts up the local congregation as the primary locus of ministry and the GAMC has been championing that idea for the last few years. The trajectory for the GAMC is good. I'm not as positive about the speed of change.
The Rev. Thomas W. Gillespie, a pastor, theologian and church leader of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), died Nov. 5 of complications from surgery earlier in the week. He was 83.
A native of Los Angeles, Gillespie graduated from Pepperdine University in 1951 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1954. He earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Claremont Graduate School of Theology in 1971. While at Princeton, he received the A.A. Hodge Prize in Systematic Theology in 1953.
Following his graduation from Princeton, Gillespie served two lengthy pulpits in California ― as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove from 1954-1966 and as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame from 1966-1983.
Gillespie became the fifth president of Princeton Theological Seminary ― the oldest seminary in the United States ― in 1983, succeeding the Rev. James I. McCord. He served as president and professor of New Testament until his retirement in 2004.
In a message to the Princeton community, President Iain Torrance wrote: “It has been rightly said that the story of his presidency is a story of building and development — of relationships, of academic scholarship, of campus facilities, of a worshiping community, of a worldwide network of ministry. During Tom’s tenure, Princeton Seminary entered a new century, celebrated a growing and enriching diversity in its students and faculty, mourned and ministered to a nation’s national tragedy on 9/11, and contributed to theological scholarship worldwide and to the mission of the international church.”
Gillespie’s service to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was lengthy. He served as moderator of San Francisco Presbytery, as a PC(USA) delegate to the Consultation on Church Union, a member of the General Assembly’s Task Force on Biblical Authority and Interpretation, and as chair of the Standing Committee on Theological Education.
At the time of his death, Gillespie was serving on the General Assembly Mission Council and served a term as chair of its Discipleship Committee.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara; three children ― Robyn, William and Dayle; and several grandchildren.
A memorial service has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14 at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J.
It has been my privilege to get to know Tom Gillespie over the last seven years as we served together on the General Assembly Mission Council. Every so often you come across people who model qualities you hope to incorporate into your own life. Dr. Gillespie was one of those people for me. While carrying an air authoriy he was also humble and approachable. I valued his passion for pastoral theology and equipping congregants for ministry in their lives. He will be deeply missed and my prayers are with the Gillispie family as they celebrate his life and mourn his departure.
This post is to let you know that blogging will be light this week and next. The Kronicler has left the country. I arrived in Beirut yesterday. I will be in Lebanon until the weekend and in Cairo next week. I’m here with Amgad Beblawi from the PCUSA, Office for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. Tomorrow Charles Wiley and Roger Dermody will be joining us. We are meeting with our partner denominations, the Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and the Synod of the Nile.
Amgad and I arrived late in the afternoon and had a chance to walk by the waterfront in Beruit …
In the afternoon we drove through Sidon and went to Tyre. There we visited the ancient ruins where the Kronicler had his picture taken at the Hippodrome.
Harvard Business Review: Business Models Aren't Just For Business
... One epiphany from my immersion into the non-private sector is how strenuously social sector organizations resist the notion they have a "business model." Non-profits, government agencies, social enterprises, schools, and NGOs consistently proclaim that they aren't businesses, and therefore business rules don't apply.
Well, I'm sorry to break the news, but if an organization has a viable way to create, deliver, and capture value, it has a business model. It doesn't matter whether an organization is in the public or private sector. It doesn't matter if it's a non-profit or a for-profit enterprise [or might I add, church]. All organizations have a business model. Non-profit corporations may not be providing a financial return to investors or owners, but they still capture value to finance activities with contributions, grants, and service revenue. Social enterprises may be mission-driven, focused on delivering social impact versus a financial return on investment, but they still need a sustainable model to scale. Government agencies are financed by taxes, fees, and service revenue, but are still accountable to deliver citizen value at scale.
The idea that business models are just for business is just wrong. Any organization that wants to be relevant, to deliver value at scale, and to sustain itself must clearly articulate and evolve its business model. And if an organization doesn't have a sustainable business model, its days are numbered.
It may be, however, that the model is implicit rather than explicit. ...
Last week in Lousiville at the General Assembly Mission Council meeting we heard a fascinating presentation from Eileen Lindner that gave a statistical overview of the trends in the church, particularly as it relates to middle judicatories (or middle governing bodies). Lindner is Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning of the National Council of Churches USA and editor of the NCC's annual Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches. My friend and fellow General Assembly Mission Council member, executive presbyter of San Diego Presbytery, has a done an excellent summary of her remarks:
There are six main factors in the decline of denominations in the last 50 years: ...
Middle Governing Bodies (MGBs) (presbyteries and synods) face STRESS factors from ABOVE: ...
Middle Governing Bodies (MGBs) (presbyteries and synods) also face STRESS factors from BELOW: ...
The question of ‘what does it mean to be a denomination?’ is changing rapidly
5 Emerging Aspects of Church Institutional Life ...
Check out Clark's synoposis at Insights Into the American Church.
There is presently a Special Offerings Advisory Task Force (SOATF) reviewing the role of special offerings in the life of the denomination. The SOATF made a presentation at the General Assembly Mission Council meeting last week and engaged the members of the General Assembly Mission Council in a focus group exercise. Special funds made up almost 20% of the GAMC's revevnue in 2009. The chart below was a focal point of the discussion. You can find more detail about the special offerings in the special funds annual report.
At last week's General Assembly Mission Council Meeting we saw a report on call trends in the PCUSA. Here are two graphs from the report.
In one discussion, Bill Carl, President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said that an increasing number of graduates are not looking for a call to an exsiting congregation. Instead, they are going out and gathering people together in communties for study, nurture, and worship. Many of these communities may not be what we typically envision as a PCUSA congregation. I don't know how to quanitfy his observations but clearly major shifts are emerging in how calls and congregational formation take place.
I'm presently serving as chair of the Genearal Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church, (USA). We had the first meeting of my term earlier this month but I was unable to attend due to my Mother's illness and passing. So instead, I did a written report to lay out my vision for the board over the next two years. It was read to the board Oct. 7. Several folks have asked for a copy. You can find it here in pdf as a GAMC information item but I'm also including the full text below.
General Assembly Mission Council
Mike Kruse, Chair - Report
Hello friends. As you likely know by now, I will not be with you for this meeting. Family matters have emerged that prevent my attendance. Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.
Though I can’t be present in person, I wanted to share with you a vision for our next two years. You might call it the “Make Sense” initiative. What does that mean? Let me give some background.
