We got to sleep in a little bit today. Committee sessions did not begin until 9 AM. Not wanting to spend $13 on the buffet in the Sheraton atrium I headed to a stand near the GA registration desks as I knew they had sausage biscuits. I was too late. I had to settle for a blueberry muffin. I guess I was supposed to eat something a little better for me than a greasy sausage biscuit. I called Diane to see how she was doing. I am not sure who misses who more, fortunately it is not a competition.
We began this morning with worship. The text was from Ephesians 3 and from the Book of Celtic Benedictions.
A memorandum was handed out from the GAP Committee Leadership Team on how to handle each of the items that are before in regards to the 6 Overtures and the Recommendation from COGA. A motion was made and seconded to accept this recommendation on the process concerning the Presbyterian Historical Society at Montreat. There was no debate and it was set to a vote and it passed unanimously: 46-0-0. Thus the morning began with Item 03-17 Regarding the Presbyterian Historical Society Facility in Montreat, NC. This item began with Steve Grace and Cathy Ulrich from COGA explaining the work of the task force and explaining the recommendation. Fred Hauser from the Historical Society then spoke providing us a lot of historical information. Clifton Kirkpatrick then spoke for the recommendation. He did point out that if we want to make any changes that the Constitution would have to be changed. The floor was then turned back over to Steve and the committee was then given the opportunity to ask questions for clarification. The first question dealt with whether or not this recommendation had anything to do with the drop in per capita giving. I find that this is unfortunately like business; we need to do what is fiscally responsible for the denomination. I think this would have gone over better had there not been an issue of decreasing per capita but not by much. This is a deeply emotional issue for so many. What many need to realize is that COGA did not make this decision lightly; they struggled with this as well. I understand the why so many want to keep the Presbyterian Historical Society at Montreat. I also understand money. Approximately 75% of all records are currently at the Philadelphia location and 25% at Montreat. The recommendation does not close the Montreat center completely, keeping it open in a museum like atmosphere as well as an educational facility.
After a short break we heard from the 11 overture candidates who were collectively given 38 minutes to present the material on the 6 Overtures that they represent. They have worked it out amongst themselves to not repeat one another.
- Steve Clark: Pastor and lawyer who spoke to the legalities regarding the Overtures. He vowed that none of them want to be out of order with the Book of Order. All of the property at Montreat is owned by the Historical Foundation, Inc. which is a North Carolina Corporation. One of the points that he made was that there are people who sent items to the Montreat facility. They do not have a problem with 9.0203. He even made the point that only 15% of the documents at Montreat fall under 9.0203. The rest are personal and church collections that no one has responsibility to take care of. What they are concerned about is what will happen to that 85%. They have secured nearly $1,000,000
Blye (sp): She spoke to the Presbyterian Women and their contributions to the collection at Montreat. Many churches and individuals rely on the information at Montreat for church anniversary information. They are concerned that the information will not be accessible.
- Burt Kramer (sp): Montreat is living history. More people go to Montreat than to Philadelphia
- Barbara Kane (sp): Spoke to the technology advances. Card catalogs are no longer used; researchers now look to the web. There need to be redundant forms of back up. History comes alive at Montreat. All the staff to create the kinds of exhibits that will continue to draw people there. What are the legal and cost ramifications for moving records et al to another place. How much will it cost to maintain the archival items in a museum atmosphere? Moving these items also makes it possible for them to be inadvertently lost.
- Dave Miller: He and his wife have volunteered at Montreat for the past 12 years after retiring from mission work in Africa. It is imperative to keep the information on the mission partner churches in the mission field kept. This is the only place that this information is kept. The retreat would be better served if it was not closed.
- Joe Petty: She said that the in archives that were given by the Texas Presbyterian Historical Society were to remain at Montreat. The Overture will protect the integrity of the things that are stored at Montreat.
- Benjamin: How is it helpful in a church that is already hurting to add more to that? It is important for historical research that this collection remains at Montreat. Proposed possibly putting this off for two years for the 2008 General Assembly.
- Tom Spence: The $1 million that has been raised was raised in just under three months. There are more monies that will be pledged later. They can also staff it with volunteers saving $200,000 in staffing costs.
- George Wilks: We need to “mend the fabric of trust.”
- Name?: There is a big difference between looking at something on a computer screen and actually being able to experience it in person. We need to delegate the responsibility to those who are willing and able to take care of it.
- Dick Ray: Has raised money for Montreat for this purpose. The proposed board would be nominated by GANC and would be responsible to the GA. This does not need to be dependent on per capita just as none of the Presbyterian Colleges and Seminaries are dependant on per capita. He was speaking to Overture 78.
This is increasingly becoming a passionate, personal plea on the part of the advocates with the exception of the remarks by Steve Clark. If $1 million was able to be raised so easily, why do we not funnel that money to the PHS and drop the recommendation that COGA has made.
