Magazine article The Christian Century

PCUSA Faces Restructuring

Magazine article The Christian Century

PCUSA Faces Restructuring

Article excerpt

The financially troubled Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is on the verge of a major organizational revamping that some insiders predict could force reductions of as much as 20 percent in the church's national staff. Others have mentioned figures as high as 40 percent, but denominational officials have characterized such high numbers as "wild speculation." The anticipated cutbacks come at a time when Presbyterians, including church officials, are concerned about the denomination's identity and in some cases are openly questioning the church's ability to survive in its present form.

Whatever the extent of the cuts, between 200 and 400 of the approximately 1,000 national staff workers could lose their jobs. About 650 national staffers now work at denominational headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.

On March 5 a committee assigned to develop a restructuring plan generally agreed on the outlines of a recommendation to collapse 12 organizational units into three and cut $7 million from the projected 1994 budget. The intent is to create a leaner, more flexible framework and have frewer employees. The task force recommendations are slated to come before the March 24-26 meeting of the church's General Assembly Council. From there, the plan will likely go to the church's General Assembly, its top policy-making body, which meets June 2-9 in Orlando, Florida.

According to church spokesman Jerry Van Marter, the 12-person restructure committee, called the Shape and Form Task Force, completed its long-awaited recommendations during a conference telephone call March 5 but has not cited specific numbers for cutbacks in staff; those reductions will be considered in greater detail at the GAC meeting. The group continued to fine-tune the proposal until March 15 when the "Shape and Form Report to General Assembly Council" was mailed to GAC members. The report was made public March 18. At a recent task force meeting at church headquarters in Louisville, chairman Cameron Murchison of Blacksburg, Virginia, reiterated previous assertions that the plan would lead to major staff reductions.

The plan calls for consolidating the 12 units into three divisions--Congregational Ministries, National Ministries and International Ministries--and for shifting an emphasis on religious life at the congregational level. "At the heart of our vision for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are its congregations," says the "Shape and Form Report." It speaks of congregations "aroused and nurtured by the gospel" that are "drawn irresistibly into ministries reflecting the love and justice of Jesus."

Although the task force said $7 million must be cut from the 1994 budget, it identified few specific items for elimination. If the plan is approved by the General Assembly Council, church officials expect that line-by-line budget cuts will be examined until the eve of the General Assembly meeting. …

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