The GAMC has been subject to a cycle of restructuring and reductions in force for more than twenty years. These actions have been necessary but they alone cannot give as sustainable vibrant GAMC. The world has changed and continues to change at an accelerating rate. We need to make better sense of our mission context and our ministry if we are to do sustainable ministry. But how do we go about making better sense? I believe a key to answering that question is better understanding of our role as board members of the GAMC.
A few months ago, I asked GAMC members who attended the new member orientation two years ago what improvements we might make. The most common response was a need for clarity on the role of board member. There is confusion. As I’ve listened and reflected on feedback, I think we are struggling with confusion between volunteerism and governance.
For many of us, the session or the presbytery is the only board experience we have had. How did we come into these leadership roles? We were active in the life of our local congregation or presbytery. We taught Sunday School, led mission teams, helped manage finances or contributed in host of other ways. We were devoted volunteers. Each of us participate in our congregations on a weekly basis, we see how the programs work, and we know the people doing the work. Volunteerism (participation in the programmatic work) and governance (setting policies, verifying performance, and setting overarching objective) are rolled into one.
But when we come to the GAMC there are more than one hundred programs, more than 500 staff (including mission workers), and a budget of $82 million. We don’t have an ongoing intimate knowledge of the programming. We don’t know the staff that well. Our experience is one of dropping into Louisville two or three times a year for meetings. There is no way we can have the relationship to the GAMC that we’ve had with our congregation or presbytery. Our inclination is to volunteer by “helping” to manage staff and programming. Yet we are cautioned from doing this. So what is our role?
Over the past two years, the executive committee has been reflecting on a book called Governance as Leadership by Chait, Ryan and Taylor. They define governance in terms of three responsibilities: Fiduciary, Strategic, and Generative.
Fiduciary governance is asking the question “What’s wrong?” Legal documents are reviewed, budgets are scrutinized, and compliance with policies is measured in pursuit of identifying problems. It is focused inward on the operations of the organization. It is vital work. But as important as this work is, it can be a bit like being a police officer who signed up to protect and serve, but finds herself parked by a highway causing drivers to be more attentive to their driving by her presence. It may be effective and important but it is hardly inspiring. Sometimes we may feel that way about our own role.
Strategic governance is about asking “What’s the plan?” A problem has been identified … or maybe an opportunity emerges. How will we address it? Strategic work involves looking outward to see how our organization can best interact with the world. For boards, this usually means setting a strategic direction at the broadest level. But board members are generalists. Strategy specifics are usually beyond our scope. So when we move from high level strategy our role becomes one of ensuring staff has a strategy that answers the “What’s the plan?” question.
These two modes of governance have dominated the work we have done in my six years of service on the GAMC. Is this all there is to being a member of the GAMC board? I don’t think so. We are missing a generative component.
Generative governance is asking “What’s the question?” We want to know if we are asking the right questions. Is our perspective broad enough? Have we correctly understood the environment we are living in and how that shapes our options? Generative governance is about framing problems in ways that enable us to make effective strategic decisions. It is about “making sense” of our context and our work.
Generative governance is also the work where we board members have a unique advantage. We have the bird’s eye view of the GAMC. We are not caught up in the day-to-day details of operations. We also have the perspective of our own congregations and presbyteries where we live and serve. Jointly we provide a unique resource to the GAMC in that we are able to see connections, or the lack thereof, between the work of the GAMC and our local contexts.
All three types of governance are essential and it is not as if we can neatly divide our work into three discrete categories. But it is possible to develop a culture that focuses on some types of governance to the neglect of others. And frankly, that is what we’ve been doing. We’ve been neglecting the generative work that we are so uniquely qualified to offer. It no longer makes sense for us not to be making sense of the GAMC’s work.
So the Executive Committee proposes that we become more of a “sense-making” body. The Executive Committee is exploring ways to transform our culture. We are taking some first steps with this meeting. You are meeting with our Middle Governing Body friends. You will hear a report on the Congregational Life Survey. We are encouraging committees to take specific time to focus on generative topics and identify topics the whole Council might engage. Friday morning, committees will be teeing up some of these topics. Friday afternoon we will have a variety of generative discussions you can pick from that have emerged from these prior discussions. More details on that later. What we want to emphasize is that the executive committee has decided to devote a minimum of 50% of our meeting time to focused on sense-making work.
But as I noted above, sense-making, or generative work, is not a discrete task. Rather, it is a frame of mind that needs to permeate all we do. We’ve copied two charts from “Leadership as Governance” for you that frame the differences in the three types of governance. I hope you will occasionally take a peek at these charts as you proceed through your work and reflect on the nature of the business you’re doing. What would it mean to put on a generative “sense-making” lens for the item of business you are considering?
I will also tell you that we want to create more of a retreat-like atmosphere for our meetings … possibly holding some GAMC meetings at retreat centers. We are looking for ways … possibly through the use of social media … to foster ongoing sense-making conversations between formal GAMC meetings. We also expect to incorporate more time for prayer in our work. We welcome your thoughts and ideas as well.
We’ve identified some important foci for GAMC. We need to be about inspiring, equipping, and connecting. We know some strategic actions we need to take. But if you’re looking for master plan that transforms the GAMC, neither the Executive Committee nor I have such a plan. Sorry. Maybe you’ve heard of the Jabez prayer? Well I’m more inclined toward the Jehoshaphat prayer. Jehoshaphat is about to be attacked by armies much larger than his. He calls the people to fasting and they meet in a large assembly. He offers a prayer on behalf of the people and concludes with these words, “Lord we do not know what do, but our eyes are upon you.”
So maybe if there is a theme verse for the next two years it is the Jehoshaphat Prayer, and our mission is to truly put our eyes on God as we seek to make sense of the mission to which he has called us. There are already many good things happening at the GAMC but I sense that if we are more willing to devote ourselves to seeking God’s Spirit, we will find there are opportunities before us we cannot yet imagine. And I hope that makes sense.
Grace and Peace,
Chair, General Assembly Mission Council
My term as chair of the General Assembly Mission Council began at the end of General Assembly. Friday night the stole was passed on to me by the previous chair, Carol Adcock. Carol is the epitome of leadership with grace. She will be missed.
Below is a picture of Executive Director Linda Valentine, Carol Adcock, and yours truly.
I am a commissioner to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., this week. An item of business at the Assembly is called Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the Church, (NPNR) (Item 10-10), from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). It addresses employee compensation within the church. Over the past two years it has been my privilege to serve as vice-chair of the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) and as chair of the GAMC personnel committee. That gives me some insight into the subject. Furthermore, I’ve spent the better part of my adult exploring the intersection of business, economics, and theology. What follows is my reflection and response. It is my view and is not an official comment of the General Assembly Mission Council. I will declare from the start that I am opposed to this item.
