The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) today (Sept. 26) narrowly referred a proposal to separately incorporate the Stony Point Center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to a to-be-named evaluation team. The vote was 17-14.

The evaluation team was directed to complete its work on the incorporation proposal by Dec. 31 in order for the PMAB to take action at its February meeting on any potential recommendation to the 221st General Assembly next summer, which would have to approve Stony Point incorporation.

The PMAB referral vote on recommendation by its Finance Committee ― which earlier in the day voted 6-3 to approve the referral motion ― hinged on whether mandated processes for approving separate incorporation of PMAB entities were fulfilled by a Transition Task Team (TTT) the PMAB appointed a year ago to advance  “a path and process” toward Stony Point’s incorporation.

That action came in response to a report from a task force appointed in 2011 to “study the missional alignment, viability, financial sustainability and management performance of Stony Point.”

Stony Point ― about an hour north of Manhattan in New York ― has struggled for many years, though it has seen dramatic financial improvement in recent years under the leadership of current co-directors Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase.

The proposal calls for the historic facility to be named Stony Point Center for Multifaith Justice, Peace and Nonviolence, reflecting its innovative programs around interfaith relations, including an intentional residential community of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

In addition to creating a separate Stony Point corporation ― of which the PC(USA) will be the sole member ― the TTT proposal includes forgiveness of accumulated losses of $1,489,583; establishment of unspecified initial working capital at the date of incorporation; and transferral to the new corporation the balance of  “Temporarily Restricted Funds” designated for Stony Point Center and “all other funds being held on account for SPC.”

In 2007, the PMAB’s predecessor body approved “Criteria and Standards Applied by the General Assembly Council When It Considers Proposals for New Corporations.” Those criteria were adopted in the wake of a contentious debate over whether to separately incorporate Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, a proposal that was turned down.

The criteria and standards involve a four-part evaluation of  an incorporation proposal by a three-member PMAB panel composed of people who were not involved in the development of the proposal. “If you’re going to propose incorporation, it’s wise to use the criteria…,” Martha Clark, PMAB’s general counsel, told the Finance Committee. 

“I saw our requirement to work closely with legal and financial staff to make sure we satisfied the evaluation criteria,” responded Kiers Pollock, a member of the TTT and the PMAB.

Melissa DeRosia, who served on the original Stony Point Task Force and chaired the TTT, added: “…we were guided by criteria and guidelines … the reason we didn’t recommend incorporation  (last year) was because we didn’t have all the legal documents at the time. Now we have the documents.”

But that was not enough for the PMAB.

“Incorporation is supposed to be a process with two steps,” said PMAB member Molly Baskin. “Last year we approved a path toward incorporation, but not incorporation.”

Noelle Royer countered that “we have a vast body knowledge on this, which I think qualifies under the ‘extraordinary and exigent circumstances’ [by which the evaluation process can be bypassed].”

Finance Committee Chair Bill Capel said “due diligence requires an unbiased look at the proposal.”

Cruz Negron, speaking against the referral, asked, “How many committees do we need to have to take decisions. Two years ago we made a decision about this, last year we appointed another committee, and now we’re talking about another committee. We need to act.”

Speaking for the side that prevailed, PMAB and Finance Committee member Clay Antioquia said, “This [evaluation] process was approved in 2007 and this referral would follow the process. More important,” he added, “is an review that is objective in evaluating this proposal.”