Category Archives: budget

The Discussion of PC(USA) Identity And Musings On An “Ecclesiastical Hackathon”

About a month ago the Moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Heath Rada, issued a “Call to the Church” to rethink what the PC(USA) should look like and in doing so build trust within the church.  This started the wheels in motion for a discussion in the denomination about what the identity of the PC(USA) is now and what it should be. Specifically he said in his remarks:

It became apparent [within a small task force on mission funding] that we all believed a painful situation existed [in the PC(USA)] and for anything significant to be accomplished we must find ways for that trust to be restored. It was felt that our denomination needed to explore these matters in depth and that I should announce a CALL TO THE CHURCH to help in addressing them.

The statement goes on to list five areas of importance, from the church’s changing place in the wider culture to the theological institutions to the urgent need for action. And with that the statement outlines five steps to take but at multiple points emphasizing the need to involve all levels of the church.

In a follow-up article in the Presbyterian Outlook he updates us on the response he has gotten and what next steps might be. While some are a bit further off – specifically part of the preparation for the 222nd General Assembly – other steps were being implemented quickly. This past week we saw the first of those and that is a survey opened up by Research Services to gather input from the full breadth of the PC(USA). You are encouraged to “Join the Conversation” and you have until November 13 to respond on that survey.

Another step is the announcement of two Twitter chats with the Vice-Moderator of the 221st General Assembly, Larissa Kwong Abazia (@LarissaLKA). The first chat begins this afternoon at 6 PM EDT (3 PM PDT) and will use the hashtag #pcusaidentity. The second chat is on Thursday November 12 at 9 PM EST (7 PM MST).

In reading that follow-up article a few things jump out at me. One is that the responses include “groups…wanting to be part of the conversation.” So must a group come forward to be included? Another is that Office of the General Assembly and Research Services will be the ones surveying the church and figuring out how to initiate discussions. It struck me that groups and offices in the national church seem to be headlining what looks like an institutional response. This is no surprise since at one point in the initial Call Moderator Rada wrote:

Again let me state the obvious. Someone has to take a lead. I am asking that the denomination affirm and actively participate in the COGA process which is getting ready to be unveiled and which will undertake the massive task of assessing the church’s will (in accordance with God’s will) concerning who and what we need to be as a denomination.

An interesting article three weeks ago takes a very different approach…

The Presbyterian Outlook published an op-ed piece by Deborah Wright and Jim Kitchens titled “An Open Letter to Moderator Heath Rada: What if . . . we held an ecclesiastical hackathon?

As Presbyterians you have to love the idea, but more on that in a moment.

Their idea is an open call and competition where people form teams of six individuals and come up with their ideas about what the PC(USA) should look like or be doing. As they say:

Game theorists radically believe that the solutions to tough social problems reside in the players. Adaptive Change theorists believe deep challenges of uncharted territories must find solutions in unknown corners. Positive Deviance theorists act on the notion that the village has the answers, if one only looks to the fringes. What if this once – instead of committees and task forces and hired expert consultants – what if . . . we bucked up our Reformed theology and went looking for our unheralded prophets out there, trusting God to provide!

The idea is that a set of “rules and tools” would be issued by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) and any group of six members of the PC(USA) would have a few months to assemble a team and present a plan, solution, strategy, what ever was being asked for.

A number of theological and polity positives jump out at me here. As the authors emphasize, we are a priesthood of all believers. Why should we let the brains at OGA and PMAB have all the fun with this. The Reformed community should be the specialists at crowd sourcing as we believe decision making and the corresponding mission are to be done at the lowest applicable level and our structure is supposed to allow the most people and those with particular gifts for the situation to be involved.

It is arguable whether groups of six are theologically supported here – seven is a more spiritual number or we could just think of two groups of six making twelve. But in our church history it was the group of the “Six Johns“, led by John Knox, that over four days wrote the Scottish Confession of Faith of 1560. Not exactly a hackathon since they were the only group working on it but still a model of a group of six that worked quickly to produce a product that changed history.

Now looking at this proposal I do cringe a little bit to see that the process is directed by the agencies at the top. They are the existing coordinating bodies after all and in a position to be able to do this so there is a solid rational for this. But let’s think a bit outside the box here.

