Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday Lunch With the Moderator

A group of Mission Committee members from my congregation went across town to have lunch with our counterparts at the other Presbyterian Church. The Moderator of General Assembly, Rick Ufford-Chase was there and we were privileged to hear him speak. He made some brief remarks and then opened things up for questions and dialog.

Ufford-Chase is a personable, articulate and effective advocate for Mission, and his comments were devoid of "sugar-coating". It was a breath of fresh air, if not particularly comforting. Our denomination has a tough row to hoe and we are going to do it with fewer personnel and a smaller budget.

Since the attendees were mostly members of the two congregations' Mission Committees, the "hot button" issues that most people associate with the PC(USA) were not even raised. Instead mission issues dominated the discussion. That, too, was a breath of fresh air.

Here are some of the things Rick Ufford-Chase covered (to the best of my recollection) in his remarks and answers to questions:
  • One of the many factors in the dwindling dollars flowing to Louisville is the lack of trust that congregations place in GA, but neither has GA trusted the lower judicatories and congregations to do their job properly. Trust is a two-way street.
  • Giving overall is up, but less of it is sent upstream. Mission is being done; just not necessarily at the denomination level.
  • 20 years ago 80% of funds at GAC's disposal were undesignated; today only 15% are undesignated. These designations are honored, but it complicates the budget process.
  • There is not only a disconnect between what congregation members believe, and what people in Louisville believe, but there is also a disconnect beween what we say and what we do -- one example is our emphasis on witness to Jesus Christ, and the cutting of 55 mission worker positions, which is happening at the same time that "Joining Hearts and Hands" is attempting to fund additional mission workers.
  • GAC is looking at mission in terms of (1) what NEEDS to be carried out at the denominational level; (2) what is enhanced by denominational involvment; and (3) what is best done at the lower levels.
I was pleased to hear our moderator's strong advocacy for mission, both locally and worldwide, and I hope the PC(USA) can get behind mission as effectively as Rick.

No comments: