From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Executive Committee Seeks to Ease GAC's Conflicts
12 May 1996 20:18:50
May 9, 1996
96170 Executive Committee Seeks to Ease GAC's Conflicts
by John Sniffen
SPOKANE, Wash.--The General Assembly Council (GAC)'s executive committee
has reluctantly granted auditors for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Foundation permission to review the GAC's books.
The action came during the executive committee's April 27-28 meeting
here at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church.
In February, the GAC and the Foundation approved a joint audit of the
expenditure of restricted funds, but the Foundation withdrew from that
process and now both organizations are conducting independent audits.
GAC chair the Rev. D. William McIvor said that the Foundation feels
that "they and they alone have sole authority to say whether donor
instructions [for use of the funds] have been met." The difference in the
two audits, said McIvor, is that the Foundation's auditors will bring back
information to the Foundation, which will then determine whether donors'
instructions have been followed.
He called the situation "extremely political" and warned that if the
GAC thwarted the Foundation's desire to do an audit it would probably only
hurt the GAC's contention that the Foundation is overstepping its bounds.
"If we deny access [to the records] ... it wouldn't gain us anything
and might set us back," said McIvor.
Work groups seek resolution of Foundation/GAC rift
A work group appointed by McIvor after the GAC's tumultuous February
meeting is preparing to meet May 16 in Chicago with a similar work group
from the Foundation.
Unless the GAC and the Foundation can work out a common solution by
then, both will take their arguments to the 208th General Assembly in
Albuquerque next month, asking the commissioners to try and resolve the
The Foundation says that the GAC has not handled income from
restricted funds in accordance with donors' instructions. The GAC defends
its handling of the funds and counters that the Foundation is overstepping
its boundaries by involving itself in program matters.
GAC work group members Fred Denson of Rochester, N.Y., and Jean
Edwards of Philadelphia, Pa., brought the executive committee up-to-date on
While evidence of the tension between the GAC and the Foundation was
obvious, there were also attempts to temper that feeling. "We cannot serve
without the Foundation and they cannot serve without us," said Denson, who
is also a GAC member. "There are many types of relationships which provide
touchstones between us."
Edwards, a former GAC member, said the problem is that the GAC has not
exercised its authority over the Foundation. "If you do challenge them
before the General Assembly ... there will be some risk. But even if the
Assembly's decision is not favorable to the GAC, at least a decision will
have been made."
Edwards pointed to the Foundation's communications with synods and
presbyteries about using funds the GAC fails to use within set time periods
as an example of "a serious fragmentation of the GAC's programmatic role.
... They should not be in conversation with middle governing bodies about
"We're all being shot in the foot," she added. "It's reflecting poorly
on all of us. ... Both [GAC and the Foundation] need to reassure the
Stated Clerk Jim Andrews cautioned the GAC executive committee about
framing the Council's case in too much constitutional jargon. "Both [the
GAC and the Foundation] are getting into an argument about constitutional
language that will not bear the weight of their statements," he said. "This
is not a church constitution issue."
Ganado Mission flap continues
A specific example of the Foundation's dissatisfaction with the GAC
involves the use of the Jennie Wimmer Fund at the Ganado Mission in
Foundation chair James Bellatti said in February that monies from the
fund were used for purposes other than their original purpose -- the
evangelism of Navajo Indians at the mission.
Reporting for the Corporate and Administrative Services Division
(CAS), CAS committee chair Duane Black said the Wimmer Fund was diverted
for use at Cook College, a PC(USA)-related school in Tempe, Ariz., because
the Ganado Mission no longer existed.
In the wake of an uproar caused by reports of Bellatti's remarks, a
four-way meeting of GAC, Synod of the Southwest, Grand Canyon Presbytery
and Ganado Presbyterian Church representatives was held April 9 in Phoenix.
That consultation produced a plan by which the four parties would equally
contribute $34,000 each toward reestablishing a fund for the same purpose
as the Wimmer Fund.
Subsequent to the consultation, Foundation president Larry Carr wrote
to Grand Canyon Presbytery executive Robert V. Chapman urging the
presbytery's council to postpone action on the consultation's proposal.
Carr noted that the Foundation would "... be obligated to ask the GAC to
reimburse the Jennie Wimmer Fund ..." and that "There is money available
for that purpose."
