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Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Presbyterian Way

I've been a Presbyterian for only three or four years. I grew up in the Methodist tradition, specifically the African Methodist Episcopal Zion tradition. It gave a lot of authority to the bishops. Later I was a United Methodist. Again, like the Catholics, bishop driven.

But the Presbyterians are more bottom up, with the Session, elected by the members, much more in control of selecting a pastor than any congregational board on which I served in the Methodist church. And I served for about 7 years in the 1990s.

My current church called a pastor about five years ago. It didn't work out, and he left after a year. I didn't know WHY it didn't work out until the pastor sent out a letter, explaining it. I found this all very fascinating. In my old church, there was always a massive rumor mill, but here, nothing. The Session took its responsibility in dealing with this personnel issue professionally and seriously.

So, then there was a year of reflection, and then we got an interim pastor. Interim pastors in the Presbyterian tradition are just that, a pool of folks who go from church to church filling in while the church gets ready for a new pastor.

Well, in this case, that involved doing a survey, and not a simple survey either. My wife was on the committee to select the survey tool before our daughter was born. Then they gave the survey to the members, had the survey tallied by the company that designed it, then the committee members set up times to discuss the results of the survey, not just one congregational meeting, but 6 or 8 weeks of neighborhood meetings in people's homes. (We missed most of these, being sleep-deprived new parents at the time.)

Only then can the Session put together a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to seek a new candidate. (There's a couple other little steps in there.) The PNC has been working feverishly hard, and confidentially. It was only last Sunday that the congregation learned the name of the candidate, who will preach at both the 8:30 and the 10:45 service today. After the latter service, there will be a congregational meeting to decide whether to accept the nomination of the PNC. If they don't, there will be a new PNC, and a new search. Or the candidate can choose not to accept the offer.

Last night, there was a pot luck supper, where the members got to meet the candidate, and the candidate introduced him/herself. (Since it's still confidential until the church and the candidate come to an agreement, I'm using the type of language the PNC has been using for months.)

Our interim pastor, Joe, has been here three years, and if the church accepts the candidate, and the candidate accepts the church, he'll likely be staying on until the transition this summer. In my time there, he's been in the pulpit more than anyone. I'll be said to see him and his wife Claudia go. If they go - won't know until later today.

I think Presbyterians really should be called Methodists, because they are so METHODical.
Steve Barnes, a reader of this blog, pointed me to his new political blog, Empires Fall. I told him: "Your website is mean, spiteful, and bitter. I'll be adding it to my weblog this weekend." He said, "Oh, I'm not bitter. This is the feeling formerly known as bitter. Now it's called schadenfreude."

Have you noticed that tongue-in-cheek doesn't always work in e-mail?


GayProf said...

Wow -- That sounds like a lot of work to find a pastor. What happens if s/he doesn't want to come?

Roger Owen Green said...

GP- Then the PNC has to continue - and they've put in hundreds of hours, or a new PNC formed, to continue the search.

What I didn't mention, because I wasn't on the committee, is something else - I guess one would call it discernment. Essentially, the process involves prayerful consideration.

And I'm happy to note that the candidate was accepted by the congregation yesterday uninimously, and will be coming here in August.

Since the candidate still needs to inform the current employer, I'm not going to name names yet. Put the name out there and someone Googles it...

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm having a heck of a time posting today. If you don't see a post newer than this one, go on over to and I'll post there.