Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is The "Disconnect" Narrowing?

For a number of years the word "disconnect" has been used to describe the relationship with the people in Louisville and the people in the congregations. A common complaint has been "Louisville just doesn't get it!"

After having had the opportunity to listen to Rick Ufford-Chase (moderator, 216th GA) earlier in the week and representatives of GAC, presbytery and synod at yesterday's meeting of the Presbytery of Missouri Union, I believe that the folks in Louisville and the members of GAC are starting to "get it".

Several positive impressions:
  • The existing "silos" are being eliminated in favor of a structure built around the eight mission objectives GAC adopted earlier this year. Previously, there were four divisions: Congregational, National, and Worldwide Ministries Divisions as well as a Mission Support Division. There were turf struggles, and I suspect some duplication of efforts. These four divisions are being eliminated in favor of a flatter organization.
  • The GAC is going from 72 to 39 voting members over the next few years (as terms expire), and they will shift focus from adminstering program to providing vision for the PC(USA). The members will also not be separated into particular areas, with little awareness of what the other areas are doing and thinking.
  • There is a recognition that our denomination needs renewal, and that renewal in incapable of being initiated from above. It must occur first at the local levels. When congregations are strengthened, then the whole denomination is strengthened. GAC seems to see their role as enabling the more local entities to be the Church.
Mixed news:
  • Overall giving, adjusted for inflation, is up about 4 %, while the flow of funds from the congregations upstream is down by a significantly greater percent. Mission is being done at greater levels; the change is that mission dollars are not all flowing through PC(USA) channels.
Ongoing concerns:
  • 75 employees lost their jobs with most of them coming into work May 1 and learning that they would not be returning Tuesday. The generous severance packages help, but this was a major blow to all concerned. Whatever opinions I have over individual terminations (and yes, I do have a few opinions), I choose not to second-guess GAC on this. I really do not have the knowledge to make an informed assessment. I do feel that Christian compassion and prayer is in order here.
  • There is still a bit of a mixed message being put out. GAC has made it clear that evangelism and witness to Jesus Christ in the world is a major part of the PC(USA) mission, but we are on the verge of losing 55 overseas mission workers. Joining Hearts and Hands has as one of its goals the funding of mission personnel, but its performance has been disappointing. People are confused as to where we are headed with this.
I think that is enough for now. I feel that things are moving in the right direction as far as our understanding of our mission is concerned. I hope that the changes taking place in Louisville and the GAC will result in more focus on doing what God calls us to do.


Michael W. Kruse said...

Thanks for these observations Denis. I think the issues you raise are the ones I consistently see reflected back to me.

Denis Hancock said...

Thanks for your taking the time to speak at Prebytery.

As you may have noticed from the questions, there is a hunger for this kind of communication.