Virtual gatherings have become the norm in 2020 and will be the case later this week when moderators, vice moderators, and moderators-elect from synods and presbyteries across the country gather online. For years, the annual Moderators’ Conference has been held in Louisville, just blocks away from the Presbyterian Center. The COVID-19 pandemic forced planners from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to move all their national meetings online for the remainder of the year.
The Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020) of the PC(USA), the Reverend Gregory Bentley and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, are cohosting the event, and both say this is a conference that participants won’t want to miss.
“This year’s event won’t just be about what a moderator does and how meeting time is managed but will focus on this very time of the COVID virus,” said Street-Stewart. “With virtual meetings and community engagement, churches are still trying to figure out their identity as a church in terms of justice. We want this event to really help prepare them for their role in a church for a time such as this.”
“When we think of moderators, we just think of people running the meetings, but we believe there’s much more to get out of that role than just going through an agenda,” said Bentley. “It can move beyond just managing a meeting to leading the body into strategically engaging its mission. You can be intentional on how this agenda connects to the church’s larger mission in the world.”
Bentley and Street-Stewart have spent their entire five months as Co-Moderators holding online events, including being part of panel discussions, preaching for services, and participating in presbytery meetings.
“With technology, moderators are attending meetings and moderating for events that may not have been on the calendar before,” said Street-Stewart. “Technology is introducing new ways to share and record information that can be used anytime.”
Bentley says moderators are trained for efficiency and management. But he hopes this year’s conference will also help move toward effectiveness and leadership.
“The moderator is there to help create the space and facilitate the holy conversations with one another, hear from God, and see how God is moving in our midst,” he said. “The goal is to raise the God-consciousness of the body that we are moderating, to know that we are listening. We want to hear from everyone and hear from God to help fine-tune our vision.”
One of the key elements of this year’s conference will be the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a questionnaire that places participants along a developmental continuum from monocultural to intercultural mindset.
“This assessment identifies our ability to recognize value and increase diversity,” said Street-Stewart. “It’s a helpful tool for corporations, educational institutions, health departments and judicial systems.”
“The capability to shift cultural perspective and adapt behaviors as one encounters both commonalities and differences across culture is important in the growth of a kin-dom mindset in discipleship to Jesus,” said Bentley.
Both Street-Stewart and Bentley say the conference will focus on leading leaders more deeply into the Matthew 25 vision in the midst of COVID-19.
The conference runs Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST and from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday EST.