By Linda Valentine, Executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency
A recent incident involving the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Innovation Inc. (PCNCI) has caused much pain and distrust. It has left lingering questions among supporters of 1001 New Worshiping Communities and the church at large. We at the Presbyterian Mission Agency began this process with similar questions, so I want to share with you some background.
When the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board met on October 8, 2014, I summarized the events in a report that was then posted on our website. That report provides description and context for the events and refers to some of the corrective actions we are taking.
Since then, we have received responses that range from grace and support, to criticism, with some questioning why the four employees involved were not terminated. That decision falls to me. While I am not at liberty to provide specifics on personnel actions, strong new measures have been put in place ensure this does not happen again. That includes some changes in job responsibilities, internal reorganization to provide closer supervision, additional financial oversight, ongoing review of policies and procedures, and the addition of an experienced financial manager to assure that financial controls are in place and that budget systems provide information for better management of funds and activities. The 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative is a growing and evolving ministry, and we will continue to remain vigilant, monitoring the situation and making further changes as warranted.
I consulted with the personnel subcommittee, the executive committee, and the full board as well as colleagues with responsibility for personnel and policy matters. In deciding not to terminate, but to require compliance, I considered a number of factors. The Rules of Discipline section in the Book of Order tells us that church discipline “is for building up the body of Christ, not for destroying it, for redeeming, not for punishing. It should be exercised as a dispensation of mercy and not of wrath so that the great ends of the Church may be achieved.” I recognize that in other circumstances it does not appear that grace has been extended, and that pain is still felt by some. We nevertheless seek in each time and circumstance to live into a vision of what it means to be God’s beloved community. I considered the significance of the 1001 initiative, which has brought tremendous new life and hope to the denomination and many people are experiencing the love of Christ because of their involvement in one of the new worshipping communities. Keeping momentum is important. Many in the church are looking to the Mission Agency for continued leadership and for good stewardship.
Craig Williams, 1001 mission catalyst for the West, formed the corporation PCNCI under the supervision of Philip Lotspeich, coordinator for Church Growth at that time. Eric Hoey, director of Evangelism and Church Growth knew of this, but did not take steps to intervene. Roger Dermody became aware after incorporation and failed to pay attention to matters that would have alerted him to it. There are other dedicated 1001 staff members who had nothing to do with this.