The morning of Oct. 10, the Association of Mid Council Leaders (AMCL) kicked off its annual meeting with a plenary session lead by Laurie J. Ferguson, a Presbyterian minister, clinical psychologist and leadership coach. The mid council meeting is one track of the concurrent Polity Conference meetings taking place Oct. 7-12 in Portland, Oregon. The discussion focused on “reality mapping” – finding common threads in what’s happening on the ground in the presbyteries and synods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Participants were asked to identify the most confusing or complex issues they have encountered in the past six months. Some prominent themes included:
- Camp issues;
- Difficult pastoral transitions;
- Systems that don’t know what they want from their leaders;
- Lack of clear Presbyterian identity;
- Complaints that the “presbytery isn’t doing anything for us”;
- Defending decisions being made at the denomination’s national offices in Louisville to the local church.
Presbytery and synod leaders were then asked to share what feeds their ministries and their souls. Many agreed that their colleagues were critical in giving them hope. Steve Benz, transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of St. Augustine, said that all of the items identified as complex were feeding him. “I think God has put me in a position to have an impact on all of this,” he said.
Ferguson stressed the AMCL role as being that of storyteller. “We are as hungry for good stories as we are for bread.” Without storytellers, she said, people might miss that Jesus just fed thousands of people. She encouraged participants to think about stories being heard about the church. She closed by asking, “What if the stories we tell become the stories we live?”