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Review Committee Proposes "Realignment" of GAC

Date 14 Oct 1998 20:08:32

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    Review Committee Proposes "Realignment" of GAC 
    by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The General Assembly's Special Committee to Review the 
General Assembly will propose to next year's General Assembly a dramatic 
reconfiguration of the General Assembly Council (GAC) and the Committee on 
the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) that will reduce the size of the 
General Assembly Council by two-thirds, from more than 90 members to about 
    The plan, which Council chair the Rev. Cathy Chisholm insisted is "a 
realignment, not a restructuring," calls for a 20-member Council of the 
General Assembly, which will be responsible for strategic planning, 
budgeting, and review, evaluation and coordination of General Assembly 
    The plan further calls for a "mission agency" of 30 members to continue 
the programmatic oversight of the Assembly's mission program that is 
currently done by the GAC. 
    Chisholm is the GAC's representative on the committee. 
    Gay Mothershed of Dallas, chair of the committee, said the group is 
addressing two primary concerns.  "First is dispute resolution among 
General Assembly agencies between meetings of the Assembly," she told the 
Presbyterian News Service in an Oct. 5 interview.  "How do we resolve 
disputes between agencies, particularly when the GAC is part of the 
    Mothershed said the proposed Council of the General Assembly would 
include representatives of the General Assembly-related entities plus 
commissioners from the General Assembly. 
    The other concern is realigning functions "to let the GAC concentrate 
on the delivery of mission." 
    Under the proposal General Assembly stated clerk the Rev. Clifton 
Kirkpatrick would be primary staff to the Council of the General Assembly 
and GAC executive director John Detterick would staff the mission agency. 
    "This is not a restructuring, but a refocusing and redefinition of 
roles and responsibilities between GAC and COGA," Chisholm said in 
presenting the committee's preliminary report to the Council Sept. 26.  "It 
means changing our thinking and the way we work in a number of different 
areas, and we're sure there will be lots of questions." 
    There were. 
    Former General Assembly moderator Marj Carpenter of Big Spring, Texas, 
noted that "every time you talk about this stuff the staff [at the 
Presbyterian Center in Louisville] becomes very nervous. Can you assure 
them that this doesn't mean tearing up the mission division staff 
    Chisholm replied that the committee envisions no major changes in the 
three ministry division structures.  "One goal is minimal disruption in 
mission operations and the way programmatic work is done in Louisville," 
she said. 
    Sue Nispel of Wichita, Kan., questioned the dramatic reduction in the 
proposed size of the Council.  "We just got through making [the] Council 
bigger to accommodate wishes for greater representation," she said, 
referring to the General Assembly's decision two years ago to expand the 
Council from 70 to more than 90 members. "I'm afraid this will be seen as 
centralized power, not broader representation," Nispel continued, "and 
that's a big trust issue." 
    Chisholm said the committee "realizes this concern."  However, she 
said, "the way to build trust is through good relationships, not sources of 
    Richard Malmberg of Kansas City came at the representation issue from a 
different angle.  "I have no objection to a smaller Council, but [it] will 
be a difficult body to balance constitutionally - 30 members might be a 
shade too small." 
    Chisholm agreed.  "We're struggling with that," she said. 
    Mothershed concurred.  "There are so many details that aren't 
finalized," she said. "I don't know that we'll stay with those numbers. The 
real question is, How many people do we need to do the work effectively?" 
    While the committee reports directly to the General Assembly, its 
proposal is certain to draw a lot of attention and discussion in coming 
months.  COGA and the GAC's Executive Committee have it on their agenda 
when they meet jointly in Philadelphia, Oct. 14-15. 
    And the GAC will dig into the plan in detail when it meets next in 
February.  "There are many elements in the plan which have much to commend 
them," GAC executive director John Detterick told the Presbyterian News 
Service.  "I look forward to the GAC's exploration and debate." 
    The committee meets Jan. 15-17 to finalize its report.  

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