The overture and the underlying study paper advocates equity in compensation for church employees, with equity defined as employees receiving similar compensation via ratios of highest-paid to lowest-paid employee. The idea of salary ratios was promoted In a policy paper called God’s Work in Our Hands, passed by the 207th General Assembly (1995). The narrative woven in NPNR is that church, and the General Assembly Mission Council in particular, has succumbed to “secular” business models of compensation and abandoned theological reflection in its hiring practices. NPNR seeks the imposition of a mandatory 5:1 compensation ratio from lowest-paid to highest-paid staff at the General Assembly Mission Council in order to achieve a biblical equality.
There are two puzzling aspects to NPNR:
NPNR defines equity as similar compensation for all employees. But there are at least three ways to conceive of equity:
Equity in any one of these three means greater inequality in the other two. While most of us share a concern about extravagant compensation for leaders, most of also believe different types and amounts of work justify different compensation.
Not all ministry contexts are identical within the church. The ministry of word and sacrament is a unique specialized call that embeds pastors in particular community contexts. Rather than producing a product or service for compensation, ministers of word and sacrament are paid the equivalent of a stipend to free them from economically productive labor and to focus on study, teaching, preaching, and shepherding. Mission co-workers, whose compensation model is lauded in NPNR, have similar circumstances. But not all are in agreement that this model is inviolate. The evolution of congregational ministry has led to pastors in some congregations taking on specialized management responsibilities that make the compensation question more complex. A growing number of pastors are exploring the tent-making model of ministry and some advocate that having pastors at work in the economy helps pastors better appreciate the daily lives of those they serve.
Not all who serve the church do so in the unique roles of minster of word and sacrament or mission co-worker. But are ALL employees of the church to be compensated as people in these roles are? The collective wisdom of the church has been that they are not. Many who serve the church do so through contractual agreements to be compensated for the performance of specified tasks that frequently require specialized training and experience. While it is understood that compensation for these services will not compare with compensation in the for-profit sector, there is still a sense that equity demands that employees be paid a wage comparable to what other similarly situated people in similar organizations receive. So how do we sort out the myriad of issues when it comes to compensating employees in our denomination?
This isn’t the first time this issue has arisen. The issue arose in the late 1990s. Task forces were formed and General Assembly’s from 1999 through 2002 gave extensive attention to compensation. The 2001 minutes lists guidelines based on fourteen principles of compensation, reiterating previous discernment (See Report from the General Assembly Advisory Committee on Churchwide Compensation (2001).) For example here are few excerpts:
The fulfillment of the church’s mission calls for effective, competent staff throughout the church and appropriate compensation to attract and retain them.
Factors to be considered when setting compensation should include the nature, purpose, scope, and responsibility of the position; the experience, knowledge, and skills required; the challenge of the work to be done and its impact on the effectiveness with which the church achieves its mission.
The system of compensation should ensure that all church employees are compensated according to the following criteria:
Principle Eleven—Salary Relationships/Stewardship
- Employees recruited locally should be paid within salary ranges related to the average salaries paid by employers in that location for comparable positions requiring similar skills and experience.
- Employees recruited regionally or nationally should be paid within salary ranges related to the average salaries regionally or nationally paid by employers for comparable positions in comparable organizations requiring similar skills and experience, modified to reflect the cost of living in the locale where the work is done.
The Church is one Body with varieties of gifts, and each person’s contribution to its mission is important. The church recognizes the value of all varieties of service and seeks to temper the values and rewards of the marketplace. A reasonable relationship between the highest and the lowest salaries paid to all church employees honors the principle of shared community and call.
In maintaining a relationship between the highest and lowest salaries, lower levels of compensation should be comparable to or better than the average salaries paid in the marketplace, but not so far above the average that good stewardship of the church’s funds is compromised. Salaries at the top levels should reflect a tempering of excessive compensation.
The GAMC provides a wide range of services requiring an array of specialties. There are office mangers, information specialists, attorneys, theologians, policy experts, and mail room workers, to name but a few. Some positions are rather standard across many other types of organizations while others require highly specific skill sets. That makes development of compensation packages challenging but the GAMC compensation is always guided by General Assembly’s guiding principles.
For example, in keeping with the second paragraph of principle number eleven above, when salary, wages, and benefits are combined for our lowest paying positions, the GAMC’s total compensation is above median compensation for similar religious and nonprofit organizations. The compensation for the highest paid employees is between the 25 and the 50th percentile for similar positions.
Particularly troubling for me is this sentence from the NPNR study guide:
The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) functions through a human resources department, headed by a lay human resources professional, who is aware of functioning within a church, but is guided by secular professional standards and best practices, rather than by theological or biblical understanding. …
ACSWP and the authors of NPNR may not be content with how compensation policy is done at the GAMC. It is certainly within their scope to raise such questions. But I have been on the GAMC board for six years and chaired the personnel committee. We have had conversations with ACSWP about a variety of issues including extensive debate over the GAMC Employee Handbook and policies. Not until NPNR surfaced at this General Assembly have I heard one word about salary ratios.
I can tell you that the GAMC human resources director is indeed a professional. I can tell you she loves Jesus and has a heart for the mission of the church. I can also tell you she does not unilaterally create personnel policy. She significantly contributes to its formation within the context of those who labor at the GAMC and the elected members who provide oversight. And she, like the rest of us, has been guided by the policies of the General Assembly. It is one thing to disagree with the current state of affairs but quite another to impugn the service of the HR director because she is complying with the directives of the General Assembly.
There is clear tone of clericalism and condescension in the identification of “lay human resources professional,” as though a theological degree somehow makes one uniquely qualified to run a human resources department. I can tell you that I would prefer a lay surgeon, a lay police officer, and a lay building contractor in the execution of their work to someone who has a theology degree as their defining credential. So would I much prefer working with a “lay human resources professional” who loves Jesus, who has a sense of call, and works in community with others of the faith to do her work. That is precisely what we have. Singling out a staff person for insolent remarks in a denomination wide study paper is unjust.
Other aspects of the report concern me as well. Appendix A states:
It [the compensation ratio] is now a nine to one ratio in the General Assembly Mission Council, with wider ranges in the Board of Pensions (BOP) and Presbyterian Foundation (FDN) and the most compact range in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).
This is erroneous. I don’t know the exact ratios at the other entities but it is not that high at the GAMC. NPNR simply asserts this ratio with no documentation. Neither is there any comparative data to show how the General Assembly entities compare to each other or to similar entities outside the denomination.
