From the Worldwide Faith News archives

GAC Authorizes Consultant to Address Problems

Date 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 
Ministries (PREM). 
     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 
mission funds. 
     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 
could publish. 
       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   Web page: 


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