Pastoral Letter to the Presbytery of Philadelphia

Dear Brothers and Sisters on the Journey,

Grace and peace I bring you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Late yesterday afternoon, we received significant news from Ruling Elder Linda Valentine, Executive Director of our Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). In that email and subsequent video, Linda shared that she is stepping down from her position, effective July 10, 2015. This resignation comes after almost a year of concerns and allegations regarding actions of leadership at the PMA. We receive this news with a sense of sadness related to the circumstances that have deflected energy from the ministry and mission of which we are a part. You can hear Linda’s announcement here:

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For those who may not know, the PMA is the ministry and mission arm of our denomination. Over the past nine years, in large part to Linda’s leadership and vision, our denomination has worked to reclaim ministries of church growth, evangelism, service ministries through the mission field, Presbyterian Disaster assistance, Young Adult Volunteers – as well as creating a more relevant presence in Washington, DC. I personally have been excited about this direction – I was heart-warmed to talk about ministry more than governance. The other arms (or agencies) of our denomination are the Office of General Assembly, Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Board of Pensions – each with their own mandate and priority on our behalf.

Although Linda was not directly linked to any of the allegations at PMA, it is clear that those allegations have become a dark cloud over our denominational leadership – representing a breach of trust that is already fragile when it comes to all-things-institutional. This breach of trust has weighed heavily on many, causing unrest in many corners of our church. To make matters even more complex, social media was used to share that unrest -– humbly reminding us of the gift and challenge of electronic communication.

Whatever your thoughts might be about our denominational relationships, this is a time for us to rally as a people of faith. I invite us into a time of prayer for our national church. I ask for your prayers on behalf of Linda and her family as she begins a new season. I am grateful for her nine years of service and wish her God’s speed. I ask for your prayers for the leadership of our denomination – the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and all the staff – as they discern what the next steps might be for future leadership of the PMA.

Finally, I ask for your prayers for the Church of Jesus Christ as expressed in our denomination as we embark on a season that can be described as one of wilderness wanderings. I am, however, reminded that the wilderness is not a place we go to die. Instead it is a place from which we depart – reformed and reshaped for a new season of service. This was true for the children of Israel. This was true for the ministry of Jesus. So I leave you with the words of the Old Testament – “may we be a bold and courageous people, assured the Lord our God is with us wherever we go” (Joshua 1:9).

Blessings and Peace,

Ruth Santana-Grace

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