From the Worldwide Faith News archives

GAC Task Force Unveils Process for Prioritizing Budgets

Date 01 Oct 1998 20:02:34

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    GAC Task Force Unveils Process for Prioritizing Budgets 
    by Bill Lancaster 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The Toward 2000 and Beyond Task Force, whose job is to 
design a process for determining General Assembly mission budget priorities 
beginning in the year 2000 - when a funding crisis is expected - handed a 
list of nine functions, 42 objectives and 153 tasks to the General Assembly 
Council (GAC) at its meeting here September 26. 
    The tasks and objectives are now to be prioritized through a series of 
consultations, then presented to the 211th General Assembly (1999) for 
final determination of direction, followed by the development of work plans 
and budget allocations. 
    Developing the prioritization process is crucial because Presbyterian 
Church (U.S.A.) financial officials predict a severe financial crunch in 
2001, when a General Assembly-mandated "spend down" of some $50 million in 
accumulated restricted funds will be completed. 
    Four steps remain in the process before next summer's General Assembly: 
    1) a careful review of this work by each of the three ministry 
divisions and Mission Support Services by the February GAC meeting 
    2) multiple consultative steps with middle governing bodies 
    3) consultation with synod representatives 
    4)  approval by the Council at its February meeting. 
    The Rev. John B. Evans, chair of the task force, told GAC members to 
"dive into this and improve it" as they review it in their separate 
division committee meetings between now and February. 
    He said the synod representatives will be consulted at a January 8-10 
    "The hoped-for outcome is that these synod representatives will say to 
us, `These ten objectives we deem most important of all from our 
perspective.  These [next] 15 are objectives we think are important. 
There's some of this stuff you ought not to even be doing.'" 
    Evans said, "We think that what we will get out of that is some sense 
of where they want us to go.  We believe that process will bring an element 
of trust into the budget building, so that people will say, `This is our 
mission.'  We believe that this will be a step along the way to clarifying 
roles for GAC, roles for synods, roles appropriate for presbyteries, and 
that will lead us in a good way." 
    The Council had seen the nine functions before, but the 42 objectives 
and 153 tasks were new.  Evans said the objectives and tasks are to be 
prioritized, but not the functions. "Once General Assembly says, `This is 
where we want you to go, do these objectives,' then work plans and budgets 
would be put to it." 
    The task force began with suggestions of over 300 tasks before 
narrowing the list down to the 153.  Guiding principles are put forward in 
the report to help in making the priority decisions. 
    Placing priorities on the work of the GAC and cutting out programs has 
been an ongoing problem. The task force's written report says, "While Shape 
and Form [restructuring] began this process in 1993 by simplifying the 
General Assembly mission structure, the goal of prioritizing programs and 
budgets has not been realized.  There has been a tendency to hold on to 
programs without review or time limits. 
    "This process starts with the question `What mission of Jesus Christ 
should we be about?'" Evans said, "rather than `How much money is available 
or what structure is in place.'" 
    Under the purpose statement, the report says, "Such budgets will 
prioritize the work of 
the entire General Assembly mission program, not simply prioritize and cut 
the current programs." 
    The hoped-for outcome of this strategic planning process is, according 
to the report, a General Assembly Council Mission Budget that 
    *  "is true to our calling in Jesus Christ" 
    *  "is born of a serious evaluation and review of all that we do" 
    *  "embodies priority determination" 
    *  "is affirmed by the General Assembly as that which reflects General 
Assembly priorities and directions" 
    *  "is built with such consultative steps that an overwhelming majority 
of sessions, governing bodies and persons in the PC(USA) will say, `This is 
the mission I wish to get behind and support.  I've had my input.  It is 
the mission that serves the spiritual welfare of this church and our 
calling in Jesus Christ.'" 
    The task force's report now goes to the staff leadership team (the GAC 
executive director, the three ministry division directors and the director 
of Mission Support Services), who will guide the Council in the follow-up 
    The nine functions and the 42 objectives under them: 
   *   Administration function 
            1. Provide leadership and support for mission activities. 
            2.  Provide for the well-being of staff. 
            3.  Provide for meeting the General Assembly's legal needs. 
            4.  Create a hospitable environment for staff, elected persons 
                and others. 
            5.  Maintain denominational property. 
            6.  Coordinate administrative functions with other church 
            7.  Provide for the church's financial needs. 
            8.  Evaluate 
   *   Communication function 
        1.  Provide accurate, faithful and consistent information about 
            the PC(USA)and its mission activities. 
        2.  Exchange information. 
        3.  Provide technologies and media appropriate to the communication 
            habits and needs of Presbyterians and others outside the church. 
   *   Education function 
        1.  Support the PC(USA)'s historical commitment to education of all 
        2.  Provide resources and services. 
        3.  Coordinate education efforts and make them comprehensive. 
        4.  Provide learning and sharing experiences. 
        5.  Develop leaders for church and society at home and abroad. 
   *   Marketing function 
        1.  Promote and interpret the mission and policies of the PC(USA). 
        2.  Interpret mission activities so that mission funding will 
        3.  Encourage the support of mission throughout the church. 
   *   Mission function 
        1.  Develop and manage programs that reflect General Assembly 
            mission concerns and are national or global in scope and 
            inclusive in application. 
        2.  Work for peace and justice in the world. 
        3.  Encourage Presbyterians to reach beyond their local spheres to 
            minister to people who lack access to the gospel or experience 
            danger, disaster, illness, hunger, poverty, injustice, 
            ignorance or isolation. 
        4.  Help the PC(USA) live out its commitment to diversity and 
        5.  Witness to the power of the gospel to transform. 
        6.  Demonstrate the love of God for everyone with compassion and 
    *  Partnership function 
        1.  Strengthen relationships and partnerships within the PC(USA). 
        2.  Affirm and support outreach programs of other governing bodies 
            and ecumenical partners. 
        3.  Establish, maintain and strengthen ecumenical relationships 
            that witness to and enrich our faith and promote peace and 
            community at all levels of the church. 
        4.  Strengthen partner churches and ecumenical agencies to expand 
            their unity, witness and mission endeavors. 
        5.  Establish, maintain and strengthen interfaith relationships 
            that witness to and enrich our faith and promote peace and 
            community at all levels of the church. 
        6.  Coordinate the efforts of ministry divisions with other church 
            agencies, governing bodies, covenant groups and partner 
            churches in proclaiming the good news. 
        7.  Resource "Book of Order"-mandated committees. 
        8.  Develop, maintain and distribute personnel data bases for 
            church professionals. 
   *   Planning function 
        1.  Develop a long-range plan for GAC activities. 
        2.  Develop a procedure for carrying out the consultative process 
            required by the "Book of Order." 
        3.  Develop and implement a long-range (three-year) budgeting 
        4.  Develop means of being accountable to the church at large. 
   *   Proclamation function 
        1.  Give clear and informed voice to the gospel message. 
        2.  Challenge and encourage the whole church in its biblical, 
            theological and spiritual understanding. 
        3.  Model Christ in meetings, deliberations and decisions. 
   *   Stewardship and social witness function 
        1.  Demonstrate God's love for humanity by our commitment to people 
            and God's creation through programs of stewardship and justice. 
        2.  Affirm and support the work of governing bodies and church 

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