DETROIT – “I can’t wait to see what happens next,” declared Linda Valentine after being unanimously re-elected to serve as executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She will begin her third four-year term after Saturday’s adjournment of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Valentine was presented by the Mission Coordination Committee to the commissioners after that committee affirmed the her nomination by the PMA board in its meeting this past April.
Speaking for the Presbyterian Mission Advisory Board, past moderator Matthew Schramm presented her to the assembly as an executive who “has been able to lead and navigate the church through a changing world.” He summarized her leadership style as one that has “emphasized developing relationships on all levels of the church.” He reminded the assembly that, the PMAB’s relationship with the other five denomination agencies, “as never been better.” In fact, many of those relationships were notoriously strained for years prior to reconciliation efforts that reached major breakthroughs in her second, now completed, term.
In her acceptance speech, she reminded the commissioners, “Jesus calls us to care deeply about the world that God so loves. And that’s why awe endeavor to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”
Referencing Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, she said that “God renews the church from the edges.” While she acknowledged that the church has great power in its tradition, its heritage and power, the church that keeps looking inward or even backward, it needs to get a tap on shoulder that will make it look around, and look ahead.
She highlighted some signs of that kind of renewal going on in and through the denomination. The launch of nearly 250 new worshipping communities in the past two years (on pace to exceed a 10-year goal of 1,001 in by 2022), “reaching people who would never have come through the doors into our churches” and half of whom are racial ethnic so that “after years of setting goals for racial ethnic balance, now it is happening,” she declared.
She elevated the success of the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program that is celebrating 20 years of service. She spoke particularly about her own daughter, Christie. After serving with immigrants as a YAV in San Antonio, she has felt the call of God to help people from other countries who are desperate to start a new life. “She now is a refugee officer for the U.S. and next month will begin her first assignment in Ethiopia.”
She added that one-third of the YAV volunteers have enrolled in seminary.
She also outlined efforts of the denomination’s missionaries now coordinating and converging and coordinating their efforts to feed the hungry, especially by providing the kind of education around the world that is key to helping others elevate provide for their nutritional needs. “We will come together in a common effort to provide a quality education for one million children, from South Sudan to South Los Angeles.” And, she added, “We will be transformed ourselves as we do.”
“I can’t wait to see what happens next,” she concluded.