GAC executive director the Rev. James Brown told the executive
committe that "the Foundation's telling the presbytery and church that
there's $136,000 cold cash available" to them.
The GAC executive committee affirmed the consultation's proposal, but
on May 2 the council of Grand Canyon Presbytery concurred with the session
of Ganado Presbyterian Church in rejecting the proposal.
Responses to Review Commmittee
The two-day session at Millwood Church was followed by a one-day joint
meeting April 29 with the executive committee of the Committee on the
Office of the General Assembly (COGA) at Whitworth College to begin
planning responses to the Quadrennial Review Committee's report to the
208th General Assembly.
While numerous comments reflected dissatisfaction with aspects of the
Review Committee's investigation process and its report to the upcoming
Assembly, both executive committees' members tried to avoid outright
opposition to the proposals.
"We need to focus on the tone of our response and not sound anxious or
dismissive," said GAC member the Rev. Robert J. Weingartner of Middletown,
Ohio. "We don't want to set ourselves up as adversaries of the process."
The Review Committee's proposal for a new Committee on Theological
Development drew a negative reaction from Stated Clerk Jim Andrews. He said
he doubted that the church needed both the new committee and the existing
Committee on Theological Education. Also, he noted, "too many bodies are
reporting directly to the General Assembly."
Andrews added that he knew what problems the Review Committee was
trying to solve with the proposal, but "this is not the way to solve it."
A proposal to enlarge the GAC and give presbyteries more
representation received mixed comments.
"You add this many new bodies [to the GAC], you are reorganizing the
Council," said McIvor, noting the irony of such a change only two and a
half years after the downsizing mandated by the 205th General Assembly.
The Rev. Eunice B. Poethig, director of the Congregational Ministries
Division, said a larger GAC would be helpful since it would provide more
members to serve on the division committees.
Giving presbyteries more members on the GAC may not solve the problem
of communication, said GAC member DeAun West, noting that GAC members and
other PC(USA) representatives often have trouble "getting listened to as
someone who has something worthy to say."
COGA chair the Rev. J. Oscar McCloud concurred. "As soon as you're
elected to the General Assembly you are [considered] one of them.' Let's
not kid ourselves. This [change in GAC] is not going to bring about a
The committee members were fairly united in their vocal opposition to
a proposal to take away the executive director's power to stop funding of
programs. They noted that 1) the power had never been used, 2) was subject
to GAC review, and 3) was a normal power given to modern chief executive
Whether the committees' written responses to the Review Committee's
proposals will oppose this and the other proposals remains to be seen. The
GAC is surveying its complete membership before putting its answers on
paper. Likewise, COGA is still preparing its response.
Curriculum situation heading toward resolution
The most positive news the GAC executive committee received involved
the denomination's curriculum publishing. In two statements released the
previous week, it was announced that the GAC would be assuming
responsibility for developing, publishing and marketing the denomination's
The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) acknowledged that move
in a separate statement, but stated it would continue to publish other
On April 27 at Millwood Community Church, the executive committee
approved a motion by member Lynda C. Ardan authorizing GAC staff to work
with PPC staff to plan the transfer while acknowledging the tension that
exists between PPC and the GAC.
Committee members also met in closed session for about 90 minutes to
discuss a written report from consultant Del R. Poling, who was hired to
help resolve the ongoing disagreements between the GAC and PPC. The session
was closed to the public due to the fact that Poling's report included
Coming out of the closed session, McIvor said the committee postponed
any action on the consultant's specific recommendations until the committee
meets via conference call on May 9.
In other business, the GAC executive committee
* received a draft copy of the Controller's Report to the 208th
General Assembly. CAS director Pat Goff noted changes in the 1995
audited financial statements mandated by new accounting
* approved a revised job description for the executive director
* approved a request from GAC chair-elect Youngil Cho that time be
set aside for the training of new GAC members, especially in
consideration of the proposed enlargement of the Council
* heard a preliminary report from John P. Marcum of the Research
Services Office on a survey of Presbyterians' opinions on current
* approved a request from the Worldwide Ministries Division that 10
minutes of the 208th General Assembly be set aside for prayer and
sharing for the people of Lebanon as a result of the ongoing
hostilities in that region.
(John Sniffen, director of communications for the Synod of the
Mid-Atlantic, covered the General Assembly Council executive committee
meeting for the Presbyterian News Service.)
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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