Four years ago, the General Assembly Mission Council had just undergone a major downsizing and budget reduction — 75 layoffs and $9 million worth. The staff structure at the Presbyterian Center had been dismantled and the entire senior GAMC staff saw their positions eliminated.
And then the council elected Linda Valentine, an elder from Chicago, as its new executive director.
Undaunted, “We began putting a new organization in place, with mission at its core,” she told the council Feb. 25 after being unanimously re-elected to a second four-year term, subject to confirmation by the upcoming 219th General Assembly.
“Linda has been wonderful for us as a leader, a colleague and a friend,” said GAMC Chair Carol Adcock. “We are thrilled with the unanimous vote.”
Valentine’s marching orders in May 2006 were clear, she said. “We set as our values to be collaborative, accountable, responsive and excellent. These are our expectations for how we work together and how we serve the wider church. They have guided us as we have engaged with the church.”
That engagement has paid off, according to denominational research. A Presbyterian Panel poll shortly before her election “reported that 84 percent of Presbyterians surveyed had little or no awareness of PC(USA) mission,” she said.
A recent survey, Valentine told the council, indicates that “we’ve moved the needle! — twice as many members report being informed about the range and scope of PC(USA) mission as they did in 2005.”
Valentine attributed the improvement to a number of GAMC initiatives that she described as “signs of where God is working,” including:
*The Dallas Mission Consultation in January 2008 that created an unprecedented agreement among a variety of Presbyterian mission groups for cooperation and mutual support of each other’s mission efforts;
*Itineration of overseas mission workers in congregations and presbyteries in 2007 and 2009 — Mission Challenge — that reengaged more than 50,000 Presbyterians with PC(USA) missionaries;
*“Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” — a churchwide effort initiated by the GAMC and endorsed by the 2008 General Assembly to foster church growth in the areas of evangelism, discipleship, diversity and servanthood. The upcoming Assembly will be asked to renew the commitment;
*The first-ever Big Tent event last summer in Atlanta, which Valentine said, “brought 1,500 Presbyterians together to worship and learn, to meet and share experience, to be inspired and simply to gather as a great, big, diverse community of faithful brothers and sisters who have been called into this body of Christ … and satisfied a great yearning to be connected, to be community, to be in relationship with one another.”
“These are all hopeful signs of a vibrant, connected denomination,” Valentine said, “a great, inviting, encouraging community of faith where God is indeed working miracles, where the Gospel is preached and lived out in so many ways.”
For her second term, Valentine said she envisions:
- A vibrant and connected church in which each part does what it does best to build up the body of Christ for its service to God;
- The Presbyterian Church joins together in mission, to meet the deep needs of a changing world;
- The GAMC, as one member of the body, connects, equips and inspires Presbyterians in collective, transformative witness to Jesus Christ.
“I’m looking forward to what God will do with the council under Linda’s leadership in the coming years,” said Michael W. Kruse, who will become chair of the GAMC at the conclusion of the upcoming General Assembly.
“We have laid important groundwork in these four years — planted many seeds,” Valentine told the council. “I am excited about the next four years, when we will nurture and see those seeds bear fruit.”