By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook
An internal investigation has found that four employees of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s national staff were involved in an unauthorized plan in which funds were channeled from the denomination to an outside entity.
The four – all connected with the PCUSA’s evangelism efforts at the top levels – have not been fired and have not been identified by the denomination.
But they have been involved in a much-promoted program through which the denomination has pledged to start 1001 New Worshiping Communities over 10 years, starting in 2012. At last summer’s General Assembly, for example, the denomination’s national staff threw 248 red beach balls into the air at the close of one of the business sessions, to celebrate the creation of that many new worshiping communities.
When that happened, however, the audit committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board had already launched an internal investigation that apparently centers on work done by the Evangelism and Church Growth ministry area, led by director Eric Hoey, and the Church Growth office, then led by coordinator Philip Lotspeich. Both those ministries lie within the mission program area overseen by Roger Dermody, the PCUSA’s deputy executive director for mission.
My enduring memory of all things Post Detroit for the PCUSA was the newly elected Moderator with the “deer in the headlights” look on the CNN interview, befuddled, confused and out of his depth in the Q/A.
This little episode is not so much about criminal intent, intent to defraud or line others pockets, as I do not see the criminality at least to stand in a court of law, but it does speak to over all institutional incompetence, and management failure is not sloth in oversight.
Also matters of trust, why should anyone believe anything put out about the “1001”? And why do these people, and those with prior knowledge of these events still have jobs or on the payroll? That’s not typical I hate all things PCUSA nonsense, just questions that need to be addressed. I, and others on this site have stated that the 1001 is at times nothing more than smoke and mirrors, so who can prove me wrong?
This is troubling…
Two years ago, when I did my own personal discernment of what network of presbyterians would afford the best missional catalyst for a new church, I was (not) surprised to find that within 1001, the most successful form of church planting (the nesting model) were being done by churches of one theological perspective, namely conservative evangelicism.
So I have long wondered what type of actual oversight PMA and 1,001 has on this initiative because it continues to list churches, such as East End Fellowship, that have been dismissed to ECO. Also will they count the failure rate of these communities over the 10 year objective, such as the Oregon’s OpenTable (that has gone out of business)? And there have been questions regarding Kindred Spirits. Or to include Kairos that was established way before this initiative began. To celebrate with bouncing 248 red balloons seems to suggest this is a manufactored pep-rally.
Now with this financial issue, I hope it brings a clear scrutiny for the PCUSA to determine if they are really embodying their missional objective with this initiative.
I decided to create my own 1001 Community a bit over a year ago. It was easy. Go to the website and make up a name, make up a mission, and make up a theology. What I created was at best Unitarian, but was probably pagan, and was most definitely heretical to the Reformed tradition. I submitted the information and much to my shock and amazement, was listed as an official 1001 Community the next day. It remained there until after GA.
In the months leading up to GA, remember all the hype about how successful 1001 was becoming? It seemed as if everywhere we turned all we heard was how great this is going! So I decided to create a few more. Each one was different and pushed or broke through the “Reformed” envelope in one way or another, except one. The one was clearly Reformed, but advocated for broader gun ownership and a reduction in gun restrictions. Amazingly each one was accepted and became a 1001 Community. So of the 248 red beach balls, at least 6 were a total farce— or “smoke and mirrors.”
The people running 1001 are fools and the entire program should be shut down.
This incident is one to watch and be in prayer over. It reveals the chaos the denomination is in because ” a house divided against itself cannot stand”. This is not about embezzlement, rather, it is about two opposing views of what should be supported and what emphasis should be placed on evangelical versus progressive programs.
I am sure in the past lots of money has been channeled to progressive, liberal causes in the same manner without all the interrogation and investigation. The chaos is real and the differences real……. The leaders of the General Assembly, and overseers of the programs i.e. Linda Valentine are dictating every move and use of money. As less money pours in the tightening of the purse strings will happen. This is going to be a problem where priorities are concerned. Therefore evangelical efforts will be questioned.
This is a wake up call for those people who hold out for a denomination to turn around and seek to be
Scripturally based in promoting new “worshipping” communities.
Prayerfully watch this as it may signal further erosion and caving in of the big tent at the national level as it is happening on the local level.