The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board concluded its fall 2015 meeting Sept. 25. The meeting introduced Luis Antonio (Tony) De La Rosa as the incoming interim executive director of the PMA, made financial and mission decisions and looked forward to denomination-wide discussions on the nature of mission in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

De La Rosa is expected to begin his role Dec. 1, 2015. The term of his tenure has not been announced, although Marilyn Gamm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, has indicated the interim may serve up to three years. The permanent executive director of the Mission Agency must be confirmed by the General Assembly, which meets every two years.

Heath Rada, Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014), addressed the Board Wednesday with a “Call to the Church,” (video) asking it to undertake a comprehensive cross-agency study of the budget, operation and purposes of the PC(USA).

Rada asked the six agencies of the PC(USA) to cooperate with the work of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) in this evaluation, urging “executives and their boards, as well as all bodies of the church, to affirm this effort even knowing that it may bring about some dramatic suggested changes. Our denomination needs to trust that we can and will work together and not focus primarily on issues which divide us or protect turf.”

Members of the Presbyterian International Peacemaker program were present at Thursday’s dinner with the board, sharing experiences from their country’s context prior to a month-long tour of presbyteries, congregations and schools throughout the U.S.

In addition to an article on the actions of the Board in regard to the finance committee, other committee reports and actions include:


Audit Committee

No recommendations or actions were received by the Audit Committee. A list of informational items can be found here.


Corporate Report

As recommended by the Property, Legal, and Finance Committee, the following actions were approved by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation: 

  • Approved corporate minutes of April 15, 2015;
  • Elected officers of the Corporation;
  • Approved housing allowance designations for teaching elders on the exempt staff of the Presbyterian Mission Agency;
  • Approved authorization of contract signors.

The Corporation also approved a grant policy “for the administration of all grant proposals received by any PMA ministry grant program, with the grant policy not applicable to the grants referenced in the Mission Development Resources Committee Grant Policies and Procedures adopted by the Corporation on April 17, 2015.”

In a meeting of the Finance Committee on Sept. 23, Earline B. Williams, deputy executive director for Shared Services and chief financial officer for the PMA, explained that the new grant policy allows for “one consistent policy that addresses all of the granting.”

The Corporation also approved a five-part action on “How Federal Student Loan Forgiveness in 2017 Affects Undergraduate and Graduate Loans Offered by Financial Aid for Service.”

As reported on Sept. 25, the approved action directs the PMA staff to work with the Presbyterian Foundation to use funds endowed for student loans to meet mission objectives to reduce financial barriers to service, as well as to work with the Board of Pensions to resource mid councils, congregations and worshiping communities with debt assistance programs for teaching elders, mission co-workers and other church professionals.


Leadership Committee

The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted to maintain existing funding to the Historically Presbyterian Racial Ethnic Institutions at current percentages of the Christmas Joy Offering, and to approve allocating funds from the Christmas Joy Offering that were previously designated to Cook Native America Ministries (now the Charles H. Cook Foundation) to Native American Education and Leadership from the last quarter of 2015 through 2017.

In January 2015, Cook Native American Ministries approved an amended bylaw and renamed the organization the Charles H. Cook Foundation. As a foundation, Cook no longer meets the Institutional Standards for Participating in the Christmas Joy Offering. In September 2014, the Board voted to continue providing grant funding to Cook through the Christmas Joy Offering until April 2015. At the April 2015 meeting, funding was extended through Aug. 21, 2015.

At the spring 2015 PMAB meeting, Cook requested bridge funding as it establishes operations of the foundation. Cook will receive $70,000 in 2016 and 2017—a total of $140,000—from the national mission budget to aid in this transition. It is anticipated that Cook will development funds and draw from its $10 million in Presbyterian Foundation investments to support its current budget of approximately $400,000 in subsequent years.

The Board also took action to rescind an action approved in 2008, authorizing a subcommittee of the Leadership and Vocation Committee to approve mission personnel appointments and actions, and to authorize the staff of the Presbyterian Mission Agency to revise the Mission Co-Worker Handbook. A vote to direct all mission personnel action be implemented by staff, and that staff at the Presbyterian Mission Agency report all appointments and reappointments of mission co-workers to the Board through the Leadership and Vocation Committee.

The Board confirmed two subcommittee nominations, Thomas Milton and David Parker, for consideration for election to the Presbyterian College Board of Trustees.