Because of the resource use of the denominational lawyer it was moved and passed to extend the overture advocates question and answer time by 5 minutes. This passed 37-10-1. 36 votes were required (2/3 majority) and we made that by 1.
It was defined by one of the overture advocates that the lost materials are those that would be returned to their rightful owners or museums, etc. which in effect would destroy the fabric of the collection. The session records do not necessarily need to be maintained in hard copy. They could be digitized.
George Adams advised that the Overtures would be unconstitutional with the exception of 03-01, Overture 44. Many questions followed as the commissioners were trying to get a good handle on this situation. After much discussion we heard form Laura Plumbly from the Presbyterian Foundation. She talked to us a little bit about the endowed funds that they have and that these funds do have specific designations that cannot be changed. What happens when circumstances arise that could not have been foreseen with that money. They would have to go to the court to get new direction for that money as this is dealing with trust law. When they take these issues to the court they do take a list of possible resolutions that are in the spirit of the donors’ intent and then the court would make a decision which could be different than the recommendation(s) that were put before it. We then recessed for lunch.
After returning from lunch we opened in prayer and then resumed with the questions for Laura Plumbly. Once final questions were taken care with Laura, Eric Graninger who is our legal counsel resource spoke to us. At the time of reunion it was decided what the corporations would be (this is noted in the Articles of Agreement found in Appendix B of the Book of Order). This was a basic overview of the corporations within the PC (USA). The PHS is one of the remaining 7 corporations that began as 17 at the time of reunion. It was confirmed that GAC is the current board of directors. The corporation will not be dissolved. The letting go of the employees at the Montreat facility did not go through the board not did it need to. They had delegated the day to day operations to the Stated Clerk and the OGA. If it impacts the land, buildings, trust money, etc. then it would need to go to the board. The 2004 GA gave the authority/put the process in place for the OGA to do what they have done this far. This can be found in the rationale for 03-17:
2004 Referral: Item 03-11. On the Montreat Historical Center—From the Presbytery of South Louisiana (Minutes, 2004, Part I, pp. 46, 178).
2004 Referral: Item 03-24. On Directing OGA to Develop Long-Range Plan for the Department of History to Provide for Regional Historical Centers—From the Presbytery of Western North Carolina (Minutes, 2004, Part I, pp. 46, 214).
We have to remember that it takes $500,000 a year to keep the center going. Of that amount $450,000 currently comes from per capita.
We still have additional resource people to speak. Next up was Cam Murchison from Columbia Theological Seminary. He feels that the best case would be to leave it at Montreat. They felt that they could raise $8 million of endowment but that it would take ten years, which is not enough time where everything would have been transferred to them and that after 5 years the program would be $5 million in debt. So they determined they could not be part of the resolution. When COGA came back to them with an alternate plan the trustees took a hard look at it to determine the feasibility. They concluded that they could be part of the current recommendation. They would then establish the Program for the Study of Presbyterian and Reformed History and Theology. CTS has taken the time to put together a plan should the COGA recommendation pass. There is a projected start up cost of $1.5 - $1.7 million for which these costs have been factored in.
Our next resource person was George Barber who is the President of the Montreat Conference Center. He assured us that the Montreat Conference Center is not closing. The PHS center at Montreat is important but the Conference Center could not afford to take over the responsibilities of the PHS center. The most direct impact on the Conference Center is the reversionary clause but this would place a monetary strain on them. They have already been thinking about what they would need to do if they ended up owning part of the building. Currently the conference center is running a $70,000 surplus but maintenance of the building would cost 100,000 – 120,000 a year which would place them in the red instead of in the black. Currently the Historical Society Center is only open by appointment, but very few who are going to the Conference Center get there due to their intense schedule.
John Kuykendell was the next resource speaker. He is a current member of the PHS Board. They regret the recommendation by COGA however they do support it.
When John was done we moved into a lengthy time of clarification questions. Preservation of the records means keeping them in a format that will not deteriorate. Electronically there are issues. Paper is still form that last the longest. Burned CD/DVDs will last 10 – 15 years at best. Magnetic tape media is the best digital form lasting up to 100 years. These digital methods are still not as long lasting as paper. The advocates of the different Overtures are at a point of consensus that Item 03-03 Overture 78 is the best of the six that they have presented. The impact to per capita if kept open would be the following increases:
2007 - $5.80
2008 - $6.03
The per capita information was provided by Clifton Kirkpatrick. Global question and answer was concluded and we moved into informal conversations after a short break. This 30 minute time period is just to discuss this amongst the committee. Part of the passion around this is that Montreat is seen as a symbol of the denomination. We are the people of the Gospel, of the story. The loss of the center would be the loss of our story. We were encouraged to think past the numbers and look at that story hard before we make our decision. The passion of the advocates was applauded however the speaker did not feel that they could maintain the level of fundraising necessary to keep the center open. He did express that we need to be good stewards of the denominations money. Closing churches is just as difficult, if not more, but we need to let go when it is necessary. One of the YADs pointed out that this is also about trust. She made the point that we need to make sure that the other members of our presbytery commissioners need to know both sides of this issue before they vote in plenary. We have to remember that the building, the items in the building, the money to run it, etc. are all God’s and He is trusting us to be good stewards of it all, whether that means to keep the center open or to close it. We need to leave the emotion at the door and listen to God’s leading. What is the cost to PC (USA) regardless of what happens?