ACSWP is the General Assembly’s appointed guardian of social witness policy. Yet in this instance, they have reverted to pre-1999 policy statements to make a case for ratios while offering no interaction with policies that formed from 1999 to 2002 that explicitly rejected the use of ratios. Indeed, without careful observation one could not be blamed for getting the sense that the policies of pre-1999 are still in effect but unheeded. Furthermore, unsubstantiated claims are being made about compensation at the GAMC while lauding the performance of other entities with higher ratios.
The General Assembly Mission Council takes compensation issues very seriously. Compensation is set according to a variety of variables all within the theological context of Christian service. The current GA policies contain considerable wisdom and judicious balance between competing concerns. The GAMC has been served well by the GA’s guidance on compensation and for that reason I will oppose item 10-10 and I’m encouraging my fellow commissioners at this assembly to do likewise.
When I first came on the General Assembly Mission Council six years, one of my biggest concerns was the woefully inadequate website we had for the denomination. About four years ago the movement to overhaul our entire web presence and gained traction. I personally went to the mat on the need to make this a priority when some wavered. Today the new websites is up and I love it! Kudos to to the GAMC staff and the years of work that went into making this innovation possible. Check out the site: www.pcusa.org
Presbyterian Global Fellowship: The Work at Hand by Roger Dermody, Deputy Director of Mission
During a recent meeting of the leadership team, retiring Executive Administrator Curtis Kearns led a devotional looking at the story of Nehemiah. I was struck by the parallels between the work of Nehemiah and the work of the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC.)
In Nehemiah’s day, the people of God faced threats from within and without. Their home was in shambles, and they needed to rebuild the wall around the city. I notice that in Nehemiah’s leadership, he made several very strategic decisions.
First, he defined the common vision – simply, the people of God needed to repair the wall. Second, he organized the work – each family would be responsible for repairing their own particular section of the wall. Third, he provided vital resources that helped the people accomplish their work.
I also notice what Nehemiah did not do. He did not tell the people exactly how to build the wall, how high it should be, nor what color it must be. The vision was pretty clear, and open to each family to interpret how best to repair the section of wall in their neighborhood. Further, while Nehemiah did provide some critical resources, he did not do the work for the people, nor did he give them everything they would need. Much of the work and supply of particular materials was left up to the individual families.
This is such an important parallel for work of the GAMC and our interaction with the local congregation. I believe the PC(USA) can rally around a common vision – namely that we are called by God to bring the Gospel to our neighborhoods. ...
Presbyterian News Service: Listening to God’s Call
New GAMC Deputy Executive Director for Mission seeks to connect churches.
... Dermody acknowledged that the General Assembly often gets a bad rap among the more evangelical churches in the denomination. Unfortunately, often all folks know is "that's the convention that happens every two years where we make a lot of decisions and then fight about them," he said.
"But they have no idea that we have over 200 mission workers in seminaries and countries around the world, or that we have a UN office or an office in Washington D.C., or that we are speaking up for the rights of children — this is some of the really cool stuff that both sides of the aisle can applaud and get behind and cheer on," Dermody said.
During the interview process, Dermody came across a brochure on growing the church deep and wide. He had heard the reference in passing, but that was it. In 2008, the 218th General Assembly adopted "Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide," a churchwide emphasis to help congregations grow through discipleship, diversity, evangelism and servanthood.
"When I saw this brochure it told about all of the mission work the denomination is involved in, based on the Great Commission and the Greatest Command," Dermody said.
He thought the initiative was fantastic — an idea that everyone can agree on and celebrate. But he wondered why, as the executive pastor of one of the largest churches in the nation, he'd never seen it before.
"What is the blockage that is hindering us from helping those in the pew understand what is going on in the wider church?" Dermody asked. "Louisville has got to begun to be seen less as this command-and-control rules enforcement center and seen more as the source for collaboration, networking and a partner in ministry to strengthen the churches to do the work."
Louisville doesn't need to do the churches' work for them, but it needs to strengthen them to do the work that Christ has called for. ...
The GAMC board is what I will become chair of in July. The reality is that maybe 30% of the denomination has some sense of what the GAMC is and that is about double what it was four years ago. The General Assembly Mission Council is one of six agencies of the General Assembly:
All six answer directly to the General Assembly and none answer to the others. The leaders get together periodically to collaborate and coordinate, but they do not answer to each other.
In many other denominations, the GAMC would be seen as a combination of the National and International missions boards. We oversee the mission work of the church. That includes carrying out directives of the General Assembly but it also includes taking proactive measures to strengthen the mission life of the church, as we are doing with the Grow Christ's Church Deep and Wide initiative.
We are not a governing body ... the national equivalent of a session, presbytery, or synod. That is the General Assembly. People tell me, "We will start sending you guys money when you stop debating ordination standards." To which I say, "Get out those checkbooks because those are not the debates that are had at the GAMC." While we certainly have significant input into the business that happens at the General Assembly, we answer to them, not they to us.
We have made great strides toward achieving focus in ministry at the GAMC and there are some very good things happening. If you are Presbyterian, I suspect more of what the GAMC does is about to become more visible. But I think one of the biggest obstacles to appreciating the work of the GAMC is the false perception that we are "that body that meets every two years and argues" and therefore info about the GAMC is tuned out.
Presbyterian Outlook: Four more years? 20 minutes with Linda Valentine
Interview by Jack Haberer, OUTLOOK editor.
Linda Valentine has been re-elected by the General Assembly Mission Council (subject to confirmation by the 219th General Assembly) to serve a second four-year term as executive director – the chief of staff to most of the denomination’s national and international staff. Editor Jack Haberer sat down with Linda Valentine to talk about her first term and to look ahead. ...
...JH: Looking back over the past four years, what are you proudest of? What would you like to see change as you move into the next four years?
LV: In the Presbyterian Panel survey of May, 2005, 84% of respondents said they had little awareness of mission and ministry of the Presbyterian Church. A few months ago the Panel asked those same questions, and the awareness has more than doubled.
Some significant and profound things have happened in the church in the last couple of years, principal among those, the Dallas Mission Consultation. It has been described as a watershed — as a real working of the Holy Spirit — as Presbyterians from a broad range of perspectives formed a statement of mutual encouragement, of acknowledgement that there are many ways to carry out mission in the world, and that we are better and more faithful when we do it in cooperation and collaboration with each other. It has guided much of our work, principally in the realm of international, global mission.
Another marker is (that) the GAC, now GAMC, brought to the 2008 GA a call to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide.” It has caught on in a lot of places, as an inspirational call that addresses on the one hand the concern about the decline in membership and loss of vitality in some area of the church, and at the same time recognizes that there are SO many places where congregations are transforming, people are engaging in mission, lonely people are finding a place in a church. It has helped us lift that up to encourage us to grow Christ’s church in evangelism, discipleship, diversity, and servanthood. GAMC is bringing that back to this year’s GA to renew that effort. ...