What if we thought about this a bit more as a crowd sourced or grassroots project and tried to find another point to run this from. What if the responsibility were devolved to someplace in the church that is actively doing something like this, such as the 1001 New Worshiping Communities group? Or maybe an existing recognized affiliated body like the NEXT Church group or the Presbyterian Outlook board. Or maybe something completely different like a joint steering group made up of members of the Covenant Network and the Fellowship Community? Or a really radical thought: Just go for it!

The idea would be for groups that wanted to get involved to brainstorm changes and then send it to the next General Assembly from the bottom up. Get your group together and then take the idea to your two or three nearest presbyteries for endorsement as ascending overtures so they will be considered as business in Portland. If this hackathon concept is taken seriously maybe one of the commissioner committees at GA could have the responsibility for reviewing these and helping the Assembly to think in new ways. And remember, the deadline for proposed Book of Order changes is February 19, 2016, and for overtures with financial implications it is April 19, 2016.

So there you have my riff on the hackathon idea. I don’t think this is too far off from the ideas Landon Whitsitt discussed in his book Open Source Church. And remember, the hackathon – or whatever you want to call it – concept has two purposes: One is discussed above as a model for drawing more fully from the wisdom and knowledge of the whole group. The other is to involve more people in seriously visioning and thinking about the problem and empowering them to do something about it so they have ownership of situation. This is not answer a survey or participate in a guided discussion sort of thing. The idea is to empower any interested member to dive into the details, inner working and think about the problem at the deepest levels. Where it may go we don’t know so this certainly could be a “stay tuned” moment for the PC(USA).

PC(USA) Synod PJC Decisions — Per Capita And Property

For us Presbyterian Polity Wonks this past weekend was a good weekend for interesting PJC decisions. I will say at the onset that both were decided as I expected, but that does not make them any less interesting. And of course the interest and importance is enhanced by the fact that they deal with two of the hot-topics in the PC(USA) today — per capita and property. And the obvious reminder, these are synod PJC decisions so there is no broad application at this stage and as I will discuss I think they both rely on and reinforce current precedent.

If you want an executive summary of these two remedial cases here you go:  The SPJC of the Synod of the Trinity found that changes to the new Form of Government were not substantial in the area of per capita and that Pittsburgh Presbytery could not make a new policy to avoid paying per capita it did not collect. In the second case, the SPJC of the Synod of the Pacific found that San Francisco Presbytery did have the authority under the Book of Order and acted in good faith when it dismissed a church with its property.

Now the details…

Last December Pittsburgh Presbytery
adopted as part of its Manual of Presbytery the line “Presbytery shall only remit to the General Assembly the per capita assessment it receives from the particular churches that is designated by those councils.” In their decision in the trial of this remedial case – David C. Green, Complainant, vs. The Presbytery of Pittsburgh, Respondent – the SPJC of the Synod of the Trinity boils down the argument of the Presbytery and the SPJC’s disagreement with that argument nicely into two paragraphs:

Pittsburgh Presbytery argues that the adoption of the New Form of Government by the 219th (2010) General Assembly set aside the applicable previous decisions of General Assembly, Permanent Judicial Commission and Authoritative Interpretations since the General Assembly “chose not to include the strict construction language from the 1999 Authoritative Interpretation (Request 99-1)”.

We disagree with this argument. The substance of the previous relevant language, now found in G-3.0106, was adopted except for the addition of the clause, “but in no case shall the authority of the Session to direct its benevolences be compromised.” We do not believe the addition of this clause has changed the obligation of presbyteries to remit per capita to synods and General Assembly.

So, at this point the opinion is that the language in the Book of Order has not changed to a substantial degree and previous General Assembly Interpretations still stand. This decision is in agreement with the Report of the Special Committee on Existing Authoritative Interpretations of the Book of Order, released a few days after the SPJC decision, which recommends that Authoritative Interpretation 99-1 be retained. The SPJC decision also discusses GAPJC cases where the same conclusion was reached. They wrap this up by saying “We fully agree with the previous authoritative interpretations.” They then conclude the formal decision itself by noting that not passing on per capita is a “serious breach of trust and love” (Minihan v. Presbytery of Scioto Valley, 216-01) and then applying it to themselves:

If this form of congregational protest were to be passed on to synod and General Assembly by our judicial action, then we would be unconstitutionally encouraging a form of protest that is outside of our understanding of how change can and should be effected within our denomination.

