In an attempt to help folks get to know the candidates for Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I have asked the Moderatorial and Vice-Moderatorial Candidates a few questions. You can find links to all of their responses HERE and you can follow most of the candidates on Twitter HERE. Thanks for taking the time to read their responses and please feel free to share this with friends, leave a comment or ask a question.
A snippet from Susan’s responses in the 2012 Moderatorial Handbook:
When I was a girl I learned an important truth from my family, “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we make of ourselves is our gift to God.” This has always helped me to look at my life and see what gifts God has given me . . . I was born an organizer and have spoken publicly since I was very young. I was taught that nobody was better than me; and, conversely, that I am no better than anyone else. This has given me the courage required to walk into conflicted situations and help people address their issues as a leader in a presbytery.
Knowing that being Moderator/Vice-Moderator will require a great deal of time and energy from you and your community, why give in this way to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?
Perhaps every candidate who has stood for moderator has felt that the church was at a crossroads. From my vantage point as a presbytery leader, it certainly seems that way this year. Congregations continue to question their affiliation with the PCUSA. Others have so much anxiety that they are dissolving relationships with long-time pastors. Bringing my 32 years of ordained experience along with the two decades I have spent in presbytery leadership to the discussions at GA and beyond will be helpful to the church. When our presbytery’s commissioners to the last GA asked me to consider standing for moderator, I agreed. The presbytery has devised ways to free up my time so that I can respond to the obligations and invitations presented to a moderator and I am ready to fulfill the role.
I have always seen my ministry as a way to use gifts in service to the church. Preaching, leading groups, teaching and being honest about who we really are have proved to be the best assets that I have brought to pastoral ministry and presbytery leadership. I will find ways to use those gifts, if the GA sees fit to ask me to do so, as moderator over the next two years. The work of the moderator mirrors the work of a presbytery leader in many way–simply on a larger scale. My experience is another gift I can offer to the whole church.
If someone were to ask you, “Why should I bother going to church?” how would you respond?
This is a question that previous generations have not had to ask in the same we are asking it today. Previously in many places their culture expected them to be in church. It was seen as an asset for one’s profession to have the contacts one would make in a church; people who did not go to church were seen as not a real part of society; the culture provided all of the urging people needed. There was also no “down-side” to going to church. No one thought you were stupid or naive if you were seen exiting the church doors on Sunday morning.
Not so today. Even in the smallest of Midwestern communities, it has become counter-cultural to go to worship. Most people on any given Sunday morning are not at church and many of them think of those of us who are there as old-fashioned and, maybe, quaint.
Why go? What is offered uniquely in a communal experience of ourselves as forgiven sinners called to a new way of life? Being in flesh and blood relationships with other people who are experiencing the ebb and flow of the presence of God in their lives strengthens our own faith. Meeting Jesus in a way we meet him nowhere else at the table and font deepens our understanding of our need of salvation. Knowing that the Holy Spirit calls together this particular motley crew of people in order to witness to God’s love in Jesus Christ renews our sense of call. When our congregations find a way to renew their own sense of call to do these things, we have something important to offer to the world.
Choose one item of business or issue that will be coming up at General Assembly and share your perspective.
There are several recommendations that have to do with non-geographic presbyteries. I look forward to hearing the debate about this issue. One aspect of it that has given me pause is the real work that presbytery leaders do. It is true that some of what we currently do can be done across even greater distances than those now traveled by my colleagues and myself. (Just ask how many miles our cars have on them.) We are doing meetings by phone or other electronic means than may or may not involve a live person on a screen. It is not the same thing as having meetings where casual conversations can also occur, but that can be addressed.
What I wonder about are those times of trauma in the life of a pastor or a congregation when they need a real human being there. Often that person is the presbytery leader, the only person in most presbyteries whose job it is to show up at the fire or the deathbed or the session meeting when the pastor has betrayed trust. Imagining that this can be done by any other means than personally is like imagining that a pastor can make all hospital calls by Skype. If we end up with congregations whose affiliation and loyalty are lodged in a presbytery that is at some distance, I hope that we will find ways to meet the real pastoral needs now being met by the people with the high mileage on our cars.
What are a few things that most people would never guess about you: interests, adventures or . . .?
Writing a newsletter article or doing a Youtube video every week based on my experiences means that the members of my presbytery know a lot about me. However, some may not know that I have been a cheerleading “mom” for two decades. I am now the mom of the coach, but I have also spent my time in the trenches, even being the coach for one year while one daughter was in seventh grade. My fellow female band members (French Horn–eight years) from high school would be amazed along with me that I have accompanied my daughters over to the opposition–the cheerleaders! But, my daughters and their squads are true athletes. I respect them for their dedication to a sport that sees lots of injuries and where the athletes have no mouth guards or shoulder pads.
You also may not know that I am a “reading buddy” at a local elementary school. This year I worked with kindergarteners, most of whom had Spanish as their first language. I was helping them learn how to pronounce the names of letters and the sounds they make in English. I also snuck in a few fun books to read with them.
And, through my travel for the PCUSA and having grown up in a family that liked to travel, I have been to all but three of the fifty states–Oregon, Vermont and Alaska. Maybe in the next two years. . .
WILD CARD: Answer any question you want, one that someone has yet to ask or choose from some that have been asked here: http://bit.ly/KwiN07
There is a question on Bruce’s site about how to do evangelism in a post-modern world. I have heard stories from pastors lately about children who are in their buildings for programs but who do not know anything about the Christian story. If we believe, as Bruce has said, that we can “party like it is 1955” we are dead wrong. Instead, we need to party like it is 155–a hundred years after the church started out. We need to assume that most of the people whom we meet have no deep experience of the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Each person who has responded to God’s love in Jesus Christ in their own lives needs to be ready to tell that story. When someone at work says to you, “Didn’t you say that you go to the Presbyterian Church?” it is easy to say “yes.” But when the next question is “Why?” we need to be ready with an answer. That answer needs to be something more t han, “They have a great preschool there.” We should each be able to say how our lives have been changed because we have met Jesus Christ and that our church helps us to sustain our faith. Billboards, ads in the newspaper, even great websites will not evangelize if we ourselves cannot share the good news in a way that makes it clear that it is very real.
Thanks again to all of the candidates for being part of this process. While we obviously hold all of the candidates in prayer throughout this process, please be sure to pray for their communities of service, their families and all who are supporting them during this time.