August 3, 2016—As I write this article, J. Herbert Nelson is enjoying his first day on the job as the new Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church, USA. I have imagined this day for a while now.
We are at our best as a Church when we imagine the wondrous things that God can do.
When Denise Anderson and I were discerning whether or not to stand as Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly, we went back and forth for several weeks trying to imagine what it might look like to serve the Church we love in this way. Sometimes I was ready to take the leap and Denise was not. Other times, she was on board but I was not. But then we started envisioning together: imagine working with a new clerk and a new vision. Imagine leading our denomination to talk about race and white privilege together. Imagine modeling a new way of serving as co-moderators. And so we leapt.
And here we are several weeks after the 222nd General Assembly still excited about the possibilities. As I wrote for my own Presbytery:
Standing for General Assembly Moderator is a little like preparing for a wedding. Plans are made. Photos are taken. Supplies are ordered. Candidates select “attendants” of assorted kinds. The thing is that – once the Big Day arrives – you might not be the one who gets married/elected. Denise Anderson and I are grateful that we were indeed elected Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly on June 18th.
Serving as Co-Moderator during the General Assembly plenaries is a little bit like working for the United Nations. In addition to microphones and a gavel, there is a screen on the platform relaying information from each of nine microphones on the floor about the gender, racial/ethnic identity, age, status as ruling or teaching elder or delegate, and home Presbytery of those who stand to speak. We can tell by the colored paddles who wants to agree or disagree or ask a clarifying question or ask a privileged question (e.g. “Can we turn down the AC over here?”) At one point, someone whispered into my ear, “We haven’t heard from an Asian American ruling elder under age 40 lately.” There are code words to use for the people behind the curtain so they know when we need an electronic vote or when we need to start a film clip.
Serving as Co-Moderator apart from plenary time feels like a combination beauty pageant/reality television moment. There is a handler who keeps us moving. There are verbal invitations on escalators to come speak in 2017. There are lots of selfies.
And now the ambassador part has begun. I had the privilege of attending Triennium last month and it – honestly – changed my life. Denise is headed to Thailand this fall for an event about human trafficking. There are Presbyteries to visit and meetings to attend.
But most of all, we want to keep the possibilities before us. One of my pet peeves involves learning new things about the Church and then putting those learnings in a report, placing the report on a shelf and never looking at it again. We pray that we make a clear and positive impact in the coming two years to the Glory of God. And just as I imagined the day that our new Stated Clerk would take the helm in Louisville, I hope we can all imagine our denomination making a glorious impact in a world craving Good News.
Jan Edmiston, GA Co-Moderator with T. Denise Anderson, is the associate executive presbyter for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, where she has served since 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at CTS in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.