... JH: You’ve asked the GAMC to think about what kinds of things the national offices do best and which can’t be done by other levels of the church. What are some of those key functions?
LV: I raised those questions to help us look at what we’re doing. As we’re seeing our role as connecting, equipping the church, inspiring the church, we can find stories and lift them up to encourage and inspire others. We can connect people to resources. Perhaps that’s more important than necessarily creating resources. We have a tree top view from which we can see where there are issues to be addressed and some ways to pull things together.
For example, we realized that we have more candidates coming out of seminary than churches open and available to first call candidates. At the same time we have underserved congregations, including ones who can’t afford fulltime pastoral leaders. And so, connecting with an interested Foundation donor, we put these elements together to create the For Such a Time as This Pastoral Residency Program. Presbyteries will identify congregations needing pastoral leaders, we will work with new seminary graduates looking for a first call, matching them into cohort groups where they are mentored to learn and encourage each other. That’s one example. ...
... JH: What changes might come in your second term?
LV: Of course, it’s a second term only if the GA commissioners confirm me. If they do … well … I think that many pieces are in place and we’re gaining momentum on some of the matters we’ve already discussed the moving from being a resource generator, provider, a bank of experts to being connector, equipper, facilitator — continued growth of mission networks. The Haiti response, for example. Folks have given $9 million to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Organizations have partnered in unprecedented ways: PDA, World Missions, Self Development of People, the Hunger Program. We’re utilizing a much more multi-aspect approach to this situation. We also have been holding webinars. In the first webinar over 300 people participated who wanted to know what’s going on, who wanted to share their experiences, their prayers, wanting to know how we can help, when we can get involved, what’s the best way to be involved. So this is one way our ministries are coming together in more collaborative ways that has multi-parts in a more effective way.
We’re excited to be rolling out a brand new Web site before GA. One of the features of the Web site will be a lot more means for conversation. How do I tell my story? How do I get involved? Who all is doing such-and-such? Where are resources for something else?
We had a focus group conference call a few months ago with a number of church leaders about mission priorities and areas of concern. One of the participants said, “You should be speed-dial #1 for everyone in the church who wants to get involved in something, wants to know how to do something, and your role [speaking to the GAMC] is to point to others, to resources, recognizing that there’s a lot of expertise throughout the church that we can help people tap into.” ...
Presbyterian News Service: GAMC approves re-organization of PC(USA)’s mission enterprise
Valentine says plan is combination of strategic planning and cost-cutting measures.
LOUISVILLE — The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) approved reorganization of the mission program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that its executive director, Linda Valentine, said "reflects healthy change that is adaptive to trends in the church and the world, and that is consistent with projected resources."
As part of the reorganization — which has been in development for 10 months — the GAMC approved General Assembly Mission Budgets that reduce spending by 12.2 percent in 2011 and an additional 2 percent in 2012. The cuts resulted in the net reduction of the staff at the Presbyterian Center here by 49 positions. Affected employees were notified Friday afternoon (May 14). Fifteen incumbents were offered new positions in the revamped organization.
In all 73.5 positions were eliminated. Twelve were vacant and 12 employees accepted voluntary separation offers in recent weeks. The staff reduction amounts to 13 percent, from roughly 390 employees to 340. Staff cuts occurred across the GAMC — 24.5 in Mission, 11.5 in Shared Services, 8 in Communications and Funds Development and five in the Executive Director’s office.
The proposed 2011 mission budget totals $82,097,234 — down 12.2 percent from the revised 2010 budget of $93,841,273. The 2012 budget totals $80,550,613, a further reduction of 2 percent. Both budgets will be forwarded to the upcoming 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis, July 3-10 for adoption.
"Role is changing"
"The role of the mission agency is changing from doing mission on the church's behalf to inspiring, equipping, and connecting the church for mission and ministry," Valentine told the council as she outlined the reorganization plan. "Even as we make this shift, we know that God continues to provide all that is necessary for the church's mission."
She noted that "congregations and groups are engaging more directly in mission of all sorts” and “we as a church are re-committing ourselves to expanding partnership in God’s mission and in the process expanding our witness to Christ in this country and around the world in ever more profound and impactful ways."
Statistics show that Presbyterians are giving more overall to mission than ever before. Funding for denominational mission continues to decline. Chief financial officer Joey Bailey told the council that unrestricted income declined 44 percent between 1999 and 2009. During the same period restricted income declined 29 percent. Roughly two-thirds of the mission budget is restricted and one-third unrestricted.
Research: "lack of consensus"
Development of the reorganization began with research, described by Valentine as "both quantitative and qualitative input from a broad swath of Presbyterian leaders." It included "paired weightings" in which church leaders were asked to rate mission activities comparatively, interviews with a variety of PC(USA) leaders and a Presbyterian Panel survey conducted by the denominations Research Services office.
The research "found passion among Presbyterians for a wide variety of mission activities," Valentine said. "At the same time, it found a lack of consensus around any of them as being the most important. Instead, we are called to balance numerous functions on which the church has asked us to lead."
With the church asking for such a wide variety of ministries and programs, Valentine said, "it was clear that we could not prioritize what we do and narrow our focus to just a few areas. We can and have, though, prioritized how we do our work."
At an earlier meeting, the GAMC adopted five strategic directions to guide the reorganization effort:
- The GAMC role is to inspire, equip and connect — to "broker, connect and facilitate" mission among Presbyterians rather than initiate mission programs;
- We engage in communities of mission practice — focusing on "multi-party" partnerships to advance mission;
- We will focus on the health of congregations and other communities of faith — focusing time and effort "to bring the most impact to the health and vibrancy of the local congregation";
- We will focus on leadership development — helping all church leaders develop "core competencies";
- We will embrace a global perspective — focusing on "global discipleship with local, national, and international components" and "working to reduce distance between the different spaces of mission."
Valentine said the strategic directions and accompanying guiding principles — focus on the whole church, fiscal sustainability, avoiding duplication, "sunset rules" and regular evaluation of all programs, focus on ministries that can only be done at the national level — enabled GAMC staff and elected members "to plan a hopeful future in a world where new giving patterns lead to decline of traditional funding sources and where new demands compete with established programs ..."
Valentine said the reorganization "will affect every ministry area of the GAMC." Some of the highlights:
- Congregational Ministries Publishing Congregational Ministries Publishing will be re-organized in order to be financially self-supporting in all English language curriculum and educational resources beginning in 2011. The GAMC will support the net cost of Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Braille curriculum.
