Testimonials offered for departing PMA executive director Linda Valentine

Colleagues praise Valentine’s leadership, faith and care for the church

June 23, 2015

LOUISVILLE

From Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada, Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014):

Linda Valentine is a committed person of faith who loves the Lord and the PC(USA).

She has given sacrificially of her time and talents to find ways to build up our Mission Agency and to enhance relationships between the various agencies of the denomination and beyond.  Her attempts to work with mid councils have resulted in greater transparency and intentional cooperative efforts than were known in the past.  She has exercised her sense of vision, hope and the need for Christian witness in ways that have led to new programmatic efforts, while being faced with the ongoing challenges of budget cuts and a divided church. 

Linda has sought to find ways to enable the voices of Presbyterians from all theological persuasions to be heard and included as we, together, seek to build this body of Christ called the PC(USA). In my personal experiences with Linda, I have found her to be open to listen and to grow, even when the message was difficult, and then to say, “Thank you for being honest and open with me.  All I want to do is to lift up the Church and make us a stronger body.”  Sometimes the suggestions she has received have contradicted the position she believed should be taken, but she has been willing to move in another direction if that seemed to be a prevailing perspective which she could support without betraying her conscience. Trying to do so with limited staff, decreasing resources, a constituency that is trying to identify itself in new ways, and seeking to integrate solid business practices into a theological framework is an enormous task. Instead of complaining, Linda has said she would do her best to make it work.

Linda leaves us taking the high road, one which is saying that she believes the needs and expectations of the Church are at a different level than they were when she arrived, and she wants to see the very best as we move forward. To do that, she believes she should get out of the way, and allow the Holy Spirit to direct us with different leadership into a new future. Such an action is a witness to and statement of grace, of love, and one for which we should all express our gratitude. 

From the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

Linda has been a very good working partner in ministry. She has been a great cheerleader for all of the ministries of the church, which I have appreciated. She has also been generous in sharing the gifts of her vast experience as a ruling elder in working with complex situations at a very challenging time in the life of the PC(USA).

From the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 1996-2008:

One of my greatest joys during my ministry in the PC(USA) was the experience of sharing in leadership with Linda Valentine when she was Executive Director of the General Assembly Council and I was the Stated Clerk.  It didn’t take me long to know that I was working with an incredibly gifted and caring leader who would make such a positive impact on the ministry of the PC(USA).  I am also grateful that we have continued to be the best friends and colleagues over the years.

Linda is truly a gift from God for the PC(USA) and its ministries.  During her time of leadership in the Presbyterian Mission Agency she has led the church with “energy, intelligence, imagination, and love”—and what a difference it has made!  She has led the church in a time of transition from a corporate model of mission to one centered on networking and brought to prominence such creative ventures as the Young Adult Mission Volunteer program and the 1001 New Worshipping Communities movement. 

Beyond her leadership at the General Assembly Linda is a deeply committed Christian, an active ruling elder in her congregation, and a person of deep compassion and with a strong sense of justice.  I hope people across the PC(USA) and the church ecumenical will join me in giving thanks to God for Linda and in wishing her the very best for the years to come.

From the Rev. Dr. John M. Buchanan, Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996), editor/publisher of The Christian Century, and pastor emeritus of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago:

I’ve known Linda for most of the last 25–30 years as her pastor, and recognized immediately that Linda and [her husband] Chris Valentine were the kind of smart, committed, strong, and courageous leaders that made me always proud to be a Presbyterian.

As a ruling elder and trustee, Linda was a good and faithful officer of Fourth Presbyterian Church. During times of transition she was particularly helpful and insightful. She brings to leadership an amazing combination of gifts and skills. She is intimately acquainted with how big organizations work. She is a quintessential administrator, who, as an attorney, enjoyed a distinguished career in both the corporate and the non-profit world. Linda knows how organizations work and has that vital corporate experience of how people work together as a team and make an organization effectively reach its goals.

When Linda was elected as executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, I was so thrilled. She’s done an incredibly effective job at a very difficult time in the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Everybody knows we’re in a time of transition; nobody knows exactly what the future holds. Those conditions are particularly challenging for church leaders to keep people working together, visioning, and trying to see what the future is while moving toward it. Linda rose to that challenge beautifully.

Linda and Chris have also been extraordinary parents, always finding ways to live a very active life and to keep their attention riveted on the basics of family love.

In all of these ways and so many more, Linda has been a real gift to the PC(USA) and to the entire church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

From the Rev. Dr. Christine Chakoian, pastor/head of staff of First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Illinois: 

It has been my joy to know Ruling Elder Linda Valentine for nearly 30 years. I first got to know her when she served as a vibrant, creative elder in the church I served. I will never forget the faithfulness and enthusiasm she brought to her role as chair of Children’s Education Committee then. It was no easy task, and we needed her strategic vision at a time when everything in urban ministry was changing. Our congregation was truly blessed.

