The February meeting of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board concluded today, preparing the way for the construction of an operations plan that will guide the agency over the next two years.

Key actions included approval of the 2017–18 Mission Work Plan and a 2016 budget, along with several referrals for approval or discussion at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) in Portland, Oregon.

The Mission Work Plan and budget will be used over the next two months to set the direction of the agency and decide programming priorities and staffing levels needed to support these programs. These recommendations will be brought to the April meeting of the board for approval.

Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the agency, says “tough decisions” will be made to “sharpen the focus of the PMA,” noting priorities will emphasize programs the national setting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is uniquely qualified to perform.

Representatives from Grace Presbytery in central and northeast Texas made a presentation to the board, describing the $2.8 million gift they allocated for the agency last fall following a Sept. 2014 settlement with Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas upon its dismissal from the PC(USA). The funds will be used to help sustain two mission co-workers in perpetuity and fund 20 Young Adult Volunteer scholarships.

General Presbyter, the Rev. Jan DeVries, announced the gift. Others from the presbytery described the details of the settlement process and the decision that led to the donation. The Rev. Ben Dorr, presbytery council moderator and pastor of Northridge Presbyterian Church in Dallas, said the decision by the presbytery was an easy one. “How many of you, when you hear the words joyful, exciting and unanimous think of a presbytery meeting?” he joked.

Landon Whitsitt, chair of the agency’s executive director search committee, gave a report on the committee’s progress. He said that due to the transitional nature of decisions being made about the agency structure and possible consolidation, the search has not made any definitive advancement.

The board’s leadership nominated Kenneth Godshall as chair elect and Marsha Zell Anson as vice-chair elect. Their names will be forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) for approval, pending Godshall’s re-nomination to the board for another term.

The final reports of the board can be found on the meeting web page, with committee work found on a sub page. Summaries of the primary committee meetings are found below with links to their respective reports. 

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee of the board heard from the Special Offerings Review Task Force recommending the board and executive director set cost recovery percentages for Special Offerings staff. It also referred a recommendation that the executive director reestablish the position of director of Special Offerings.

Special Offerings was also directed to revise the $20-million-by-2020 goal for Special Offerings receipts to $20 million by 2025, affirming the current interpretation and distribution of Special Offering funds. 

Two recommendations were made concerning funding of racial ethnic institutions:

1. Maintain funding to the remaining Historically Presbyterian Racial Ethnic Institutions (HPREIs) at current percentages of the Christmas Joy Offering (CJO).
2. Allocate funds that have become available from HPREIs that no longer qualify for funding through the CJO to support and advance the work of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministry in their programs of racial ethnic leadership development.

The board approved the 2017-208 Mission Work Plan. The full story on this process and its the outcomes can be found here.

The board approved the executive director’s report and will forward it to the 222nd General Assembly (2016.)

It approved an Executive Committee recommendation that the board form a Board Governance Task Force to complete a comprehensive review of the board governance model and bring final recommendations to the board’s Sept. 2017 meeting, for submission to the 223rd General Assembly (2018).

It approved an Executive Committee recommendation that the board elect the following individuals to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Review Committee Response Writing Task Force: Marsha Zell Anson, Jeffrey Joe and Nancy Ramsay.

It approved an Executive Committee recommendation that the board elect the following individuals to serve on the Board Governance Task Force: Molly Baskin, Greg Chan, Marianne Rhebergen, Conrad Rocha, Melinda Sanders, Jo Stewart and one representative to be appointed by the board chair.

It recommended and forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) the communications portion of the report.

The executive committee also voted to approve that the chair appoint members of the board to work with the Executive Director and designees to develop implementation strategies for the Mission Work Plan for the board’s review and action at a called meeting prior to the April meeting. This will inform budget decisions in April.

A joint meeting of the Executive Committee of the board and the Committee of the Office of the General Assembly approved actions pertaining to per capita budget and rate for the next two years along with budget allocations for the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in St. Louis.

The committees forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) the 2016 per capita expense budget totaling $12,434,777, the 2017 per capita expense budget totaling $12,747,185 and the 2018 per capita budget totaling $12,735,784. They also requested increases to per capita rates of $7.33 in and $7.55 in 2018.

They further recommended $1,365,540 be allocated from the 2017 per capita budget for the 223rd General Assembly in 2018 and designated budget expenditures of $1,830,588 in 2017 and $2,071,838 in 2018. 

Finance Committee

The board approved the 2016 Presbyterian Mission Agency budget of $74,828,043. Significantly, the budget includes a $645,000 replenishment of the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund (PMPF), the unrestricted and undesignated investment reserve of the agency.

