Churchwide pastoral letter from the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board

June 25, 2015


[God] said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the
 Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. —1 Kings 19:11­–12 

To the members, congregations, mid councils, and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

When you called us through the voice of the General Assembly to serve as members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, you charged us to inspire, equip, and connect the PC(USA) in its many expressions to serve Christ in the world through new and existing communities of faith, hope, love, and witness. 

In our call is an implicit, mutual understanding that we will be faithful and accountable in carrying out Christ’s mission, including execution of the day-to-day ecclesiastical foundations that support our faith. 

We open this letter with the scriptural witness of Elijah’s encounter with God at Horeb to remind ourselves—and to assure you—that silence does not mean inactivity. 

Even in the “sound of sheer silence,” God is still at work. As are we. 

Although we wish that we could share with you the many ways we are at work in the service of Christ Jesus on behalf of the church in our present circumstances of defending ourselves in two separate defamation suits, we are unable to release any further information at this time except for this one assurance: no per capita dollars are being spent for attorney fees or anything related to this case, including the independent investigation. Subject to deductible, the defense of these two suits is being paid by our insurance. 

The service to which this Board has been called is not only a blessing but also a serious responsibility, one that we engage faithfully, honestly, respectfully, and carefully. Often, embracing our calling entails difficult decisions, which we reach prayerfully and through due diligence. With the humility of recognizing our human fallibility, we stand behind our actions, with prayers for God’s grace, and for yours. 

We humbly invite your forbearance and your prayers both now and in the coming days, as God’s purpose for the transformation of the world is worked out amid even these challenging times in the life of our beloved church, and as we—through God’s empowering grace—work with and for the One who is with us always, even to the end of the age. 

Shalom in Christ Jesus, 

Teaching Elder Rev. Marilyn S. Gamm, Chair
Presbyterian Mission Agency Board 

Ruling Elder Jo Stewart, Vice Chair
Presbyterian Mission Agency Board

  1. I am bewildered. I have never heard of these suits. Surely you could let us know who is being sued, and for what?

    by Marcia Casais

    July 3, 2015

  2. This letter raises more questions than answers. There should have been an explanation about the suits, rather than assume each person reading the letter has been following what has occurred in our national headquarters.

    by Bonnie Ruggiero

    July 2, 2015

  3. What are the two defamation cases? Don't send a letter out like this without giving the full information about what is the suit, etc? You don't have to go into great detail. This letter will stir up all kinds of problems, imagintations and rumors.

    by Jacquelyn Pinkowski

    July 1, 2015

  4. To say that "no per capita dollars are being spent for attorney fees or anything related to this case, including the independent investigation" is disingenuous at best. While it may be technically correct, all that is spent comes from current income (which includes unified mission giving, per capita, designated gifts and offerings, bequests, grants and the sale of materials and services), from past income held in reserve, which comes from the same sources plus investment earnings), or from insurance (which is paid for with money from those same sources). So what difference does it make? The reality is that the money could have nbeen put to much better use. And, the deductible is probably not what you may think. Is the PMAB willing to disclose the size of the deductible? I suspect it may be six figures. And when you have claims, future insurance will typically cost more.

    by Alan Ford

    June 29, 2015

  5. This letter seems to assume the readers have knowledge of the background, which I suggest is not the case. Even with limited background, it seems to come out of the blue and leaves one in the fog.

    by Mark Roberson

    June 26, 2015

  6. Interesting letter. However other than it states you are dealing with two defamation cases you don't indicate what the cases are about. You leave the readers to guess. You do not have to give the details which would be inappropriate. But you could indicate the assumed defamation of WHO and about WHAT? If the cases have been filed that much is public record.

    by John Clement

    June 25, 2015

  7. When did the Defamation Suit arise, and who is suing the Church?

    by The Rev. Robert H. Williams (HR)

    June 25, 2015

  8. We don't know about two defamation suits against Gamm and Stewart. Will we have to go to The Layman to learn what's going on?

    by Bob Battenfield

    June 25, 2015