From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Church Leaders React Favorably to PPC Curriculum
22 May 1996 15:14:35
16 May 1996
96177 Church Leaders React Favorably to PPC Curriculum
Proposal as The GAC Prepares to Assume Responsibility
by Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A proposal by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
(PPC) board to the upcoming General Assembly that the General Assembly
Council (GAC) assume full responsibility for the current "Bible Discovery"
and "Celebrate" curricula is receiving favorable response from church
Meanwhile, the GAC's Congregational Ministries Division (CMD) is in
the process of developing a business proposal for this year's General
Assembly to show how the division plans to undertake all curriculum
Under the PPC board's proposal, which was approved by the GAC
executive committee during its April 27-28 meeting in Spokane, Wash., the
GAC will develop and market future PC(USA) "denomination-specific"
curriculum. However, both PPC and the GAC will be free to develop new
educational resources aimed at broader ecumenical markets.
According to PPC officials, PPC will remain the denomination's
publisher and will continue to produce and market a "wide variety of
theological books" through Westminster John Knox Press, Geneva Press,
Vacation Bible School materials, "These Days" devotional magazine,
Presbyterian Sunday bulletins, pew Bibles, "Presbyterian Hymnal" products
and other educational and worship resources "alone or with ecumenical
However, PPC officials say, the transfer of curriculum is expected to
cut PPC's total revenue stream by approximately 40 percent and have a
major impact on more than 40 of its 82 employees.
Davis Perkins, PPC president and publisher, told the Presbyterian News
Service that the proposal represents a logical means to express PPC's
continued interest in curriculum while responding to the needs and concerns
of the entire denomination.
"Our position is that in the spirit of cooperation and endeavoring to
minimize the conflict between church bodies, we are trying to reach a
middle-ground accommodation," Perkins said.
"We don't think of it in terms of a victory over anybody," said Price
H. Gwynn III of Charlotte, N.C., PPC board chair. "It's a resolution and I
think it's a good way to handle the situation. It's preferable to
continuing any sort of contest, and we're pleased and we trust that the
Congregational Ministries Division is also pleased."
"I am confident that PPC employees and management will successfully
weather this storm --against all odds -- because that is their expertise,"
said Jerine Clark, a certified Christian educator and PPC board member from
Cleveland, Ohio. "Their amazing success in their first two years as an
independent, self-supporting entity of PC(USA) has been against all odds --
and they will do it again."
All parties agree that the present arrangement between the GAC and PPC
is unsatisfactory. 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 the PPC and the 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.
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, church leaders
Diminished congregational interest in the denomination's curriculum
materials is also having an adverse impact on both organizations. Fewer
than half of all PC(USA) churches (4,565 of them) use any part of
Presbyterian and Reformed Educational (PREM) offerings. Between 1994-95 and
1995-96, 905 congregations abandoned PREM for other curricula.
Even so, according to Barbara Wheeler, president of Auburn Theological
Seminary in New York and a PPC board member, most mainline denominations
have lodged all curriculum development and marketing in their
denominational publishing houses. Wheeler said this is because significant
levels of business expertise are required of both staff and boards of
directors in order to ensure successful publishing programs.
"Most of us in PPC believe that ... PPC is the best place to house all
the PC(USA)'s curriculum activity," Wheeler said. "However, in the interest
of peace and cooperation within the denomination, we support the transfer
of curriculum to the GAC within the terms of our primary recommendation."
The PPC board's decision echoes the Review Committee's report to the
208th General Assembly (1996), which recommends that the entire curriculum
enterprise, from conception through development, production, marketing and
distribution, be transferred to the CMD. Similar recommendations and
resolutions have also been presented by consultant Del Poling of St.
Petersburg, Fla., and the CMD Committee, but the General Assembly must
still render the final decision for curriculum.
The Rev. Ed Craxton, the CMD's associate director of Christian
education, said that while the entire curriculum situation changes "almost
hourly," the division is in the process of developing a business plan for
this year's General Assembly to show how it plans to assume curriculum
responsibility. This comes after the GAC executive committee voted May 9 to
authorize the creation of a transition team to work out the details of
restoring Christian education curriculum functions to the GAC. The team
will meet May 17 and May 30 to define and refine the scope of the work
leading up to the General Assembly and beyond, according to the Rev. James
D. Brown, GAC executive director.
"We have made tremendous advances over the last few days in finding
common ground between the GAC and PPC," Brown said. "Now we have to
concentrate on an orderly and effective transition that will enable us to
maintain forward momentum in the area of curriculum. Our task is to enhance
our work in this area as we collaborate with PPC on what is to be a very
complex transition. This will require our best efforts and our fervent
"We want to show how we can do a very effective job from the business
side of things as well as theologically ," Craxton said. "We want to be
totally prepared to assume curriculum responsibility, to make that transfer
as quickly as possible. And if our transition plans work out, we'll be
prepared to do that very quickly after the General Assembly."
Craxton also said he is appreciative of the efforts of Poling, who
was authorized by the GAC in February to identify the issues and problems
regarding the development, production and marketing of the present
curriculum. Craxton said that although Poling's initial consultation is
done, he agreed to extend additional time and services to the team as it
works to complete its proposal to the Assembly.
In his report, Poling described the current curriculum arrangement as
"not healthy and [not] effective" and stated that "the GAC and the CMD must
put in place the proper organization, management, personnel, financial
control and systems to ensure the effective developing, producing and
marketing of the Presbyterian Church's curriculum."
"I think that [Poling's] work was helpful for the Congregational
Ministries Division Committee members, and I would think the PPC board as
well, in getting a better understanding of the issues related to curriculum
lodgement and [Poling's] perspective on it," Craxton said.
But regardless of the outcome of the Assembly, PPC is headed toward
major changes in the near future, according to the Rev. Robert Bohl,
moderator of the 206th General Assembly and PPC board member from Fort
"[The] PC(USA) is a rapidly changing church," Bohl said. "There are
many who did not want curriculum lodged with PPC when it was formed two
years ago and many who still don't.
"PPC itself cannot exhaust itself bucking the trend," Bohl said.
"Rather we need to make our future within the reality of the church
environment. The PPC board's recommendation is in the best interest of the
PC(USA). It is aimed at fostering peace and harmony in the church without
giving away both the cart and the horse."
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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