The decision concludes with a Comment that first points out that the constitutional obligation to pay per capita can only be changed by the General Assembly and that for the realities of the current circumstances “The time has come for the General Assembly to provide more guidance on this point.” They then take this a step further and conclude the narrative with this observation:

The loss of per capita funds from financially strapped congregations is another issue altogether, and is addressed, in our opinion inadequately, by the vague standards relating to whether funds are available within presbyteries. Further, we would be remiss in not noting that reality of declining funding is a symptom, not the disease. The underlying causes must be prayerfully addressed at local, presbytery, synod and General Assembly levels, not in the denominational courts or in unconstitutional actions.

The second decision comes in a remedial case filed against San Francisco Presbytery related to its process in dismissing Community Presbyterian Church of Danville, California. In September of 2009 the Presbytery adopted a Gracious Dismissal Policy (version from Summer 2010 with corrections). In November 2010, after a ten month process that included a special informational presbytery meeting, the Presbytery dismissed the church with an agreement for payments to help offset the loss of per capita and mission funding, but no payments required for the congregation to keep the property. Three presbyters filed the remedial complaint charging that the Presbytery had not properly handled the case considering that property was involved. In their unanimous decision – Rev. Wilbert Tom, HR, Rev. David Hawbecker, HR, and Thomas Conrad, Complainants, v. The Presbytery of San Francisco, Respondent – the SPJC of the Synod of the Pacific did not sustain any of the charges, but for a variety of reasons.

As we delve into this we first need to pull that previous version of the Book of Order off the shelf since that was the constitution in effect at the time of the contested process and all citations are to that version.  Two sections were front and center in this case and I am sure that you know what they are.

G-8.0201  Al l property held by or for a particular church, a presbytery, a synod, the General Assembly, or the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.), whether legal title is lodged in a corporation, a trustee or
trustees, or an unincorporated association, and whether the
property is used in programs of a particular church or of a more
inclusive governing body or retained for the production of income,
is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

and one of the responsibilities and powers of a presbytery

G-11.0103i . to divide, dismiss, or dissolve churches in consultation with their members;

I want to add two more notes at this point which were not in the forefront of this case but which were kept in mind. The first is the continuation of the section on property:

G-8.0301 Whenever property of, or held for, a particular church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ceases to be used by that church as a particular church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in accordance with this Constitution, such property shall be held, used, applied, transferred, or sold as provided by the presbytery.

The second is a paragraph from the 1993 Nature of the Church Report to General Assembly (pg. 16)

The American tradition was being formed. In the Scottish church, all ultimate authority rested in and came from the assembly. But in the American church, the presbytery was the originating authority, relating particular churches into a larger whole. The 1788 Form of Government declared that “. act of a General Assembly could become a standing rule without first being referred to the presbyteries, and securing the consent of at least a majority of them.” The presbytery is the very heart of the Presbyterian system.

The core thesis of the charges in the remedial case were that at worst the presbytery did not have the authority to dismiss a church with property because property “is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” [i.e. the whole church must be involved]. At best, the case charged that the presbytery did not fulfill its duties as the trustee for the wider church by letting the property go without payment.

In the amended charges there were 13 specifications of error two of which were withdrawn by the Complainants during trial. I won’t go through all of them since most were not sustained either because no relief could be granted or Complainants failed to meet the burden of proof. Three charges form the core of the complaint and the rational of the decision:

Specification of Error No. 1. Complainants contend that the Presbytery’s vote of November 9, 2010, to approve dismissal of the CPCD under terms which included Presbytery’s relinquishment of any and all interests of the PCUSA in the Property without compensation in favor of the EPC is an action which is based on an error in Constitutional interpretation, in that the Presbytery does not own the Property but holds the Property in trust for the use and benefit of the PCUSA (G-8.0201).

Specification of Error No. 2. The Presbytery failed to meet its Constitutional responsibility as trustee in accordance with the Form of Government Part G, Chapter VIII of the Book of Order. As trustee, the Presbytery is obligated to act on behalf of the greater church, to ensure that all property held or used by its particular churches and their respective congregations is held, used and applied in a manner that faithfully advances and serves the ministry and witness of the PCUSA.

