I never would have imagined in my younger years of ministry that I would spend over 5 years serving in mid-council ministry. Of course, in my younger years of life, I would have never imagined that I would be in ministry at all!! God speaks and works in strange and mysterious ways through people, places, and events in our lives.
I grew up as the son of a Presbyterian minister who spent 24 years of his life as a member of the Presbytery of Arkansas. As a result, I feel “at home” in the Forrest City and Bella Vista congregations where he served. I have spent all my nearly 26 ordained years of ministry in the Presbytery of Arkansas as well. As a result, I feel “at home” in the 1st- Fort Smith and Springdale congregations where I served for a combined 21 years. And over the last 5 years, this position has allowed me to feel “at home” at so many congregations across the presbytery.
After I served as Moderator of the Presbytery in 2007, a colleague suggested to me that I had the gifts for mid-council ministry. I thanked the colleague but didn’t give it much thought. Right before Bill Galbraith’s retirement announcement became public in 2015, another colleague in the presbytery suggested the same thought. After the presbytery meeting when the announcement was made, the colleague said, “Now you know why I said that I think you should apply when the position becomes vacant.” With hesitation and apprehension, I applied at the last moment and to my surprise was elected as the General Presbyter.
It is good that General is in the title because this position deals with a wide assortment of issues. It requires me to be a “generalist” in so many ways. The position has duties both within the presbytery and beyond with responsibilities on the Synod and General Assembly level plus responsibilities with covenant partners or organizations closely related to the presbytery. Within the presbytery during “non-covid” times, I try to worship in a different congregation around the presbytery on a weekly basis. This position requires keeping an eye on the “big picture” in relation to the committee work and structure of the presbytery but also on what is happening in the challenging landscape of the church at large.
I never know what question or issue might present itself at the start of the day. I could be asked to “pinch hit” for a session meeting or worship service – particularly with churches without pastoral leadership. I could be asked for advice on a dispute between session members or between session members and a pastor. I could be asked to give advice on finding creative options for pastoral leadership when congregations do not have the resources to call a pastor. I deal with questions that range from boundary and deed issues from church property to questions on how to trim a church’s budget when revenues drop suddenly. I thought I had learned multi-tasking skills when serving in congregational ministry, but I find that I am juggling far more tasks on a weekly basis serving in mid-council leadership.
When I am not working, I enjoy cooking (especially smoking meat), jogging, and watching whatever sport is in season for the Arkansas Razorbacks and, if time allows, a round of golf. I am grateful that my wife Laura has successfully completed treatments for breast cancer and is now officially “cancer free”!! We have two adult sons, Ryan who lives in Springdale, and Alex who lives in Austin, TX and we look forward to visits to them and from them and our “grand dogs” whenever they occur!!