Minutes in Brief, November 17, 2015


Gratitude was the over-arching theme of the November 17th stated meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. As commissioners and visitors gathered at Wayne Presbyterian Church, there definitely was much for which to be thankful.

A pre-presbytery discussion on Race, Bias, and Privilege made use of the gift of our diversity as the Presbytery launched an exploration of these issues that will continue through 2016.

As Moderator Mike Henry (Ruling Elder, Valley Forge) called the meeting to order at 3:00 pm, he framed the business of the day in terms of the good news it represented in the life of the Presbytery. We were welcomed to Wayne by their pastor, Casey Thompson (Teaching Elder). This was followed by the approval of the docket and consent agenda that included the Presbytery’s 2014 statistical report, 2015 Committee on Representation Report, and 2016 Redress of Imbalance Report (listing the number of ruling elder commissioners each congregation may send to meetings).

The report of the Committee on Nominations (CON) was given by its moderator, Jesse Garner (Teaching Elder; Philadelphia, First). In addition to the slate of Presbytery commission and committee members, CON brought forth Teaching Elders Bill Teague (Langhorne) and T. Janel Dixon (Cedar Park) to serve in 2016 as Moderator and Vice-Moderator respectively, and the nominees for our General Assembly commissioners and young adult advisory delegate. All nominees were elected.

The Commission on Financial Management’s moderator, George Rendell (Ruling Elder, Concord Liberty), and budget committee chair Elaine McCray (Ruling Elder, Holy Trinity-Bethlehem) interpreted and presented the Presbytery’s 2016 budget. Commissioners responded by approving the budget (including 2016 per capita).

Candidate Taylor Telford’s examination for ordination was the centerpiece of the Commission on Preparation and Credentials (CPC) report (presented by Teaching Elder Ken Ross, Member at Large, CPC moderator). The vigorous examination soon transitioned into a time of celebration as the Presbytery sustained her examination (i.e, approved for ordination), clearing the way for Ms. Telford to be ordained to the validated ministry (through the 1001 Worshipping Communities Residency program) at the Beacon New Church Development.

The celebration continued as the Presbytery approved Beacon as the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s first newly-chartered congregation in seventeen years! Co-pastors Rebecca Blake and Karen Rohrer shared the story of Beacon’s birth, ministries, and vision as part of the Leadership Collegium’s report, with the Commission on Congregation and Leadership’s moderator Bill Young (Ruling Elder; Germantown, First) and Beacon’s Administrative Commission chair Sandy Hull (Teaching Elder; Grace, Jenkintown) representing the entities responsible for walking alongside Beacon on behalf of the Presbytery.

Teaching Elder Carter Lester (Pottstown, First) next took to the microphone to present the good news of Kirkwood Camping Ministry’s completion of its first season as a joint ministry of Philadelphia and Lehigh Presbyteries. This was followed by the report of the Administrative Commission (AC) formed in response to the request of the Warminster and Willow Grove, First congregations to pursue a merger of their congregations.
Teaching Elder Jack Norrie (Honorably Retired), chair of the AC, reviewed the process the AC undertook, leading to the presentation of the motion that the two congregations be merged, creating the First Presbyterian Church of Warminster. After approving the merger, the pastors, AC members, and the congregants of the churches involved came to the front of the sanctuary as the Presbytery surrounded them in prayer, using a litany celebrating their faithfulness in responding to God’s calling them into this new thing.
Executive Presbyter Ruth Faith Santana-Grace and Associate Presbyter Greg Klimovitz (both Teaching Elders) expanded on the “new thing” theme in their report as they highlighted “What’s Trending” in the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The final presentation of the business portion of the meeting was given by keynoter and President of Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Craig Barnes (Teaching Elder, Pittsburgh Presbytery). His reflections on both the toxic and healthy attributes of church leaders and the ways in which they affect the greater church were at once thought-provoking, humorous, challenging, and engaging.

Dr. Barnes was also the preacher of the evening as the Presbytery worshipped together. His message, “Is Anything Too Wonderful for the Lord?,” based on the preposterous promise of parenthood God gave to the geriatric Abraham and Sarah as related in Genesis 17:1-5, 15-18, was echoed in Taylor Telford’s poignant musical offerings of solo voice and guitar. The Presbytery responded in several affirmations, including the ordination of the first ruling elders of the newly-charted Beacon Church, the singing of hymns of thanksgiving, and the collection of $1,155.12 to go to scholarships for inquirers and candidates under care of our Presbytery attending seminary.

The 258 commissioners and visitors in attendance, adjourned after receiving the charge from outgoing Commission on Congregations and Leadership moderator Bill Young, the blessing from Dr. Barnes, and a final word of gratitude for the covenant community we share as the Presbytery of Philadelphia. Following worship, all were invited to a dinner prepared and hosted by our gracious hosts, Wayne Presbyterian Church.

The next stated meeting of the Presbytery will be Tuesday, January 19, 2016 from  11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Our gathering will include a pre-presbytery conversation, lunch and worship with installation of new officers, the celebration of the saints and other aspects of our connectional life as a presbytery.