Mid Councils Newsletter, October 5, 2015
As you read this, I hope that, if you are like me, you have already decided what you will be packing for the fall conferences in Portland later this week so that you don’t mistakenly wear it between now and then and have to do the laundry one more time! Or, if you are more of a last-minute packer, I hope you at least know now when you will be leaving for the airport or the train station or the gas station so that you are ready to join almost 300 of your closest friends in Portland. It will be a great time to familiarize ourselves with the site of next summer’s General Assembly. Where will you take your presbytery out to eat? Where will you and your friends gather to get out of the rush of the meeting? Where is the best place to get coffee or a salad or something sweet within walking distance of the Oregon Convention Center and how late do they stay open? All of those vital questions before an assembly will be within your power to answer while you are there.
You may realize that the way the conferences are being held this year is new. Let me give you a little history. Several years ago—about a dozen—there were at least four meetings in the fall to which stated clerks or executive presbyters might go. There was the Polity Conference, usually in those years attended mostly by stated clerks. There was the meeting of the Association of Stated Clerks (ASC). There was the meeting of the Association of Executive Presbyters, now known as the Association of Mid Council Leaders (AMCL). There was a meeting hosted by the General Assembly Mission Council (now PMA) to which clerks and executives were invited. Once there, they would meet members of the GAMC Council and members of the GAMC staff. (There was also a Moderators’ Conference, attended by mid council moderators.) Then a few of us began wondering if there were a better way to do this. Instead of flying to a meeting and flying home only to set out the next week for a similar gathering, could the meetings somehow be combined? That led to the pattern over the last few years of linking polity, clerks, and exec/general presbyters so that the meeting ran contiguously. This year for the first time, the ASC and AMCL meetings are at the same time, along with the Moderators’ Conference, General Assembly Committee on Representation training, and training for new stated clerks. This has constituted a big change and, we hope, a positive one.
You no doubt know some change theory. Depending on your favorite business guru in the area of change you may think about icebergs when you think of change or you may think of “rackets” or you may think of “switching.” It has struck me as I have thought about this big change that we have made that there are several constituencies who have had to be on-board to make this work. Perhaps the people who are the farthest away from the decision-making are the participants. There is a great deal of turnover among mid council leaders—many of the people who received an invitation this year have no idea how it has worked in the past. And, although there was some consultation about whether this was a good idea, the decision was made in a way that was a bit removed from them. Then there are the leaders of the groups that have decided to have their meetings together. The General Assembly Committee on Representation, the Association of Stated Clerks, and the Association of Mid Council Leaders made the decision that this kind of meeting would be a good thing. And then the group that had to be most committed to this new way of doing things was the staff in Louisville. Like any well-oiled machine, the staff had a certain way of managing all of these conferences—from planning through registration and the conference itself. The staff had to come to a place where it could see how this would work and that the change would be worth the effort it would take to make it.
You may know Kotter’s eight steps of change (if you thought “iceberg” then you do). Here they are, with some ideas of how they might have worked in the last couple of years to get us to this point. Create a sense of urgency: mid council leaders are running out of time, money, and energy to travel to a variety of meetings; it is important for leaders from moderators to clerks to executives (or the equivalent) to interact with one another now more than ever. Pull together the guiding team: leaders and staff of the various groups began meeting more than a year ago. Develop the change vision and strategy: getting a variety of mid council leaders in the room together can help them to live into the new reality in mid councils and in the church. Communicate for understanding and buy in: this new plan has been shared widely. Empower others to act: staff members created detailed calendars for getting ready for the meeting and for the overlapping meetings themselves. Produce short-term wins: leaders of AMCL and ASC met together with staff to plan for their meetings in a way they had not done before. The planning meeting was a success. Don’t let up: leaders of the various groups are continually encouraged to think about how this overlapping meeting will bring positive results. Create a New Culture: we will see when the meeting is over if people are ready to say this is the way we “have always done it” or even that they are willing to see that as mid council leadership changes in style and form so, too, do our meetings need to change.
What was the last big change you brought about in your mid council? Were all eight of the steps in place? Where would you like to circle back?
Are mission leaders in your church or presbytery looking for community, inspiration, renewal and resources? Presbyterian World Mission is hosting Mission Magnified, a mission leader conference, from November 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri. Speakers include Mark Adams, mission co-worker on the US/Mexico border and Rebecca Kirkpatrick, former mission co-worker in Egypt and Associate Pastor for Adult Education and Mission at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Find tools for short-term mission trip planning and how to make the most of your local and international mission efforts. Registration is only $100 - including meals - so register today!
Developing Emergency Response Plans: Violence on Church Property is a new resource for congregations and mid councils written by The Presbyterian Mission Agency (PDF).
Here are some changes in presbytery leadership in the last few months.
- Arkansas. New clerk is Robert Lowry; Bill Galbraith has retired as exec.
- Baltimore. Mary Gautama is the interim executive.
- Cascades. Paul Belz-Templeman is the new clerk.
- Chicago. Debbie Rundlett is the incoming transitional executive.
- Cincinnati. Jim DiEgidio is finishing his service as executive.
- Des Moines. Phil Barrett is retiring as clerk and presbyter.
- Elizabeth. Jeremy Campbell is the new clerk.
- Florida. Paul Luthman will serve as presbyter.
- Kendall. Ron Lavoie is finishing his service as clerk and presbyter. Pamela Mays is the new clerk.
- Lake Huron. Dan Saperstein is the new presbyter.
- Miami Valley. Dennis Piermont is serving as clerk.
- Mid Kentucky. John Odom will be serving as presbyter.
- Muskingum Valley. Wayne Yost is serving as clerk. Debbie Rundlett has completed her service as presbyter.
- Prospect Hill. John Pehrson is retiring as clerk and presbyter.
- Riverside. Marilyn Gamm is serving as transitional presbyter.
- San Diego. Clark Cowden completed his service as presbyter.
- San Gabriel. Diane Frasher is serving as clerk.
- Santa Barbara. Jan Armstrong completed his service as presbyter.
- Southeastern Illinois. Bill McKean is serving as presbyter.
- Tampa Bay. David Baker is serving as clerk.
- Transylvania. Philip Lotspeich is serving as presbyter.
- Tropical Florida. Richard McFail is serving as clerk.
- Twin Cities Area. Jeffrey Japinga is serving as clerk.
- Western Colorado. Jeff Harmeling is serving as clerk.
- Western North Carolina. Cameron Murchison is serving as clerk.
Presbytery of Sacramento is currently seeking an Interim Presbyter.
Cherokee Presbytery is searching for a person to fill the Stated Clerk/Mission Coordinator transitional contracted position.