Our PC(USA) Mission Agency has been blessed by that same vibrancy and creativity, that same faithfulness and enthusiasm, that same strategic vision.  During Linda’s tenure at the PMA, she has helped our denomination wrestle with the hard realities of cultural change. As American Protestantism waned, she led us to take an honest look at our capacity. It was sometimes painful to recalibrate and reduce. Yet at the same time, Linda pressed us not to look backwards, but to venture boldly into the new frontier of our post-Christendom, post-denominational landscape. Investment in initiatives like the Young Adult Volunteer Program and 1,001 New Worshiping Communities reflect a faith that trusts that Christ is not finished with us yet. There is more–much more–to do for the world God so loves.

The Rev. Chad Andrew Herring, pastor of John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, and member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board:

Linda has been indefatigable in her love for the church, and for how the Mission Agency can empower all of us to work together to be Christ's hands and feet in the world. I have been grateful for her faithful leadership, her voice calling us all to hope and to serve. I wish her all of God's blessings in her upcoming endeavors. 

Jo Stewart, vice-chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board:

I am grateful for Linda and for her service to the church and the Mission Agency.  She has served with intelligence, passion, grace and integrity, and she will be missed.  I wish her happiness and peace as she moves into this next chapter of her life.  I know that she will continue to lift up and advocate for the work of the Agency, and for the work of Christ in the World.

Rev. Joanna M. Adams, Atlanta, Georgia

What an incredible blessing Linda Valentine has been to the PC(USA) as well as the church around the world. She brought to her important post a deep faith, a keen mind, a winsome human spirit, and impeccable character. All of which have demonstrated time and time again across the years. I can’t imagine what we would have done without her and her great good sense.  

Linda is the real deal. How we will miss her. How grateful we are for all she has done to further the cause of Christ at a time of extreme challenge and opportunity.

Rev. Tom Dykhuizen, Presbytery of Los Ranchos

I’m writing this as an outsider. Before meeting Linda I had never been to Louisville, didn’t know what PMA meant and was skeptical that when it came to the PC(USA) that anyone could ever get the “elephant” to dance again. 

It was a big surprise, then, when Linda invited me to join her on a project. Despite some initial doubts, I was impressed when I first met her in person. There was an openness and vitality to her. 

Now, she’s leaving. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to get to know Linda, let me share some of my personal observations after two years of collaboration. 

Humility. Linda is down to earth and approachable. She doesn’t put on airs (though she’s been known to rub elbows with royalty.) She’s the rare leader who actively listens.  

When she boasts, it is about the people and programs, never about herself. More than once she has related a story to me about something wonderful that was happening in mission, her eyes sparkling as if sharing photos of her family with a friend at a church picnic, especially when it came to showing off 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Young Adult Volunteers, or Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. All are her children but these three are her babies. They make her proud. 

Integrity. Linda is trustworthy. There is no guile in the woman, no hidden agenda. She recruits the best and the brightest, regardless of “tribal affiliation” (the diversity in our denomination), and sets them to work. Whatever decisions have been made, I’m confidant she has had the best interests of the Church in mind. 

When it comes to her faith, she may be modest in expressing it, but she loves Christ. Having worshiped with her at her church, I’ve heard the enthusiasm in her voice as she sang a favorite hymn. The woman genuinely praises God. 

Joy. Linda is fun. Whether it’s hoofing it at a flash mob or lip-synching to Les Miserables, Linda is a ready participant. She wants in on the party because life is to be enjoyed, particularly with her co-workers. She laughs easily. 

I was there as a GA commissioner last summer when the red balls came out, the band performed and everyone stood up to play. It was for just a moment but a telling one. “There’s a future here,” I thought. “She’s making a believer out of me.” 

So I’m smiling today. Yet, if I’m honest, I’m smiling through some tears. There’s a sadness to all this. This song is over too early for me. We’re losing a good one.

Is the elephant dancing? Not yet. Surely, not yet. But from time to time, I find myself tapping my foot.

Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

One of the things I will remember best about Linda Valentine's leadership is her immense and contagious enthusiasm for the mission of the PC(USA). She has been a compelling spokesperson for the work so many people are doing all around the country and across the world in response to the good news of the gospel. In the midst of all the struggles we have faced as a denomination, Linda always urged us to keep our eyes on the higher calling and the broader vision, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Gene March, member of Highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

Linda has done so much for so many that it is difficult to adequately thank her! Personally speaking, Lynn and I have enjoyed our direct contact with her and Chris. From honey to The Mighty Acts of God we have been blessed by their presence. Their smiling faces light up the fellowship hall at Highland whenever they enter.