Specification of Error No. 4. The Presbytery acted against the Constitution of the PCUSA in that it failed to hold, use, apply, transfer or sell the Property for the benefit of the PCUSA. G-8.0301 provides:
[quoted above]

…Taken together, the provisions of Part G Chapter VIII require the Presbytery to act as a faithful trustee on behalf of the PCUSA in exercising its responsibility and power under the above-referenced Chapter and at Part G Chapter XI, to “divide, dismiss, or dissolve churches in consultation with their members” (G-11.0103i). By its vote on November 9, 2010, the Presbytery failed to act as a faithful trustee under the Constitution.

The rational from the SPJC is remarkably brief in not sustaining these charges. They note that all parties agree the Trust Clause means the property is held for the benefit of the wider church. They then reiterate “Under G-11.0103i, Presbytery has the authority to dismiss a church in consultation with its members to another reformed body” and note that the Presbytery had a process in place and that process was faithfully followed. Having followed the process and in consistency with its policy, they note that the Presbytery exercised its discretion granted under G-8.0301. They then conclude:

In good faith, Presbytery determined that acceptance of the PET [Presbytery Engagement Team] recommendations for dismissal would best serve the overall witness and ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ, thus benefitting [sic] the PC(USA).

Other charges not sustained because no admissible evidence was supplied or the burden of proof was not met include a couple financial ones – the small ratio of payments to Presbytery versus the value of the property and the cost of starting new ministries in the Presbytery. There were charges concerning the flawed nature of the Gracious Dismissal Policy and consideration of state law in the process which were not sustained because no relief could be granted. And two charges, one withdrawn and one not meeting the burden of proof/could not grant relief, questioned the qualifications of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as a Reformed body a church could be dismissed to.

In summary, the Presbytery did have the authority and did act faithfully and in good faith in dismissing the congregation with their property.

And now, the rest of the story…

This decision also contains a comment which notes the limited applicability of this decision not just because it was decided at the Synod level but because the Gracious Dismissal Policy has been suspended. In light of this first application of the policy the Presbytery decided to suspend the policy and review it and you can read the review team’s September 2011 report. Regarding revisions specific to property and the Trust Clause, here is the relevant portion of the report’s rational (edited slightly for length):

Moreover, San Francisco Presbytery’s original dismissal policy has been challenged in our church courts because of Presbytery’s responsibility for enforcing the property trust clause. It is simply not an option for a presbytery to opt out of a required constitutional responsibility for its enforcement.

We believe that the revised dismissal policy needs to address not only the requirements of the property trust clause, but also the importance of every church in fulfilling Presbytery’s mission (as it becomes clearly defined) within our geographic area. When a congregation seeks to withdraw, Presbytery should consider whether it needs to establish a replacement church in that community and the cost of such action. If a congregation walks away from our denomination without consideration for the injury suffered by the whole, by that departure, it will remind us of every congregation’s sinful tendency to be separate and self-sufficient. We all belong to one another and together constitute the risen Body of Christ.

We have therefore proposed that, ordinarily, a departing church will pay to Presbytery a minimum 10% of the value of the church property. This guidance is based, in part, on the Biblical concept of tithing. However, our policy provides flexibility for the teams negotiating on behalf of Presbytery and the congregation to adjust the recommended amount of compensation depending upon the particular circumstances of the congregation in question… In addition to the property issues, Presbytery will also have to discern in each situation its past, present and future mission with respect to the number of members withdrawing and those wishing to remain with PCUSA, the presence of other Presbyterian congregations in that vicinity, and ongoing mission and outreach efforts in the area.

This revised policy, and proposed amendments to it, are still under discussion by the Presbytery and will probably be influenced by this SPJC decision.

So we have one decision that affirms presbytery obligations under our connectionalism, admittedly as interpreted as by the GA and its PJC. And we have another decision that affirms the presbytery as the basic unit to deal with congregational and presbytery property under the Trust Clause.

What next? Good question. Both decisions strike me as sound and consistent with current constitutional interpretations so I would be skeptical of the success of an appeal to the GAPJC. That does not mean that there won’t be one. For the San Francisco case in particular, with the revision of the policy underway and the limited number of specifications of error that were considered to be in order and could be dealt with, I could see an appeal not being accepted because the case would be considered moot. We will see if any of the parties in these cases consider it beneficial to appeal.