- Mission Resources (the Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study, the Presbyterian Planning Calendar, Presbyterians Today magazine) will be reorganized within Communications and Funds Development to become self-sustaining. The Children’s Mission Yearbook will be discontinued.
- World Mission will be revamped — in line with its recently completed strategy process — to focus on "communities of mission practice" that include staff, mission networks and other mission organizations and the PC(USA)'s global partners. The ministry area will engage in mission only in places where global partners and mission "constituents" both have an interest in working with World Mission. No mission workers will be recalled and the GAMC has committed to increase mission worker support from 11 percent of the current mission budget to 13 percent.
- Vocation will reduce its support for the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel and will discontinue continuing education grants in 2012. It will also reduce or end the National Presbyterian Scholarship Program and develop a new program to include loan forgiveness provisions to its theological student loans for seminary graduates who agree to serve "hard to call" congregations.
- Evangelism and Church Growth will reduce funding for Mission Program Grants and will shift the focus of its Youth and Young Adult Ministries office to equipping congregations to develop youth and young adult ministries locally.
- Racial Ethnic Ministries will shift its focus from working directly with racial ethnic congregations to working cross-culturally, partnering with European-American churches, middle governing bodies and others to promote diversity throughout the PC(USA).
- Women's Ministries will shift its focus from policy development around women's issues to program and ministry development and implementation at all levels of the church.
- Shared Services will shift and streamline accounting functions to take advantage of new technology and eliminate redundancies. Service levels will be reduced in the mail room and distribution warehouse.
Several programs are moving in the revamped organization:
- Research Services will move from the Executive Director's office to the Deputy Executive Director for Mission office;
- The Asian American Leadership office is being closed and a portion of its funding and program is being combined with the Korean Congregational Support office in Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women;
- Interfaith Relations will move from World Mission to Theology Worship and Education;
- Human Resources will move from Shared Services to the Executive Director’s office and will now include Cultural Proficiency. The Cultural Proficiency office will expand to include a " persons of color recruiting network."
'Best interest of the church'
"The changes ... won't all be easy, but we believe that they are in the best interest of the church, and will continue to move us in the right direction for meeting the church's core needs and offering the world a visible witness of Jesus Christ," Valentine concluded.
"We're reminded in the Book of Order, she added, “that 'Christ calls the Church into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission in the world." Even in a time that feels like it is 'cut, cut, cut,' Christ provides all that is necessary."
PCUSA Press Release
Strategic planning positions church’s mission agency for long-term sustainability.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 14, 2010) – Today, the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved budgets of $82,097,234 for 2011, and $80,550,613 for 2012. These are in contrast to a 2010 budget of about $93.8 million.
“Our role is changing from doing mission on behalf of the church to inspiring, equipping and connecting the church for mission and ministry,” said Linda Valentine, GAMC executive director. “At the same time, God calls us to look at our resources honestly. We must be sure we live within our means to sustain ministry into the future.”
A year-long strategic discernment initiative and budget realities were identified as the primary drivers for the development of the new plan. "The 2011-12 GAMC Plan and Budget answers a bold call -- to discern and live into the future God intends for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)," Valentine said. "This plan reflects healthy change that is adaptive to trends in the church and the world, and that is consistent with projected resources."
“We have lower budgets because of shifts in giving patterns – while Presbyterians are giving more to mission than ever before, they are supporting many organizations, both within and outside the church,” said Joey Bailey, chief financial officer. “Sustainability is our goal. To that end we’ve projected lower revenues for 2011 and 2012, and have also given consideration to 2013 and beyond.”
The budget and plan approved by the council includes a number of measures based on recommendations from GAMC leadership. Among them:
There will be a net reduction of 49 positions within the GAMC. 73.5 incumbent positions were eliminated. Among these are 12 staff members who accepted voluntary separation packages offered in April, and 12 additional positions that were vacant. Because of the strategic reshaping of the GAMC and positions left vacant by acceptance of voluntary separation packages, 24.5 new positions have been added. Fifteen of the impacted employees will be offered new positions. Following these changes, the staff of the GAMC will total 341. Most of the reductions are concentrated in Congregational Ministries Publishing, and in the areas of Shared Services, and Communications and Funds Development.
“While it is crucial for us to change how we do ministry and how we use our resources, we never forget that behind the decisions are the lives and livelihoods of colleagues and friends,” said Valentine. “I am grateful for the dedicated work of all of our employees. In particular, I want to personally thank those who are leaving us for their faithful service to the church.”
All employees whose positions were eliminated will be offered separation packages that include notice pay, severance, and outplacement service.
In other business, the GAMC confirmed the call of Rev. Roger Dermody as deputy executive director for mission, and were introduced to Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, the new director of public witness for the Washington office. The GAMC also heard an update on the work of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in Haiti.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) serves more than 2 million members in mission and ministry in approximately 10,000 congregations throughout the United States and around the world. National offices are located in Louisville, Ky.
Presbyterian/Christian media contact: Rob Bullock, 502-569-5101, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secular media contact: Barry Creech, 502-569-5127, email@example.com
I'm in Louisville this week. We just kicked off the General Assembly Council Meeting. There are lots of good things happening but the issue weighing on most folks' minds is more staff cuts. We are trimming millions of dollars once again. Prayers for the board would be appreciated as difficult decisions are made. But most of all prayers for the staff as the endure yet another round of reductions.
Here is a piece by Jack Marcum of PCUSA Research Services: Mission Priorities
What the research shows It’s tempting to discuss the differences presented at left. To do so, however, would be to focus on the trees instead of the forest.
The major finding is the lack of consensus on the most important mission activities. In no group did as many as 35 percent rate any one of the 14 listed activities as most important. Put differently, majorities of 66 percent or more failed to rank each activity as being of top importance.
Beyond de-emphasizing or eliminating gender justice and, perhaps, communications and ecumenical relations, these results provide limited guidance. There are no “sure things” that all Presbyterians want the GAMC to do. Make direct relief a priority? Well, 73 percent of members and elders and 83 percent of pastors want something else. How about church development? Again, 88 percent, 85 percent and 66 percent have other preferences
Hence, opposition might be expected, whatever choices the GAMC makes.
That might be preferable to a collective yawn: In a 2005 survey 87 percent of members and 71 percent of elders considered themselves only “a little informed” or “not informed” about PC(USA) mission. Few (18 percent; 22 percent) had “very often” or “often” wanted to know more.
Whatever the GAMC decides, the reaction or lack thereof will be interesting to watch. Apathy might be easier to handle in the short run, but a general “ho-hum” now might be more troublesome for the GAMC in the long run.