Savings will be realized through a variety of measures including:


  1. Elimination of agency-staff annual pay increases results in a savings of $584,593.
  2. Elimination of 11 positions—through resignations or retirements—including four in ministry programs and seven common services positions, for a savings of $941,969.
  3. Mission personnel expenses reduced by $393,860 through elimination of pay increases and reduction of two mission co-worker positions through attrition. Now a total of 148 mission co-workers.
  4. Reduction of World Mission Young Adult Volunteer budget by $636,515. Budgeted program participants were 130 and 180 for the years 2015–16 and 2016–17, respectively; actual participants are approximately 85 and 120.
  5. Reduction of Mosaic of Peace special event costs by $151,298.
  6. Savings of $193,492 in Theology, Formation and Evangelism through reduced spending for pastoral residency, church growth and mission effectiveness programs.


Several organizational reports were approved and forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) including those from Shared Services and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Investment and Loan Program (PILP), which also recommends confirmation of James G. Rissler as president of PILP.

The board approved revisions to the Supplier Diversity (a.k.a. Minority Vendor) Policy.

It approved the recommendation to develop a strategy requiring ministries of the agency to restore funds to the PMPF. The recommendation asks ministries to create budget items that will continually contribute to unrestricted reserves. It is expected this reserve fund will be restored to a balance of 3–6 months of operating reserves. This action is an update of a 1990 action of the General Assembly that requires reserve funds to be maintained at a certain level.

The committee also discussed the “Cost of Doing Ministry” report. The report explores cost allocations for non-profits and the ratios represented in agency ministries and will be used as a guideline for communicating expenses related to supporting ministries.

Closing business, the finance committee elected Molly Baskin as chair of the finance committee and Marvin Brangan as vice chair for 2016–17.

Worshiping Communities Committee

The board approved four key recommendations from the Worshiping Communities Committee yesterday.

First, it approved the “Community of Mission Practice: New Role for Mid Councils and Congregations in the Sending of Mission Personnel.”

World Mission Director Hunter Farrell believes this recommendation provides a way for Presbyterians to live out the Reformed understanding of a truly connectional church. “We’ll have global partner churches, mid councils, congregations, racial/ethnic caucuses and mission networks—all working together in God’s mission,” he says. “When World Mission cannot fund a critically needed mission worker, U.S. Presbyterians are empowered to help recruit, fund, pray for, encourage and evaluate the mission worker.”

Farrell says he is grateful to Carlisle, Arkansas and Tampa Bay Presbyteries who helped World Mission take this seminal step. “Wanting to respond to a context of increasing violence in Honduras and the consequent flow of child immigrants to the United States, members of the Honduras Mission Network from [these] presbyteries are currently working to secure 100 percent funding for this critically needed mission worker.”

“The board’s action will encourage presbyteries and congregations to increase their level of involvement,” says Leslie Belden, parish associate at First United Presbyterian Church, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Not so much in hands-on engagement, but how we collaborate in mission decision-making. The necessity of networking today provides an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do far more than we can do by ourselves.”

Secondly, the board approved 18 Developmental, Risky, Experimental, Adaptive Mission (DREAM) Grants totaling $172,500, recommended by the DREAM Fund Committee, under the guidance of Mission Program Grants. Recipients of the second round of DREAM Grants representing 15 presbyteries, in seven synods, are listed here.

A previous recipient, Northwest Coast Presbytery, used its DREAM Grant to transform an annual leadership conference. The result was seven 18-minute inspiring ‘Ted Talk like” videos, which can be shared around the world.

Next the board approved the proposed revision to the Directory for Worship to be forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to send to presbyteries for their vote. According to David Gambrell, associate in the Office of Theology and Worship, “Those who have studied and commented on the document appreciate its clarity and accessibility and the freedom and flexibility they find in the proposed revision.”

Gambrell adds that important new features of the revised Directory are the sections on worship and culture and the work of the Holy Spirit in worship. “Historically this has been a strength of the Reformed tradition,” says Gambrell.

Finally, the board approved the Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries portion of the agency report that will be sent to the 222ndGeneral Assembly (2016). The committee also discussed training tools on antiracism that have been developed and revised, including a “Facing Racism” study guide that can be used by congregations in its education or Sunday school hour.

New Worshiping Communities information items:

  • 1001 national coordinator Vera White reports there are currently 316 new worshiping communities.
  • UKirk, the network for collegiate ministries in the PC(USA), continues to grow with 31 new or rebranded UKirk chapters established in 2015.
  • Church Transformation associate Ann Philbrick reports that 115 churches went through New Beginnings, a discernment and assessment based process that helps congregations make meaningful decisions about their future. Since 2010, 516 churches have been assessed.