When the 30 minute time of informal conversation had concluded we moved on to 03-17. One of the commissioners took a moment of personal privilege to thank the YAD/TSADs for their participation in the discussion and their passion for what they believe and the commissioners concurred with a round of applause. A motion was then immediately made and seconded to disapprove item 03-17. A brief leadership side-bar was taken and then Steve Grace spoke, not as a resource, but as a corresponding member. He spoke to M.2.b.13 of the Standing Rules of the General Assembly and G-9.0406 from the Book of Order as all records that fall under the Stated Clerks oversight would have to be moved from Montreat so as to keep this constitutional. Clifton Kirkpatrick provided a re-cap of the per capita information. After additional debate a referral motion was made to create a task force of five commissioners from within this committee that would report back to this committee on Sunday at 2 PM. The motion was placed up for debate. If passed all work on the Montreat issue would be postponed until after the task force reports to the committee. The motion to refer was then voted on and failed by a vote of 20-25-3. The motion to disapprove 03-17 is now back up for debate and discussion. After debate it was put to a vote to disapprove business item 03-17. The vote was 25-20-3. We then recessed for dinner.
We returned from dinner and worship and having a quorum at 8:10 PM we opened the session in prayer. We began the evening with 03-01 however there was a motion to amend the agenda by starting with 03-03. This then went to debate. The vote to change the agenda was defeated by a vote of 11-25-3.
A motion to amend 03-01 was made that would increase the per capita for 2007-2008 by and additional five cents. A motion was then made to add an additional line to the amendment. The moderator called for a short side-bar to discuss additional amendment. After several minutes the moderator asked Clifton Kirkpatrick for clarification on the setting aside the Standing Rules which would help to clarify this amendment. We received clarification on how to word the amendment and moved forward on it. There was a vote to end debate which passed. The amendment then went to a vote and was defeated 6-41-1. We then went back to the main motion and it was opened up for debate. Eric from legal explained that the endowment funds could still only be used for what they are designated for. Neither the committee nor the General Assembly can change the designation of where the funds go. That being cleared up we went back to debate. Faithful stewardship and mission need to be addressed and we seem to be spending too much time on this issue. As I see it we are not being faithful stewards and we need to move on. In a church that is working hard to become outwardly focused we spent too much time looking at something that is inward. The amendment was brought to a vote and was defeated 3-45-0. We then went back to the original overture. A new amendment was brought forth that reads:
That the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, Inc. continue as a corporation under the jurisdiction and review of the General Assembly; that this Corporation retain under its jurisdiction all records, artifacts, and properties not constitutionally designated to the Office of the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly; that the same Corporation will be financially self-supporting; that the Presbyterian Historical Society provide to this Corporation easy access to records removed from the Montreat Center; that the details of their transition be implemented and reported to the 218th General Assembly (2008).
Once revised to the above form with help of Eric Graninger and then it was verified that there were no constitutional issues with this amendment. However there still was no transfer of who would be doing the fundraising, as stated it still does not make it work. A motion to re-act on 03-17 was made but was out of order. The current business needed to be dealt with first. There was more debate and then the motion to amend was withdrawn as was the second. The committee then had to approve the withdrawal by consent which was given. We are again back to the original item 03-01 after a short 5 minute break. A motion was made to accept the Overture as it was originally written. We then moved on to debate of the motion. A motion was made and seconded to end debate and it passed. We then voted on item 03-01. The motion failed 14-34-0.
A motion was made to reconsider 03-17 and it was seconded. We would need a simple majority to bring 03-17 back to the committee as if we had never voted on it. A motion was made and passed to end debate. We then voted on the motion to reconsider 03-17 which passed 26-20-1. There was a motion to call the question and it was seconded. We then went in to debate on the motion that we disapprove 03-17. By vote we ended debate. We are now voting on the motion to disapprove 03-17. The motion failed 17-27-3. We will continue working on 03-17 by majority consensus. It was then moved and seconded to recommend that we approve 03-17. There was then a motion made and seconded to amend 03-17 and it passed 38-6-4. Item 03-17 with the amendment was then before us. There was a motion to move the question and it was seconded. The committee voted to end debate and the amended item was then voted on. It passed 27-14-6. We recessed for the day and agreed to meet in the committee room at 1:30 PM on Sunday and ended in prayer.
Because of Him,