Forgiveness of accumulated losses totaling nearly $1.5 million from Stony Point Conference Center was part of a recommendation to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) from a Transition Task Team (TTT) studying incorporation of the center.
The proposal to incorporate the Stony Point Conference Center will be referred to a three-person evaluation committee following action of the PMAB.
The full board narrowly voted to make the referral that was recommended by the PMAB’s Finance Committee Thursday, Sept. 26 during a plenary session at the Marriott Hotel East in Louisville, Ky.
The Finance Committee’s recommendation came after it gave the OK to approve the referral of the evaluation committee from the TTT, which also recommended forgiveness of $1,489,453 in accumulated losses through Dec. 31, 2012.
The center, located north of New York City, has struggled financially in recent years but has shown improvement under its current leadership of Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase.
The Transition Task Team’s recommendation for incorporation will be evaluated by the committee, which will be appointed by the chair of the PMAB, with preference given to individuals with financial, legal and ministry experience who have not served on the Stony Point Task Force or Stony Point Transition Task Team or as staff support to either.
The evaluation team will provide a report and recommendation through the Finance Committee at the PMAB meeting in February 2014. The team also will be directed to consult with the chair of the TTT prior to making its final recommendations, and it must complete its work by Dec. 31, 2013, to provide educational opportunities about its findings prior to the next board meeting leading up to a possible recommendation for the 221st General Assembly action next summer.
The Task Force was created by the board to study missional alignment, viability, financial sustainability and management performance of Stony Point Conference Center during the February 2012 board meeting. At the September 2012 meeting, the Task Force recommended approval of a “path toward incorporation, not incorporation,” and appointment of a Transition Task Team to direct the process toward incorporation.
The TTT submitted its findings and recommendation of incorporation to the PMAB Finance Committee.
The TTT report indicates that the proposed Stony Point Corporation will operate and occupy the Stony Point properties primarily as a mission enterprise of the PCUSA, reaching out in ecumenical/interfaith cooperative peacemaking. The corporation will function in accordance with PCUSA commitments to peacemaking. It also showed the major advantage of deliverance and separate incorporation would be for the General Assembly to clearly and explicitly establish a forward and outward-looking mission for Stony Point and provide the legal framework to support that mission in a prudent manner. Additionally, future liability exposure would be reduced, fund-raising potential would greatly increase, administrative efficiency would be enhanced, and the mission of Stony Point would be advanced.
The PCUSA will benefit from such action through the offering of a significant resource toward the formation of a broad, multi-faith movement for peace and justice.
In a show of support for the referral, PMAB Finance Committee Chair Bill Capel said an “independent, unbiased group of people” needed to look at the proposal.
Some board members noted that the debate was over a discussion of substance instead of process, but Noelle Royer commented that it did not seem prudent to have other people without knowledge of the situation come in to provide further evaluation apart from that of two teams that already had been given such tasks and carried out their mandates.
Marianne Rhebergen and Cruz Negron-Torres expressed similar concerns, noting that multiple groups had addressed the matter and with a recommendation at hand, the board should act on it.
Melissa DeRosia, chair of the TTT who also served on the initial Task Force, expressed concern that a referral would cut down on the time needed to craft the recommendation of incorporation to be submitted to the GA, noting that it should be considered at least twice.
Conversation on the topic continued Friday, Sept. 27 when DeRosia made a motion for more substantive discussion that the board granted.
“My concern is that the approval of the motion did not give this body a chance to do due diligence to act on the recommendation,” she said, adding once more her concern over the time frame for the evaluation team to consider the matter before it can go before the GA in June 2014.
PMAB member Mihee Kim-Kort also felt there was a need to know more.
“I feel like I don’t know enough despite reading the rationale,” she said in support of more discussion on a motion already voted on a day earlier. “I just want to know more.”
Board member Jack Hodges spoke of the accumulated debt that was proposed to be forgiven for the center, noting that it was an “awesome amount” that needed to be given further consideration.
Finance Director Dottie Smith explained that the estimated costs that the PMA would incur related to the center would exceed $4.75 million over the next five years for operational costs. That amount probably would be taken from the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund (PMPF).
After hearing that report, Hodges made a motion that the Finance Department also provide further detailed information related to the matter at the next meeting. That measure was approved.
“Transparency is what it’s about,” Hodges said.
Jim McDonald said the board was getting bogged down in procedure, noting that a “positive plan was proposed” but “no obvious issues were given by those opposed” to it.
Rick Ufford-Chase said the staff at Stony Point had worked hard to revive the center in the last 34 months, working with two different committees on its viability. He said meeting with an evaluation committee is a proposal he is willing to be part of moving forward.
“We’ve worked with two different committees and feel both to be committed,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to have another review by the evaluation committee. We’d like to have time on the agenda to speak more thoroughly at the February meeting. The issues are complex, not just for Stony Point but the PMA.”
The PMAB is slated to meet Feb. 5-7 and again April 23-25, 2014
Board approves staffing measure
The PMAB also approved a recommendation from the Executive Committee to make changes to the Manual of Operations authorizing the board to make final decisions regarding the high-level structure of the Presbyterian Mission Agency staff organization and granting authority to the PMAB
Executive Committee to make changes within a ministry area.
The proposal, presented on Thursday, Sept. 26, will go before the General Assembly next summer in Detroit.
Under the current format, the GA has to approve any change in staffing. Board member Marsha Zell Anson noted how cumbersome and awkward such a process can be to wait two years between sessions to make a transition. Along with fellow board member Heath Rada, she explained the proposal would be a more fluid and viable option for dealing with PMA staffing issues.
Noelle Royer made a motion that the matter regarding further changes to staff structure within a ministry area be approved by the PMA Board upon recommendation by the Executive Committee and Executive Director be referred to the Personnel Subcommittee for evaluation. The motion was denied.
Anson noted that none of the other five agencies of the General Assembly have to wait to make staffing changes.
The changes proposed in the motion, allow the Executive Committee to approve changes to the internal structure of the ministries, while preserving Presbyterian Mission Agency Board responsibility for the high-level structure of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The change allows the structure of the Presbyterian Mission Agency to be more flexible and nimble to meet the changing needs of the church.