From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
GAC Authorizes Consultant to Address Problems
04 May 1996 16:06:44
96094 GAC Authorizes Consultant to Address Problems
in Denomination's Curriculum Partnership
by Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--The General Assembly Council (GAC) has approved the hiring
of a consultant to work with the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC)
board of directors and the Congregational Ministries Division (CMD)
Committee to find a solution to problems in the two entities' partnership
arrangement to develop, produce and distribute curriculum.
The consultant's findings and recommendations will be brought to the
PPC board and to the GAC through the division committee no later than June
1, 1996. The Rev. Blair R. Monie of Dallas, CMD Committee chair, will
select the consultant, whose fees will be shared equally by both groups.
The decision came after hours of intense discussion Feb. 23 by the GAC and
leaders of both entities.
Established Jan. 1, 1994, as an independent corporation related to the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), PPC produces educational resources for
Presbyterian congregations and members, and theological and religious books
and other materials for a wider audience. Its imprints and product lines
currently include Westminster John Knox Press, The Geneva Press,
Presbyterian Publishing House, and Presbyterian and Reformed Educational
PREM is a partnership among the PC(USA) and other denominations that
provides resources and programs for a variety of settings and age groups.
The two curricula developed by PREM for use in congregations are "Bible
Discovery" and the newly revised "Celebrate."
CMD conceives, plans and develops the curriculum resources "Bible
Discovery" and "Celebrate" through its Resource Development Program Team up
to the point of production.
Beyond the development stage, PPC is responsible for production,
marketing, sales and distribution of curriculum.
The current PPC/CMD contract runs through 1996 and calls for PPC to
fund CMD's developmental efforts. According to Doug Deatz, PPC vice
president for curriculum and denominational resources, PPC currently pays
CMD approximately $1.1 million annually for the editorial development of
curriculum, and both parties share in any surpluses or deficits.
The General Assembly's Committee on Review (CR) is recommending that
the GAC and CMD be wholly responsible for all curriculum functions rather
than jointly responsible with PPC. That suggestion, strongly opposed by
PPC officials, has been heartily endorsed by the CMD's Christian Education
Program Area, which has written a proposal describing how the GAC and CMD
might fulfill the CR's recommendation.
"We do vigorously oppose [CMD's] plan for stripping us of our
curriculum functions," said Price H. Gywnn III of Charlotte, N.C., PPC
board chair. "[The CMD plan] is a proposal. It's a projection. It's a
statement of hope. It's all in the future. And I'm here to tell you
flat-out that staff plan won't work."
"You have not been involved in the curriculum development as I have,"
Donna Blackstock, CMD's coordinator for resource development, told Gwynn.
"What it all comes down to is a difference in management and logic."
All parties agree that the present arrangement between GAC and PPC is
dysfunctional. According to PPC officials, while PPC as a whole has
generated net income in the two years of its corporate existence, the
curriculum partnership between PPC/CMD is now in the red. CMD officials
contend that without the additional PPC overhead costs allocated to
curriculum, curriculum sales would show a surplus for 1995.
Gwynn announced during the GAC meeting that the GAC's share of
curriculum losses for 1995 would probably be 50 percent less than
originally projected, or approximately $75,000. PPC is projecting a loss
for curriculum of $637,000 in 1996 and $987,000 in 1997.
Declining curriculum revenue has aggravated a structural problem
inherent in the curriculum partnership since PPC was launched. Not having
a unified publication process combined with increased financial pressure on
both organizations makes finding a solution imperative.
Diminished congregational interest in the PC(USA) curriculum materials
is also impacting both organizations adversely. Less than half of all
PC(USA) churches (5,456 of them) use any part of PREM offerings. Between
1994-95 and 1995-96, 905 congregations abandoned PREM for other curricula.
The Rev. Edward E. Craxton, CMD's associate director for Christian
education, acknowledged that not everyone would agree with the proposal for
CMD to have complete control over curriculum. "But this proposal does not
come without a great deal of thought and conversations with many people
involved in the process."
Two schools of thought
CMD Committee members offered several reasons why the GAC through CMD
should have responsibility for all curriculum functions. Theological
reasons top the list. They say educational ministry is a major PC(USA)
focus and the development of educational resources should grow out of the
vision of the church to educate for mission and ministry.
"Curriculum resource development should not be separate from the
mission of our denomination," said the Rev. Joanne R. Hull, a CMD Committee
member from Greensboro, N.C. "I believe that curriculum development is our
responsibility and we need to do it."
According to Craxton, Christian education staff have under development
a series of models and strategies that address the need to
produce basic curriculum resources for the PC(USA) more quickly
than the current 18-month to two-year turnaround time
produce other materials that respond quickly and responsibly to
emerging events and conditions that are of overriding concern to the church
shift curriculum resources out of the present trade book production
model and coordinate with the existing publishing model for resources
produced by other PC(USA) program areas
incorporate developing technologies into the service of the church
and all its ministries and missions
follow businesslike procedures for managing, allocating and
conserving limited financial resources for curriculum without using any
An alternative option presented by Davis Perkins, PPC president and
publisher, calls for a new partnership in which curriculum development
would occur within PPC.
According to Perkins, an integrated publication process managed by PPC
would allow for greater cost effectiveness in the development of Christian
education resources and clear CMD/GAC of financial liability for
"What we feel is needed is a supplementary, complementary curriculum
program that is broader based," Perkins said.
Under such an arrangement, Perkins said, PPC curriculum editors would
submit new curriculum concepts and initiatives to a CMD editorial review
committee composed of elected and staff persons for approval before
development could proceed. Perkins said this would also ensure that CMD
fulfills its General Assembly mandate to "nurture and provide resources for
witness to Jesus Christ in local settings. ..."
The CMD Committee would validate the content of the curriculum to
guarantee that the resulting resources are of high quality, are
denominationally appropriate in terms of theology, are educationally sound
and emphasize Presbyterian mission. The resources would carry the PC(USA)
The main features of such an agreement include the following:
CMD curriculum editors and support staff would be offered jobs in
CMD's editorial review committee would approve all new curriculum
resources before production continues.
Curriculum development and marketing would be systemically related
within one organization, facilitating the serving of customer needs more
No mission funds would be needed to support the curriculum
Christian education resources developed outside PREM would be
handled on an ad hoc basis by PPC as resources permit; otherwise, CMD/GAC
The volunteer network of Christian Education Advocates would be
resourced and administered by PPC's curriculum marketing department.
A race against time
Because the CR's report will be sent to this year's General Assembly,
it is important that a mutual agreement or an alternative plan for
curriculum be achieved quickly. With the current contract between PPC and
the GAC expiring Dec. 1, 1996, a new curriculum paradigm could be
implemented as early as Jan. 1, 1997.
If there is a positive side to the situation, it's that both
organizations are having to seriously examine their relationships and ask
tough but necessary questions, according to Wilbur (Wil) Chinery of
Columbia, S.C., a CMD Committee member and GAC liaison to PPC.
"If I had my way, I would turn to both groups and say, Operate and
build on the positive aspects until you've eliminated the negative,'"
Chinery said. "Because I don't think the GAC can take the potential losses
that are staring us in the face."
"If this has no other outcome, it has forced me to sit down with
Christian educators and have a long conversation," said the Rev. K.C.
Ptomey Jr., a CMD Committee and GAC member of Nashville, Tenn. "And what
I've heard is that our people are being responsible in producing responsive
and high-quality resources."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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