New business from the leadership committee included a recommendation to the Special Offerings Review Task Force that funds previously designated to Cook Native American Education Ministries through the Christmas Joy Offering be designated to Native American Education and Leadership from 2018 through 2021.

A summary of action and information items from the Leadership Committee can be found here.


1001 New Worshiping Communities  

There are currently 302 new worshiping communities active in the 1001 movement—with at least one new worshiping community in 115 out of 172 presbyteries. According to a survey of worshiping community leaders, 64 percent of NWC participants are under the age of 40, 53 percent are racial-ethnic and 55 percent of NWC leaders are ordained teaching elders.

Through July 2015, 84 churches have completed New Beginnings, an assessment-based discernment process of church transformation for congregations seeking to make bold decisions about their future. It is estimated that 36 more will complete the process by year-end. To date, 479 churches have completed New Beginnings since it began in 2010.

The UKirk network of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) college-affiliated ministries continues to grow, with 18 new UKirk chapters established at the time of this report.  In addition, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has begun the process of adopting UKirk branding for their college ministries, resulting in the expansion of the network and strengthening of ties between the two denominations. The first UKirk devotional app for iPhones will be released this fall. The app will provide Scripture and prayers from the daily prayer lectionary produced by the office of Theology and Worship.

Simone Adams-Andrade has been named coordinator for budget and mission effectiveness in the new Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry area. Director Chip Hardwick is overseeing this new ministry area, which was instituted from most of the programs and staff from Theology, Worship and Education and Evangelism and Church Growth, in June 2015.

Evangelism and Formation—comprised of 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Church Growth and Transformation, Evangelism, and Collegiate, Youth and Young Adult ministries—is working on developing a strategy to increase the health and effectiveness of local churches, so that new people are reached, new ministries and mission are started and new worshiping communities are planted.

A complete report on all informational items presented to the Worshiping Communities Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board can be found by clicking here.



Actions of the Justice Committee included allocating a stipend of $200 per Sunday for teaching elders called to serve as Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Response Team. This stipend will be provided by PDA to congregations unable to afford the costs of preaching and ministry honorariums in the absence of a teaching elder.

A second action recommended the six-agency Collaborative Agenda for Environmental Stewardship to the 222nd General Assembly in 2016.

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, presented an overview of the group’s study on the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. Nelson summarized a key problem of privatized prisons and a judicial system prejudiced against people of color, saying,  “You’re never really emancipated from being a criminal.”

Greg Allen-Pickett, general manager for operations in World Mission, reported that staff still in Syria are receiving funds and serving those who haven’t been able to leave. He expressed a continued commitment to providing relief services to Syrians unable to leave, especially those of Armenian descent, as part of the ongoing response to the current refugee crisis.

Sera Chung, associate for gender and racial justice, reported on three goals of a General Assembly antiracism working committee, saying their goals are to revise the churchwide antiracism policy, update the antiracism training materials and develop and implement criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of current churchwide antiracism training.

The group also celebrated the recently signed covenant between World Mission and the National Black Presbyterian Caucus to work together in partnership to recruit more people of color as mission co-workers and Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs.) This partnership was observed at the Board’s Thursday morning worship.

Other information and reference items can be found in the approved Justice Committee report.


Executive Committee 

The Executive Committee met prior to the full Board and recommended several actions, all of which were approved.

Organizationally, the committee recommended eliminating the vacant deputy executive director for Mission position, eliminating the Mission ministry area and moving functions that previously reported to the deputy executive director for mission to the Executive Director’s Office. These changes are outlined in a revised Appendix 2A in the Manual of Operations.

Changes were also recommended to the Manual of Operations to clarify the citation of Ministry Policy Guides as prepared by the General Assembly and to reflect the restructuring of two ministry areas—Evangelism and Church Growth; and Theology, Worship and Education—into the Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry area.

The Executive Committee received the previously mentioned “Call to the Church” appeal from Rada and recommended the Board fully participate in the churchwide study that will be conducted by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA). This study, in addition to existing evaluations, will be reported to the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Ore.

The full report of the Executive Committee to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is contained in two reports: Part One and Part Two.

[Editor's Note, 9/29/2015: The two annual $70,000 contributions to the Cook Foundation were originally listed as occurring in 2015 and 2016. The article has been corrected to reflect the actual funding cycle of 2016 and 2017 for this $140,000 disbursement.]