By Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service
A prominent Nashville attorney has been hired by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s (PMAB) Executive Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the unauthorized establishment of an independent corporation in southern California. The corporation was designed to benefit the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
George Crawford III—a PC(USA) ruling elder—and relevant partners of the Butler Snow LLP law firm of Nashville will be conducting the investigation. Until their inquiry is complete, the four Presbyterian Mission Agency employees implicated in what the PMAB’s Audit Committee concluded “violated the [PMA] ethics policy” have been placed on paid administrative leave. The four are Roger Dermody, deputy executive director for mission; Eric Hoey, director of Evangelism and Church Growth; Philip Lotspeich, then coordinator for church growth and the staff person directly responsible for the 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative; and Craig Williams, western regional deployed staff member for the 1001 program, based in San Clemente, California.
Of Crawford, PMAB chair Marilyn Gamm said: “We wanted someone who is familiar with Presbyterianism and whose firm understands complicated corporate matters.” The minutes of the November 14 Executive Committee meeting, where the actions were taken, say the investigation should be completed “by early 2015.” The committee recommended the four suspended staff members cooperate with Crawford’s inquiry.
“We are seeking ways to begin to restore trust in [PMA executive director] Linda Valentine and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board,” Gamm said. “Since the Audit Committee report went public responses have been mixed, but trust has been broken with a significant part of the church.”