What you also need to know is that this is only the survey of the Presbyterian Panel. The same survey was done with the GAMC board and with focus groups of Presbyterian leaders like Middle Governing Body leaders and Seminary leaders. The overall result was not much different.
I should also point out that this survey is not a perfect tool but it does confirm that, generally speaking, there is no broad based passion for any one type of ministry but there is frequently a minority of folks with great passion for one type of ministry.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 21, 2010) – General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Bryant Valentine today announced that the Rev. Roger Dermody has agreed to accept the position of deputy executive director for mission. In this position, Dermody will oversee the council’s mission activities.
Dermody has served as a pastor for 13 years, including the past nine years as executive pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, a thriving 3,000-member congregation in Los Angeles, Calif., where he manages and oversees the senior leadership and the day-to-day ministry of a staff of 67 employees and an annual budget of $9.8 million.
“I am humbled and thrilled,” said Dermody, “to be able to serve the church in this way. The GAMC is engaged in areas of incredible and highly strategic ministry. I’m excited by the challenge of partnering with our middle governing bodies and our churches, getting the word out more effectively, working together more harmoniously, and celebrating together the good things that God is doing in us and through us.”
“Roger is an ideal candidate for the deputy executive director for mission role,” said Valentine. “He has been a strategic leader and an innovative executive pastor, with significant experience bringing people together for open and engaging planning and work – focusing a complex organization on where God is calling it to ministry,” she continued. “He has led a broad range of congregational, local and international mission endeavors, and demonstrated a deep passion and commitment to witnessing faithfully to the Gospel.”
As a child, Dermody lived in Cameroon with his parents, who were short-term missionaries. Their two years in Cameroon fueled a lifelong passion for mission. After a first career as an architect, Dermody responded to a call to ministry in 1991, entering Fuller Theological Seminary, anticipating that he would work in international cross-cultural ministry. While in seminary, Dermody accepted a collegiate ministries position at Bel Air Presbyterian, providing leadership which saw the college ministry grow from 30 participants to 300, and a contemporary worship service which started with 75 worshipers and grew to more than 1,000 weekly. Dermody’s work expanded to include developing global and national partnerships, when he became associate pastor of students and mission. In 2001, he became executive pastor, overseeing the pastoral staff and day-to-day ministry. Dermody has also led numerous short-term mission trips.
“I truly believe that our mission and message are compelling,” said Dermody, “because they are Christ’s mission and message. I like to envision the PC(USA) not merely as reversing the steady stream of membership loss, but one day truly becoming a turn-around denomination – one that other denominations point to and learn from because somehow, by God’s grace, we figured it out. We understood how to serve together. People got excited about the relevant and effective ways that our denomination brought the hope of the Gospel to a broken world.”
The General Assembly Mission Council will be asked to confirm Dermody in May; he will then begin work in June.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) comprises more than 2 million members in more than 10,000 congregations, answering Christ’s call to mission and ministry throughout the United States and the world.
Many of you know that I was elected chair of the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., last month. Several of you have asked me just what exactly it is that the chair of the GAMC does. Instead of explaining it to you I think this video clip pretty much sums it up.
This afternoon, the good folks of the General Assembly Mission Council elected me chair of the Council for 2010-2012. Thanks to all my GAMC friends. I think we have some exciting days ahead. I look forward to seeing what God has in store!
In Bears, Bulls, and Golden Calves, John Stapleford writes:
Sentiment started to swing [in favor of gambling in the American colonies], however, in the face of the rising need for capital. With only three banks, lotteries were a major source of public and private funding for everything from the building of roads, water supply systems, canals and bridges to the construction of colleges (e.g. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Pennsylvania) and even churches! Between 1744 and 1774 the colonies and sanctioned approximately 158 lotteries, whose proceeds paid for canals and roads, the building of 27 churches, 12 financial institutions, and the start-up costs of industries. ... (185)
It is time we return to our roots and recover our early traditions. At the General Assembly Mission Council this month, we need to approve the installation of Blackjack and Roulette tables in the lobby of the Presbyterian Center. We could have betting on overture outcomes at GA. Presby-Lotto wouldn't be a bad idea either.
There wouldn't be any luck involved because the only winners would be the ones predestined to win.
Have you got any other ideas?
General Assembly Council wrapped up their spring meeting last week. It was a mixture of bad news and good news.
The bad news is that there is $10 million shortfall (out of $110 million) in income anticipated for 2009. Through a variety of efforts, approximately $6 million in income was found and $4 million dollars is cost savings were realized. Since last September, 14 occupied positions have been eliminated and another 14 were eliminated on Friday. Another 28 vacant positions have also been eliminated. (A few new positions were also created.) Other measures have been taken to reduce costs across all operations like a one week mandatory furlough, decreases in postal and travel expenditures, and a reduced number of hours the Presbyterian Center will be open.
There is nothing joyful in eliminating positions. Neither is it desirable to reduce folks’ pay through furloughs. That is the bad news and prayers are lifted for those who have lost their employment.
The good news is that in the midst of this bad economy we are talking about less than 4% decrease in our budget. The really good news is the basis on which positions were eliminated. The changes over recent weeks and months are really the result of events set in motion three years ago. The cuts were made on a highly strategic basis.
In the spring of 2006, there was an unexpected $10 million shortfall. Dozens of staff positions were eliminated. Attempts were made to be strategic but there were many challenges that made that process difficult. It was also during this time that the board adopted a new streamlined governance model. All the senior staff resigned and made way for new Executive Director who would create a new staffing design.
Linda Valentine became the Executive Director in July of 2006. She formulated a high level staff structure, which the board approved. She went to work over the next few months recruiting and hiring senior level staff. In 2007, the board went to work on developing its 2009-2012 Mission Work Plan. As the plan was finalized in early 2008, the new senior staff had time to come to grips with what GAC work was being done. They began work on organizing staff and ministry units in ways that would most effectively carry out the objectives of the Mission Work Plan. That has meant eliminating duplication, filling gaps, aligning complementary ministries with each, making changes in personnel, and occasionally creating new positions.
Pieces of this change have been evident in recent months in redesigns of the Media Services, Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministry areas, Church Financial Campaign Services, and in Information Technology. The recent economic crisis accelerated the rate at which other planned changes needed to be made, resulting in the changes that were announced on Friday.
Unlike anytime in the past, we are closer than ever to having a well-developed staffing strategy that is shaped by the goals and objectives of a mission work plan. There is more work to be done but these changes have made a significant contribution toward moving us toward that goal. That is something to be celebrated! Effectiveness and accountability have been greatly enhanced.
