For the second year in a row, the annual Moderators’ Conference is being held online. More than 140 moderators, vice-moderators, and moderators-elect from synods and presbyteries across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are spending Friday and Saturday taking part in online worship and training. The theme for the conference is “And you shall be my witnesses: Cultivating Mission-Minded Leadership.”
The Co-Moderators of the 225th General Assembly of the PC(USA), Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart and the Rev. Gregory Bentley, are hosting virtually again and opened the virtual conference Thursday night.
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), offered words of welcome and addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the church during this time of pandemic.
“I believe we can be a turnaround denomination. We are setting the example for other denominations,” Nelson said. “We have to have vision of what it means to be a growing church, open to young people, new ideas and possibilities.”
In a pre-taped message, Nelson spoke from the chapel at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, which will be the site of the 225th General Assembly committee meetings next summer. He shared his new commitment to work with the city to address its many community needs.
“We weren’t engaged in the city and we are now invited to sit at the table to discuss issues facing this community like the aftermath of the Breonna Taylor shooting and the struggles around our public schools,” he said.
Nelson also addressed the decision to move the church headquarters to Louisville in June 1987.
“It wasn’t just the economy that brought us to Louisville. Their intent was not just having a headquarters here, but to take the opportunity to have a theological grounding for a liberal denomination,” said Nelson. “We are engaging this city not because we are seeking something from them. The city is seeking something from us. We want to be a better church, to end and eradicate racism and help people to learn to love the otherness of the other. That was the vision of leaders in this city.”
The Stated Clerk praised church leaders across the denomination for remaining strong during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first session, participants took part in several breakout groups to get acquainted and learn about the challenges across the country. Street-Stewart and Bentley shared some of what they heard with the larger group at the end of the evening.
“It’s been a difficult year for churches, whether you are a part of the congregation, mid councils or leadership. It’s been tough and the term ‘bruised and battered’ comes to mind,” said Street-Stewart. “It’s also amazing how many people are walking with each other during this time, not wanting to go through this alone.”
“I’m sensing a real vibrant spirit flowing through these conversations. I’m sensing a can do, want to, and will do spirit,” said Bentley. “There will always be weaknesses and threats, but I sense this group wants to amplify and intensify our strengths and opportunities. We have leaders in church who want to press on. We are grieving but have not been immobilized and paralyzed.”
Conference trainings and workshops for Friday and Saturday will cover:
- Role of the Moderator
- Conflict and the Constitution
- Intercultural Development Inventory theory
- Implicit Bias
- Parliamentary Procedure and other Decision-making Processes
- Moderator as a Spiritual Leader
The conference concludes Saturday evening with closing worship and a conversation with Street-Stewart and Bentley.