Stay tuned…

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Week Ending March 24, 2012

[Editor’s note: I have decided to start a weekly rundown of news stories related to, or that have implications for, the various Presbyterian branches. My blogging time has been restricted lately and while I would love to comment at length on a few of these I probably will not get to them in a timely manner.  I do however reserve the right to do so if I get around to it.]

Maryland bill would help congregations in fight over control of church assets

from The Washington Post on March 18, 2012
This proposal in Maryland to repeal a 1976 state law regarding implied trust on property specifically relates to two Methodist Congregations that desire to separate from their denomination.  However, the broader implications for all hierarchical denominations are interesting.

Self acclaimed prophets cautioned against predicting winner in elections

from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation
Here is the core of the article

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church Synod Moderator for the West Volta
Presbytery, Reverend Joce Kofi Kodade, has called on Ghanaians to ignore
public pronouncements by self acclaimed prophets who predict winners
ahead of the conduct of this year’s general elections.

He said such proclamations may cause tension, adding that it is rather
necessary for religious leaders as unifiers to uphold and demonstrate
ethical virtues of neutrality and integrity during political campaigns.

National Council of Churches releases their 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

from National Council of Churches on March 20, 2012
In which we learn that overall giving to churches dropped $1.2 billion last year, that six of the 25 largest denominations that reported data saw an increase in membership (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, National Baptist Convention, Seventh-Day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the largest decline in membership was in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (down 5.90%). The PC(USA) reported a decline of 3.42%.

Minister calls for Presbyterians to include gays

from on March 21, 2012
In a funeral sermon preached for his gay colleague The Rev. David Clark, the Rev. Dr. Allan
Davidson ONZM called on the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand to rescind their 2004 General Assembly action prohibiting active homosexuals from holding ordained office.

Stated Clerk Nomination Committee selects Parsons for a second term

from PC(USA) on March 21, 2012
The Stated Clerk Nominating Committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has endorsed the Rev. Gradye Parsons for a second term as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. There were no other nominations submitted to the committee.

PC(USA) Synod of the Trinity Permenant Judicial Commission rules that the new Form of Government still requires payment of per capita

SPJC Decison on March 23, 2012
The Synod PJC found that the language in the new Form of Government is not less restrictive regarding the payment of per capita and the change in language is not significant enough to render a previous Authoritative Interpretation as no longer in force.
[Ed. note: I will revisit this in more detail, hopefully later this week.]

Financial Implications — Decisions Coming To General Assemblies

I am struck by the number of Presbyterian branches that have financial issues to deal with right at the moment.  I highlighted some of these a couple of weeks ago when I posted a large block of text from the new Strategic Plan from the Presbyterian Church in America .  A few brief excerpts that are relevant for today’s purpose say:

[D]espite our formal values of connectional polity and cooperative ministry, less than half of the churches of the PCA support any denominational agency or committee (less than 20 percent give at the Partnership Share level).

The cooperative efforts that do exist are often directed toward affinity gatherings or the ministries of large churches that have become missional expressions of the animating values of specific groups.

We remain an anti-denominational denomination – excusing individualistic ministry by re-telling the narratives of past abuses in former denominations, demonizing denominational leadership or movements to justify non-support of the larger church, or simply making self-survival or self-fulfillment the consuming goal of local church ministry.

I bring these up as a very good summary of where Presbyterian denominations find themselves today in these still-challenging economic times.  Compared to other branches the PCA finds itself in a relatively good financial position.  However, the GA will be considering this report and its recommendations for implementing a new formula for supporting the work of the Assembly.

A situation a bit more stressful is that of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland whose General Assembly held at special meeting at which they authorized raising £1 million for a special hardship fund for those impacted by the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society.  While this is being raised through a special appeal and not general funds, the plan will be presented to next month’s GA for approval.

To the east across the North Channel the Church of Scotland General Assembly will be debating plans to reduce expenses by disposing of property, including church buildings, and reducing ministerial staffing, as measured by FTE’s, by 10%.  As the report of the Ministries Council says:

Where there is no vision, the people perish”(Prov 28:19), declares the Wisdom writer. This was a sentiment most likely forged in crisis, addressed to people who found the pressures around too great to raise their heads and look around. These are words which speak into our current situation in the Church of Scotland, facing as we do a significant crisis in relation to ministries. A deficit budget of £5.7M is quite simply unsustainable. Given that the Ministries Council is responsible for 87% of the Church’s budget, this is a crisis for the whole Church, not just for the Ministries Council.

