In Praise of ACs

by | Jan 29, 2018

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

I continue to receive positive feedback on our January 20th Presbytery meeting. One person noted that the meeting was relational, while we also made some important decisions, such as voting to co-sponsor an overture to General Assembly advocating for peace and care for our Syrian sisters and brothers who have suffered so much in the on-going violence. And we received four new minister members, including two who are starting pastorates in our churches. And, of course, WinterFest was a great, well- attended training event.

But I was gratified to hear the term “relational,” because Moderator Becca Bateman said her hope is to help build relationships in the Presbytery during this year. In light of this, the leadership team that plans the Presbytery meetings have given relationship themes to each meeting in 2018:

January: Building relationships with each other
April: Building relationship with Creation
June: Building relationships with neighbors near and far
September: Building relationship with God
November: Building relationship with self.

As we live into the hope of restoration that Isaiah prophesied, may we indeed participate in building a beloved community for ourselves, for the world, even with all of Creation.

This weekend were services of celebration for our friends Art French and Hazel Harken. I was able to attend Art’s service, which was filled with many stories of the love Art showed to everyone he met. According to Pacific Presbytery, even when he chaired administrative commissions for his presbytery, he showed love and respect as he listened to all sides before the AC made any decisions. I really appreciated this because it is so important for ACs to have an attitude of support and care, even in the midst of serious conflict.

It reminded me how often Presbyterians react to ACs with memories of conflict, or even a sense of being oppressed by a presbytery. For some people, it would be troubling to know that we currently have four ACs in place. But I have heard from nearly all these churches that they have greatly appreciated what the ACs are doing with and for them.

In recent months, ACs for San Gabriel Presbytery have:

-Surveyed a church’s membership on their hopes and concerns for the church’s future
-Advised a church on staff and church leader responsibilities
-Refocused financial systems and pastor-church relations to Presbyterian norms
-Suggested streamlined administrative practices for a smaller church
-Structured a church budget
-Moderated or acted as clerk for session meetings
-Guest preached and led town hall congregational meetings
-Supported and advised pastors and elders
-Secured needed financial and legal resources from the Presbytery
-Accompanied church leaders to civil court to defend the church’s pastor, tenants, and property-and by the way, we are making excellent progress in reversing the damage done through the fraud perpetrated against the church.

In all these cases, the administrative commission is a sign of commitment from the Presbytery to appoint qualified leaders to respond to the needs of a church. In the case of these four ACs, they are providing sensitive, knowledgeable, and faithful support and guidance to our churches, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I think I mentioned that my hope for 2018 is to be able to increase Presbytery’s service in support of our churches, and to fulfill together Christ’s ministry within San Gabriel Valley, but also as we contribute to our Synod, the PC(USA), and our mission partners near and far. We are off to an excellent start!!

There are other churches we are working with, of course, and each week we highlight a church that I hope your church prays for. But this week I would ask you to pray also for these churches and their ACs: Baldwin Park (Bear Ride, chair; Rob Crowell, Melinda Forbes), Pasadena (Dave Tomlinson, chair; Rubi Benítez, Daniel Chang, Roberto Colón, Dee Kelley, Ann Oglesby-Edwards, Fried Wilson), West Covina (Jennifer Ackerman, chair; James Lee, Chris Muiga, Corliss Roenicke), and Westminster Temple City (Mariko Yanagihara, chair; Nick Banks, Huw Christopher, Pat Collins).

We are truly blessed to have these and other dedicated leaders volunteering their time and gifts in order to walk alongside our churches. May we continue to grow stronger in our relationships, that we may be one faithful body, caring for the parts of the body that right now need some extra attention.