In approving a new structure and leadership design for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) on February 27, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) simultaneously approved the accompanying staffing rationale, which includes reductions in force.
“While the new structure will enable OGA to better serve the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by being more focused, flexible, and intentional,” said COGA Moderator Vincent Thomas immediately after the vote, “we are very aware of our decision’s impact on the OGA staff, both those who will depart OGA and those who will continue, all of whom love the PC(USA) and view their work as a ministry.”
The new OGA will focus the agency’s work across three essential areas of ministry, each with three Associate Stated Clerks who will share leadership for that ministry:
- Church Wide Ministries—Providing the opportunities for national discernment and engaging the story of the church’s ministry. Leadership Team: Associate for Assembly Operations, Associate for Records and History, Associate for Innovation and Engagement.
- Mid Council Ministries—Resourcing the life of the church in the middle councils and the ministries of Teaching and Ruling Elder. Leadership Team: Associate for Constitutional Interpretation, Associate for Vocational Ministries, Associate for Mid Council Relations.
- Ecclesial and Ecumenical Ministries—Directly supporting the Office of the Stated Clerk and the Ecumenical vision of the Church. Leadership Team: Associate for Ecumenical Relations, Associate for Ecclesial Ministry, Associate for Communications.
Although the plans to restructure the agency were never strictly about the economics, but rather about adopting a new vision for the OGA, the approved staffing changes will bring the agency nearly $1 million closer to its goal of reducing the per capita budget from $14 million to $10 million by 2016. Upon implementation of these changes, the OGA work force in Louisville—exclusive of its employees at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia—will total 33, down from 45.
Additional budget cuts—not involving staff—will be announced at the upcoming COGA meeting to be held in Louisville March 18-20.
“This plan is ripe with possibilities, but also rife with pain and hurt,” said Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons. “Although I am excited about the new way that we’re going forward and the new ways we can serve the church better, we are nonetheless losing dedicated and gifted people who have served the church faithfully, in some cases for decades. We are deeply thankful for their leadership and will build on that foundation moving forward.”
As a result of the action taken by COGA, 15 positions—including 1 vacant position—have been eliminated, impacting 14 members of the current OGA staff in Louisville and Philadelphia.
Seven employees—who accepted voluntary separation packages offered by the OGA in January—will be leaving, although not all of their positions were eliminated in the new structure:
- Church Leadership Connection Consultant
- Director, Communications, Development and Technology
- Senior Administrative Assistant to Director of Constitutional Services
- Director, Office of Vocation* (*becomes Associate for Vocation Ministries)
- Senior Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Office of Vocation
- Records Manager, Presbyterian Historical Society
- Director, Presbyterian Historical Society* (*becomes Associate for Records and History).
Seven positions were eliminated due to involuntary separation:
- Manager, OGA Records, Churches
- Senior Administrative Assistant sharing work with General Assembly Meeting Services and Office of Vocation
- Senior Administrative Assistant, Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relations
- Associate for Church Leadership Connection
- Senior Administrative Assistant for Budget Manager
- Senior Reference Archivist, Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia)
- Archives Technician, Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia).
Two positions were made half-time:
- Manager, GA Nominating Committee
- Manager for Christian Vocation and Certification.
Of the 14 existing positions in Louisville and Philadelphia that were changed to conform to the new staffing design, 4 were offered to incumbents whose positions had been eliminated. Several other members of the OGA staff will continue in their current positions while receiving new titles, and in some cases, adjusted responsibilities.
All employees whose positions were eliminated have been offered separation packages that include notice pay, severance, outplacement service, and payment for unused carry-over vacation from 2012 plus prorated vacation for 2013, subject to tax withholding and deductions.
As a result of the reorganization, three new positions were created:
- Assistant for Budget and Ecumenical, Ecclesial Support
- Associate for Innovation, Engagement (1/2 time) and Ecumenical Education (1/2 time)
- Program Assistant for Mid Council Ministries.
The discovery process overseen by Dudley Hamilton Associates, a New Jersey-based global management consulting firm, also included conversations around the Office of Vocation, created in 2006 as a shared ministry between OGA and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. In determining what arrangement would best serve both agencies, it was decided to discontinue the model of a shared Vocation office and to move its four Presbyterian Mission Agency-funded programs—with most of their associated personnel—from the former shared office into two ministry areas of the Presbyterian Mission Agency as follows:
- For Such A Time As This – to Theology, Worship and Education
- Racial Ethnic Seminarians Conference – to Theology, Worship and Education
- Financial Aid for Service -- to Theology, Worship and Education
- Military Chaplains – to Evangelism and Church Growth.
"Our goal in all of this is to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us by God in order to better resource Christ’s church,” Parsons said. “Another very specific goal is to go to the next General Assembly with no per capita increase.”
The OGA will gather for an all-staff retreat on March 21-22 immediately following the COGA meeting to more deeply engage the agency’s charge to “nurture and support the connective tissue of the body of Christ that is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
“The retreat is a chance to come together as the newly forming family of the OGA, and to focus on our renewed collaboration as teams, which is the operative way the three new areas will work to fulfill their ministry,” Parsons said.
A celebration of the ministry of all departing OGA staff members will be held on March 19 during the COGA meeting.
“We stand unified both in gratitude and in prayer for our staff,” said Parsons.