Which brings us to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and hard decisions that continue to be needed, right now by the General Assembly Mission Council but soon by the General Assembly itself.  As followers of the PC(USA) know this is not new — the Outlook Article reminds us that over the last eight years about 250 positions have already been eliminated.  Thirty of those were early retirement packages offered to staff following the February 2010 GAMC meetingAt that meeting CFO Joey Bailey presented financial projections of 15 – 20% lower unrestricted funding for 2011.  The Council also approved a new set of Guiding Principles for Planning Decisions. Going into the GAMC meeting this week Leslie Scanlon of the Outlook writes:

This time, denominational leaders have warned that the cuts could mean the elimination of entire programs or areas of ministry. As council member Matt Schramm put it in February: “We may have to say goodbye to some long-treasured programs that no longer serve the needs of the church.”

Expect significant news to develop over the rest of this week as the GAMC wrestles with significant decisions.

But the 219th General Assembly will have review on some of these actions, responsibility for approving overtures with “financial implications” that will affect the GAMC’s proposed budgets, and setting per capita for the next two years.  In addition, there are overtures to the GA that not only have financial implications but address the financial practices directly.

One of these is Item 03-09 (overture 72) from Great Rivers Presbytery which would add a line to the section about special committees that says “Special committees and commissions should be appointed only in very rare and exceptional circumstances, i.e. national or denominational crisis.”  The rational makes clear that this is suggested for representational and procedural reasons, but knowing how the special committee I was on was constrained by budgetary considerations I know that carefully controlling the creation of special committees will put less strain on budgets.

Another more direct one is item 03-04 (overture 54) from San Diego Presbytery that would, for budgetary reasons, restore the number of GA commissioners to the lower levels before the switch to biennial Assembly meetings.

Finally, for today, there is item 09-02 (overture 34) from Sierra Blanca Presbytery requesting “the 219th General Assembly (2010) to consider that all undesignated funds flowing from the Presbyterian Foundation to the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), a Corporation, be allocated directly to individual presbyteries (by percentage of denominational membership) for direct dispersal to particular churches of that presbytery, as each presbytery determines.”  While this overture seeks to implement G-9.0402b (“The administration of mission should be performed by the governing body that can most effectively and efficiently accomplish it at the level of jurisdiction nearest the congregation.”) the rational acknowledges that it will impact the GAMC in unspecified ways.  (Although I am pretty certain someone in leadership on the GAMC has come up with at least some rough figures.)

So where does this take us?  It all depends on how you view and address the challenges.

In the PC(USA) there are two proposals, one from the Office of the General Assembly, the other overture 58 from Synod of the Southwest (with five presbyteries and one synod concurring), that would review the  middle governing bodies of the PC(USA) but neither of these would directly review the structure of the General Assembly and its agencies.

For the PCA the Strategic Plan suggests:

This Strategic Plan seeks to address these realities by helping the PCA identify its challenges, address them with strategies that are consistent with our biblical values, and build denominational support for implementing these strategies. The overall goal is to enable the church to work together to steward its blessings and resources to advance the cause of Christ according to the principles and priorities of his Word.

For the C of S Ministries Council they answer their opening statement that I quoted above with this statement:

Out of crisis, however, can come both vision and opportunity. The remit of the Council is: the enabling of ministries in every part of Scotland and elsewhere where appropriate, giving special priority to the poorest and most marginalized, through recruitment, training and support of recognised ministries of the Church and the assessment and monitoring of patterns of deployment of those ministries.  In fulfilling this, we want to take seriously the scale of work which needs to be done, initially to 2014, then beyond towards a revitalized ministry at the end of this new decade. 2020 Vision does not imply that we can wait until 2020 to sort things out! Far from it, change must begin now and continue as a full and natural part of life for the years ahead.

Now it is up to the Assemblies to each collectively discern God’s will and lead their respective branches in the mission that they decide on.  May the Lord bless them and guide them in this mission.

Update 5/24/10 – Corrected the spelling of Matt Schramm’s name.