Future challenges remain. Now that we have begun to get our arms around all the pieces and see how they relate to each other, and the larger vision of the mission work plan, we must develop priority setting practices that will help guide future decision. We continue to wrestle with how the GAC should interrelate with other facets of the denomination. From a more adaptive standpoint, we have to find better models for discerning what things we should be doing that we are not presently doing.
The predicted collapse of denominations and their ministry is, I believe, premature. Yet I don’t believe any of us know exactly what the nature of this ministry will look like in the future. I suspect there is going to be some radical redefinition. I don’t know when and I don’t know how but it seems to be that in the meantime we must be highly intentional about understanding our rationale for what we are presently doing and taking a generative posture as we look to the future.
I’ll confess that last weeks meeting of the General Assembly Council meeting was difficult for me. I’ve been through the closing of two urban congregations. Long time congregational loyalists didn’t want the church to die but could not bring themselves to make the adaptive leap needed for the church to die unto a rebirth. A desperate attempt was made to find technical fixes when only substantial adaptation would do. Only when it was too late would the remaining remnant embrace real change. Too often GAC meetings feel a little too familiar.
Some members seem to me to be anxious about protecting programming and persons they highly value. Others want to live in a regulatory mode, tightly directing staff programming and staffing decisions. Still, others are looking for the technical fix like better communications or maybe a new fundraising strategy. It’s not that anyone of these may play some legitimate role but absent an appreciation for the adaptive challenge in front of us they are death to the institution.
While I’ve been encouraged at the trajectory of change over the five years I’ve been on the General Assembly Council I will say that I found last week’s meeting disappointing in some ways. It just felt too much like we were slipping back into those old fearful dying church behaviors at times. Maybe it was just the anxiety of knowing we would have to make hard budget decision that would cost jobs. Institutional change is always an ebb and flow. I just want to believe that the tide is coming in.
Presbyterian News Service: The General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approves revised 2009 mission budget
(This is a pretty good summary. Questions anyone? Not that I promise to have any answers. :-) )
See this article for more details: GAC closes $9.92 million 2009 mission budget gap
UPDATE: Presbyterian Outlook has a good article: Budget cuts lead to more restructuring, downsizing of General Assembly Council staff
If you are Presbyterian, you probably already know that the economic downturn is having an impact on national offices, just as it is throughout the rest of the church. When the GAMC meets Wednesday through Friday we will have to make some hard budget decisions. Here is a short video where Tom Taylor and Linda Valentine lay out the thinking that went into the budget we will be considering. Prayers are welcomed.
I off to Louisville this afternoon for PCUSA stuff. I'll be attending overlapping meetings of COGA (Committee on the Office of the General Assembly) and GAMC (General Assembly Mission Council.) I attend COGA as corresponding member from the GAMC.
By my calculation this is my 12th GAMC meeting since being elected to the board in June of 2004. These last five years have been a time of incredible change and more is in the wings. As I reflect on how to describe the experience of being on the GAMC, and now being vice-chair, I haven't been able to come up with any better metaphor than the following.
Presbyterian News Service: GAC Executive Committee announces mandatory furlough, elimination of 2010 salary increases
Folks, it is this part of the job I really hate. We will have more tough decisions to make about a host of issues during this month. The staff is living in the midst of this daily. Please keep the staff and the board in your prayers as we seek God's wisdom.
Presbyterian News Service: ‘Learning to lead together on the high seas’
This is a news story about the Sunday evening presentations at the event I'm presently at in Snowbird, UT.
Okay, maybe not exactly, but pretty close. A week ago I wrote a post My Thoughts on the General Assembly Council and Presbyterian Foundation Controversy. At the heart of the problem was determining who has final authority on interpreting restrictions on restricted funds. I won’t repeat all the issues here but Committee #8 heard proposals concerning solutions and came up with a resolution to the problem.
When the Presbyterian Foundation and the General Assembly Council staff can’t resolve differences concerning the interpretation of restrictions placed on restricted funds the disagreement can be submitted to a resolution committee. The committee will include two Foundation members and two GAC members, plus three outside members with some expertise in these issues. This committee will make a final determination about the interpretation. Cy pres actions may be required in some cases for the Foundation to feel they have honored the trust placed in them to protect donor intent. (A cy pres action is a court procedure where a restriction on a fund can be altered to a “next best use” if the original restriction becomes illegal, impossible, or impracticable.) This gives the GAC a court of appeal when they are at odds with the Foundation’s interpretation and the Foundation has its fiduciary trust preserved.
This process is a two year temporary solution. The overall relationship between the two entities will become part of a review that will analyze the workings and interrelationships of all six General Assembly entities. This task force will report back to the General Assembly in 2010 at which time this resolution process may become a permanent arrangement.
Deliberations in committee began yesterday morning with open hearings. Multiple past moderators of the General Assembly spoke to the issue, not all in agreement with each other. A number of folks who had had problematic experiences dealing with Foundation also spoke. The General Assembly Council and the Presbyterian Foundation both offered alternatives to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution’s advice about giving the GAC final interpretive authority. Meanwhile, a team of committee commissioners including Bob Davis drafted a proposal that would replace the ACC advice. The committee eventually went into committee of the whole mode to discuss the three proposals. Davis constructed a document that showed three areas where he thought the three proposals expressed agreement. Then he highlighted the issues where he thought they were at odds. He correctly discerned that the Foundation was opposed to any outcome that left them without final fiduciary authority and the GAC was opposed to leaving things without a court of appeal. You can see that the solution above honors both these concerns.
What is truly unfortunate is that it took all this to get to a solution. These two agencies have had friction going back to their inception in 1986. When issues about use of Foundation funds arose in1996, the executives were not even on speaking terms. Nothing nearly so divisive was at work here. The two entities have been in ongoing conversation all through this difficulty and they work just fine with regard to most issues. The complicating factor in this episode was the ACC advice to vest the GAC with final interpretive authority, an action which the Foundation believed would place them in a severe ethical and legal dilemma. Without that advice this issue likely never would have come to the assembly. On the other hand, the crisis may have created the urgency necessary to find a solution.
The bottom line is that these two agencies have got to learn to communicate better. As I’ve read documents pertaining to these problems and listened to testimony in hearing, poor communication is a significant cause (but not the only cause) of difficulties. This episode is much less about egos exerting power and far more about leaders of two entities trying to act responsibly in their respective roles. Assuming the Committee #8 action passes on the floor of the assembly I think it will be a helpful starting place to rethink how the two entities relate.
(On a side note, Presbyterian blogger, sociologist, and author Beau Weston (his esteemed gruntledness) got mention in the course of debate. Tim Clark, board chair for the Foundation, mentioned Weston’s comments about checks and balance from (I believe) Leading from the Center. So if you’re reading this Beau, you were briefly in the conversation as well.)