Linda's leadership in worship has been deeply appreciated. Her commitment to the wider church is energizing. I always find her comments about the difficult issues we face to be instructive and hopeful without being unrealistic. Her discipleship is clear and deep, and I honor and treasure Linda as a friend and companion on the Way.

I have been told that she may stay in Louisville. I hope that is true! Much love and deep appreciation.

Rev. Matthew Schramm, former chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (2012-2014), pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Bay City, Michigan

In placing Linda's name before the 221st GA for confirmation as the PMA Executive Director, I told the Assembly that "Linda’s integrity, intelligence, strategic leadership, humility, willingness to learn and grow, and boundless energy are gifts to the Presbyterian Church." I will say the same now as I did then with perhaps even more conviction. 

Linda has been able to lead and navigate a changing church with grace and responsiveness. Though she encounters on a daily basis the global impact of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, she maintains a heart for the local church, even serving on the Session at her congregation as recently as 2013. She demonstrates a deep desire for the work of the national church to connect to congregations and middle governing bodies, emphasizing collegiality and relationship building amongst all who serve the church in its many forms. Linda has worked diligently with leaders of the other five GA agencies to collaborate (and even consolidate) whenever possible; and, as she leaves, these relationships have never been stronger.

Despite the weight of difficult decision-making, Linda has been able to see the PMA through major change in the past nine years - funding and staff reductions being the most notable. Guiding the organization toward a future marked by compassionate and prophetic discipleship, she has been accessible and gracious no matter the circumstance.  

As with so many who staff the national church in Louisville and elsewhere, Linda is a blessing to the PC(USA). To know her and learn from her has been one of the greatest pleasures of my service to the church and I wish her the best of God’s blessings as she follows God’s call. 

Rev. Corey Schlosser-Hall, Presbytery of Northwest Coast 

I am thankful for Linda's leadership of PMA over the last ten years. What a profound commitment she has made to share a decade of her life and ministry with the whole church. 

I'm grateful for the way she has steered the agency to be more responsive to the broader church, to be more innovative, and to recruit and bring people on board who could also do that. I'm also grateful for Linda's support of me and the Presbytery I serve. 

While disappointed she will be resigning, I'm also profoundly grateful for our colleagueship, friendship and the opportunities to work together on several occasions.  

I pray that God will show Linda and Chris a fulfilling, engaging next chapter of life and ministry for their remarkable abilities.

Karen L. Schmidt, executive director, College of Lake County Foundation and former deputy executive director of Communications and Funds Development for the Presbyterian Mission Agency

My testimonial about Linda Valentine’s leadership comes from someone who worked for her for nearly six years at the Presbyterian Mission agency. One of the measures of great leaders and executives is, did the people reporting to her grow professionally and move on to more senior level positions? For me the answer is yes. I am now in a CEO/Executive Director role. Every day, I say a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to have worked for Linda Valentine. I learned and grew. Many times, as an Executive Director of a non-profit foundation working with a board and various constituencies, I ask myself what would Linda do. As a leader, Linda is affirmed for her many positive attributes, I also affirm her for her grace. She is a graceful and grace filled leader. Linda is the first to reach across the aisle with an open hand of welcome and inclusion to build bridges. 

While many affirm Linda Valentine for her longevity as Executive Director of Presbyterian Mission, I affirm her for her accomplishments which number in the thousands. Leading a complex legal and financial non-profit organization during tumultuous changing times where centralized mission funding is an anachronism, while bringing to the organization transparency, accountability, and sustainability, and when various constituencies are in conflict, takes seasoned, proven executive and leadership talent. Linda Valentine is that seasoned, proven executive and leader who leads with a steady and confident hand.

God is calling Linda Valentine to put down the leadership mantle at Presbyterian Mission to respond to his next call. And I betcha is he is smiling with pure joy and saying, “Well done thou good and faithful servant now just wait till you see what’s next for you.” Linda Valentine personifies grace, courage, intelligence, thoughtfulness, integrity, stamina, persistence, creativity, forgiveness, patience, commitment, and love. 

As a leadership example, Linda Valentine is the wind beneath my wings.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I want to add my voice to those giving thanks to God for Linda Valentine’s leadership of the PC(USA) for the last decade. Linda was a breath of fresh air, coming from outside the traditional ecclesiastical structures. She was a wise, committed, and capable Presbyterian elder who came into the PC(USA) at the highest level and assumed her role seamlessly. She represents the best in the tradition of ruling elders who are gifted and called by God to serve the church. I worked closely with Linda during her tenure, mostly in finding creative ways to fund global mission. She was always responsive to me and to the church I serve, Westminster, Minneapolis. She flew into town to meet with our leaders and prospective supporters on multiple occasions. She was tireless in her advocacy for the church’s mission, always gracious, always willing to be innovative in finding new ways to do the work of the church. We are a better Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today for Linda’s leadership. I am grateful!