Justice Committee

Justice Committee work included re-designating proceeds on the Dunggi property in Lahore, Pakistan; a group of referrals to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) from Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry (CPJ); an amendment to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Mid-Council invitation and engagement guidelines; and the CPJ’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) report and recommendation on divestment from fossil fuel companies.

The divestment issue sparked most of the morning session’s discussion. MRTI’s recommendation stopped short of calling for divestment from 200 fossil fuel companies, instead opting for extensive engagement with the group of companies, both inside and outside the energy sector. Specifically, the report:

  • Commended companies in the oil, gas and coal markets that have addressed climate change by adopting policies that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and/or through the use of their products.
  • Called upon all corporations to increase their efforts to address climate change.
  • Commended the PC(USA) for providing the option of fossil-free managed portfolios to congregations or individuals seeking that option;
  • Encouraged continued respectful discussion in and outside the church on the issue of climate change.
  • Directed MRTI to pursue its focused engagement process on climate change issues with all corporations, but particularly those in the oil, gas and coal sectors. It also recommended reporting to the 223rd General Assembly (2018) with new recommendations, which may include divestment.

Dan Terpstra, moderator of the national grassroots group Fossil Free PC(USA), spoke out against the recommendation, stating it offers nothing beyond two more years of ineffective engagement and the promise of another report threatening divestment if “significant changes” aren’t made. He stated that by offering no new action MRTI preserves the status quo and fails to meet the GA’s mandate, and thus urged the committee to reject the recommendations. The committee passed the recommendation after extensive discussion.

A recommendation was approved that changes the way PDA can be invited to respond to a disaster. Currently, PDA must be invited into a mid council’s region by an authorized representative of the affected mid council. Given changing staff and organizational structures within mid councils, the process has made it increasingly difficult to secure an invitation in situations that often require timeliness and expediency. By approving the recommendation, PDA can now respond to a national disaster by:

  • Invitation from an affected mid council.
  • Invitation by a PC(USA) congregation affected by disaster or involved in disaster response.
  • Invitation by a partner or disaster-response organization.
  • Invitation by an asset of the PC(USA), such as a camp, that has been affected by disaster.

Also passed were recommendations on a schedule of distribution of the proceeds from the sale of surplus property in Pakistan; 38 responses to referrals from CPJ; World Mission’s final response to referrals; and affiliations with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Action Network.

Presented for information to the committee were referral reports from Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministry’s Churchwide Conversation on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentricity, as well as Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community. Also presented for information were Advisory Committee on Social Witness reports going to the 222nd General Assembly (2016), minutes of the Presbyterian Hunger Program Advisory Committee meeting and minutes for the Jinishian Memorial Program.

Leadership Committee

In the first of several actions, the board approved the Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Ministry portion of the agency report, which will be forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).

The various referrals in progress—presented to the committee on Feb. 4 by the Rev. Dr. Charles Wiley III, coordinator of the agency’s office of Theology and Worship—include items related to the Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Wiley explained that work on these referrals was still in progress as a result of the departure of Christine Hong, the agency’s former interfaith associate. He also announced new interfaith associates Laurie Anderson and Rick Ufford-Chase.

In addition to the interreligious stance, other final responses to referrals relate to immigration issues and to ongoing progress on the part of theological seminaries to develop culturally sensitive curriculum, theologies, language, teaching and learning styles for teaching elders and church leaders of all ethnicities.

Committee member and 2016–2017 vice chair Marci Glass gave the board a report on the Women of Faith Award nominees, whose names will be forwarded to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to be recognized. The board approved the motion.

The board approved to forward to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) proposed changes to the PC(USA)’s Organization for Mission—the resource that outlines the function of the General Assembly agencies and how they relate to each other—in order to include Presbyterian Women (PW), which was separately incorporated in 2009. Susan Jackson-Dowd, PW’s executive director, when speaking to the committee on February 4, said, “It’s critically important that we ensure that our relationship to the church is codified in the Organization for Mission.”

Ramsay especially commended to the board’s attention information items D and E in its report, in which the committee reported that it had heard an update from Lawrence P. Greenslit, director of the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP). Greenslit had shared with the committee that the PCCMP—due to its history of deficit spending—would no longer be able to carry out one its two important missions, the provision of pastoral care and professional mentoring to chaplains and their families. The PCCMP’s second mission is to serve as an endorsing agent for chaplains, for which the council is accountable to the office of the stated clerk. 

As a result of Greenslit's report, the committee approved a motion to engage various offices in a conversation about the future of the PCCMP.

Also presented to the board for information was the committee’s election of Nancy Ramsay of Fort Worth, Texas, as committee chair for the 2016–2017 term—continuing in her present role—and of Marci Glass of Boise, Idaho, as vice chair.