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[PCUSANEWS] WMD committee seeks reassessment of Mission Initiative fundraising campaign

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Date Fri, 29 Sep 2006 14:46:57 -0400

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06495 September 29, 2006

WMD committee seeks reassessment of Mission Initiative fundraising campaign

Effort to raise $40 million is short of needed operating funds

by Toya Richards Hill

LOUISVILLE * Exploring whether the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts & Hands (MIJHH) fundraising campaign is the best way to finance international missionaries and, if so, how to keep the campaign itself funded, is the focus of action slated to go before the General Assembly Council (GAC) on Friday.

The GAC's Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) Committee approved a motion at its meeting Thursday, Sept. 28 to "recommend to the GAC that it authorize the executive committee to look at the implications of the Mission Initiative campaign for funding international mission and the sending of mission coworkers and examine whether or not the MIJHH is the vehicle for accomplishing that, and if so how it will be funded."

The action, which came at the very end of the committee's work occurring as part of the larger GAC meeting taking place here Sept. 26-29, came after an earlier motion sought to secure money to continue funding the administrative side of the campaign.

Campaign director the Rev. Jan Opdyke told the GAC executive committee on Tuesday that the five-year effort to raise $40 million by 2007 for new church development and international mission work would only have enough money to cover administrative costs through February 2007.

Opdyke's assessment was echoed Thursday during a presentation on the campaign before the full GAC by MIJHH co-chair the Rev. David Peterson.

"The money that is coming is almost exclusively designated," said Peterson, pastor of 4,500-member Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX. "It's been difficult for us to have enough of the funding necessary to pay for its day-to-day operations."

The campaign was fully funded by the GAC for the first 2 ½ years, but by design it now must fund 100 percent of its operation and staff on its own.

"It's been very difficult for us to resource the second part of this campaign. You can help if you can help make funds available to us," said Peterson, who called the campaign "the most important thing that the PC(USA) is doing today."

The challenge to council is to write on the big blackboard, "we are still open," he said.

It would be later that day in the WMD committee, however, that steps were taken to try to formally address the funds-development campaign's dilemma.

The original motion called for the GAC "to commit itself to the continuation of the MIJHH for its full five-year duration and continue to seek full integration of the MIJHH office with (the) Communications and Funds Development Branch of the new GAC structure with the possibility that operating funds can be sought from, but not limited to, the Heiserman Bequest Funds" (a $9 million unrestricted bequest received last spring, $2.5 million of which was used to spare 15 missionaries from being laid off in the May 1 GAC budget cuts).

The motion sparked much conversation in committee about the campaign, approved in 2002 by the 214th General Assembly, with questions raised about whether or not the MIJHH even needed to be continued. The original motion was withdrawn in lieu of the final motion passed.

"I have some serious concerns about the viability of the project," said the Rev. Zane Buxton. He said a high percentage of the dollars pledged have been raised by presbyteries for their own purposes.

"I'm not sure we're getting anywhere," he said. "It might be better to let it go" and re-look at how we do mission, Buxton said.

"We don't continue projects simply to continue projects," he added.

At the same time, ongoing challenges faced by the campaign and its staff also were talked about, including the Mission Initiative's relationship with WMD.

"I was involved as staff when this was started," said the Rev. Bill Young, long-time coordinator for international evangelism for WMD and now executive director of the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship. "There has never been good working between the Mission Initiative and the Worldwide staff."

Young, who said he was speaking "on behalf of a lot of people who need to dump," said there has never been the kind of support given to the campaign that it's needed in order to raise money for mission co-workers.

"To keep marching along without having the discussion is dumping an even bigger load on them in the future," he said.

Former GA moderator Rick Ufford-Chase cautioned the WMD committee to carefully draft its motion so that it does not cause one more thing that is divisive in the denomination.

"I'd like to find a positive way to have the conversation," he told the committee while trying to set the tone for the larger GAC discussion. "Craft all our language carefully."

Aspects of the campaign, like its shift to partner with presbyteries, have, "in fact, been a good thing for the whole church," said Ufford-Chase, executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

"I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water," he said.


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