The Synod Mission and Ministry Commission met on January 27-28, 2017, at Stony Point Conference Center. As is often the case, we had lively discussions as a full commission and when we broke out into the Mission Working Group, Networks Working Group and Administrative Working Group. This is a summary of updates and actions taken.
Prison Ministry Network, Committees on Ministry of Northern New York Network and Mediation Network are all planning initiatives and events for the early part of this year.
LiveWire Network and Gun Violence and Prevention Network are in the process of reorganizing. Immigration Action Network and New Beginnings Network have begun more recently and will begin planning events. At this meeting the Commission approved a new network -- Clean Climate Network. Global warming and climate change are important challenges. This network will give opportunities for people to get together to discuss and act on these ideas.
Emerging Gospel Communities: One of the ways the synod is seeking to foster innovation in ministry and mission is through our becoming aware and seeking to support Emerging Gospel Communities. Emerging Gospel Communities are gatherings of Presbyterians seeking to be a faithful gospel witness that may not become congregations in the way the Book of Order and presbyteries consider them. New Worshipping Communities, Fellowships (mostly of non-White, and immigrant communities), and New Church Developments are three of the many ways these communities gather and witness to their contexts.
Since 2015, the Synod has had a direct funding relationship with 11 New Worshipping Communities or New Worshipping Community initiatives in the presbyteries of Albany, Hudson River, Long Island, Monmouth, New Brunswick, New York City, Northern New England, Palisades and West Jersey. The Synod Networker is seeking to update synod information on New Worshipping Communities as well as Fellowships and New Church Developments and will provide this information to the Commission at its April meeting.
223rd General Assembly Overture: In 2017 we will begin to work on a new overture for the 223rd General Assembly to see if we can move forward the idea that a session can individually commission a Ruling Elder to serve on mid-council bodies. For the Synod of the Northeast this overture represents a vital question as to who has a place at the Commission and Assembly tables. We believe that such a change to the Book of Order will lead to more diversity in age as well as racial ethnic and immigrant participation. This could not only be valuable to the synod but also to some presbyteries. No presbytery or synod would need to engage in such a change to the Book of Order, but it would allow the Synod of the Northeast to live further into the foundational values of the New Way Forward. While we were unsuccessful at the 222nd General Assembly, the overture lost by a slim margin. We learned much not only about the concerns people had with our overture but also where it resonated. This will help us in writing a new overture as well as our organizing. If you are interested in working on this initiative, please contact Synod Stated Clerk Nancy Talbot.
Committee on Representation (COR): The committee has been reorganized and energized by its members, RE Luci Duckson-Brambell, Long Island Presbytery, TE Drew Payton and TE Jeniffer Rodriguez, both of Hudson River Presbytery and RE Lydia Tembo, Presbytery of New York City. After reviewing Robert Washington Scholar applications and selecting the first Scholars, they determined their focus for the rest of 2017. They will review funding patterns for the Synod Innovation and Higher Education Grants as well as examine presbytery participation patterns in synod committees and meetings with a focus on obstacles that may restrict involvement. A COR representative currently sits on the Synod Staffing Task Force. COR would like to make sure they are represented also on the search committee for a new staff person. The committee is looking for at least two additional members. If you are interested in participating in this dynamic committee, please contact Synod Stated Clerk Nancy Talbot.
Actions taken by the Commission
The Commission approved that if the way be clear, it authorizes the creation of a search committee, after the completion of the staff audit and refinement of the job description, to conduct a search for the hire of the new staff member to focus on mission, communications and funds development.
The Commission voted to ask the Palisades Presbytery to send a delegation in April as it had in January to report on its progress with the SARC report recommendations.
The Synod Commission authorized Alan Ford, Treasurer, and Harold Delhagen, to negotiate a contract up to $35,000 to continue synod communications, offer six weeks of transition training to the new staff person, and perform some Come to the Table program design and preparation.
On the issue of synod loans the Commission agreed to:
- Make an offer to churches with capital loans to pay off their loans at a discount of 10%, provided they pay by September 1, 2017
- Discontinue granting new loans to presbytery executives. On a case by case basis loans will be considered for exempt synod staff.
- Make an offer to all presbytery executives and synod staff to pay off their loans at a discount of 10%, provided they pay by September 1, 2017
- Make an offer to the 4 churches that have loans with the synod for the synod to pay their closing costs if they refinance with another institution before December 1, 2017.