Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Presbyterian Mission Agency Board says goodbye to a dozen of its own

Departing board members are given crosses and pens and showered with tears and kind words

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Departing Presbyterian Mission Agency Board members honored Friday included, from top left, Bong Bringas, Ken Godshall, Warren Lesane Jr., Kathy Mauer, James Parks, Yvette Noble-Bloomfield, Brenton Thompson, Judy Wellington and Tamara Williams. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board took care of a bit of business Friday. But mostly board members stuck to the important business of telling those members rotating off the board after years of faithful and sometimes difficult service how much their hard work has meant to the Agency, the Church and God’s kin-dom.

“I find myself tearing up,” the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, PMA’s president and executive director, told the departing board members: Board Chair the Rev.  Warren Lesane Jr. and members Bong Bringas, the Rev. Ken Godshall, James Parks, Patsy Smith, the Rev. Brenton Thompson, Tamara Williams, the Rev. Nicholas Yoda, Cinthia Hernandez-Diaz, Kathy Maurer, the Rev. Judith Wellington and the Rev. Dr. Flo Barbee-Watkins, as well as the Rev. Yvette Noble-Bloomfield, the board’s ecumenical partner.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“You have prayed us through some difficult times,” Moffett told them. “We are better because of the time you have served … I want to offer you my tears and my words. I will truly miss you.”

“I wish everyone could know what I know about this board — its breadth and its talent, and the talent of the staff,” said Wellington. “For me this has been a very encouraging place to be. I needed to be reminded about who we are.”

“When I first went on the board, I wanted to TP the house” of the person who nominated her, Maurer said. “I’m so grateful for this journey.”

Robina [WInbush] was a friend of mine for years,” Noble-Bloomfield said. “When she asked the church to send me, I had to read a lot so I could understand your work and your ministry … The three pillars of Matthew 25 have rocked your Church, and I pray they will continue to rock your Church … Thank you for welcoming me and for allowing me to be a Caribbean woman in your midst.”

“I’m excited where God is calling you to move into the future,” Williams said. “I will continue to pray we will be busting at the seams to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“A good friend used to always say, ‘The church may not save the world, but church people will,’” Parks said. “It’s been my pleasure to serve on this board and on the [Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program] board.”

“I may not have known what I was getting myself into,” Thompson said, “but I appreciate having had a spot at the table … I’ll be watching from the sidelines.”

Before saying goodbye, the board installed the Revs. Shannan Vance-Ocampo and Michelle Hwang as co-chairs for the next two years. The two begin their new roles upon the completion of the 225th General Assembly in July.

The board approved a plan to restructure itself. The adopted plan includes switching to the co-chair model, reconfiguring committees into two permanent committees (Coordinating and Administrative) and two flexible committees (for the time being, Matthew 25 and Vision Implementation) and limiting the number of board members to serve on other boards related to the PC(USA).

Also approved was the report of the Personnel and Nominating Committee, which had been tabled on Thursday.

Greetings from the Co-Moderator

When he’s not fulfilling his duties as Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly, the Rev. Gregory Bentley is busy being the pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Bentley told the board Friday that he’d recently been three hours south of where he lives, visiting Lowndes County around Montgomery for the renaming of a 22-mile stretch of Highway 80 to honor an organizer for the local chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Bentley lifted up for the board important legal cases originating in that part of Alabama, including White v. Crook, which opened the jury selection process during the mid-1960s to include people of color and white women.

Sarah B. Logan, who was also from Lowndes County, helped hr fellow educators to change the state’s tenure laws. Before her case in the late 1960s, “teachers could be fired willy-nilly,” Bentley said. “She took Alabama to court and put protections in place that teachers enjoy now.”

The Rev. Gregory Bentley is Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly. (Photo by Randy Hobson)

“These people were deeply rooted in their faith. They did it as a witness for the love and justice of Jesus Christ,” Bentley said. “They called themselves freedom fighters because they fought for the freedom of all oppressed people.”

In the same way, “that’s what congregational vitality should look like — people invested and involved in the well-being of society. It’s not a holy huddle. It’s the church spilling out into the community.”

“We can’t say we will just work on congregational vitality,” Bentley said of the first of thee foci that are part of the Matthew 25 invitation. “If you are vital, you can’t help but be involved in the other two. It’s like the fruit of the Spirit. Paul calls them ‘fruit,’ not ‘fruits.’ You can’t have one without the other. They spring from the same root.”

“It is my hope and prayer we would keep the faith,” Bentley told board members. The work that Matthew 25 requires “is a mighty work, a necessary work, a monumental work. It’s work that has the potential to lead us into flourishing and thriving we have never seen before.”

Opening devotion

The Rev. Rosemary Mitchell, who has announced she plans to retire June 30 as senior director of Mission Engagement & Support, led the board through a memorable and nostalgic devotion based on The Byrds’ 1965 hit, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The  song, a protest of the Vietnam War, was penned by Pete Seeger, who borrowed most of the lyrics from Qohelet, “the preacher,” the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes.

The Rev. Rosemary Mitchell is senior director of Mission Engagement and Support for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Mitchell recalled being 13 and asking her grandfather whether the lyrics for this catchy song indeed came from the Bible. “My grandfather was a farmer, philosopher and Bible scholar. Who better to ask?” Mitchell said. Seated in his Chevy as he his granddaughter to school, the farmer and scholar recited the passage verbatim.

“At that moment my eyes were opened to the glimmer of a possibility that the Bible might be much more way cool than I had previously allowed,” Mitchell said. She called the song “a marking point in my faith journey.”

The PMA has taken on “evolve” as its theme for 2022. “I appreciate that good things take time,” Mitchell said. “That’s how I understand faith development. We have marking points along the way if we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the wisdom to understand.”

Ecclesiastes is part of the Bible’s wisdom literature, which Mitchell defined as “the quest for the meaning of life. It’s not a book of rules or a set of guidelines. Ecclesiastes is a wisdom list, calling attention to life’s marking points.”

Wisdom, Mitchell said, is of course a gift of God. “It’s part of God’s creative process,” and it’s given a feminine personification, Sophia, in the Hebrew Bible. In John’s gospel, wisdom exists with God from the beginning. “Jesus Christ is the full expression of the wisdom of God,” Mitchell said. “Jesus Christ is our wisdom, our Sophia. He taught as a sage.”

It’s our job, she said, “to make responsible choices as people whom God trusts with freedom to make wise or foolish decisions.”

“There are times, seasons, and marking points in our lives to help us grow in grace and wisdom,” Mitchell said. “The wise person knows there are ebbs and flows in life. There’s never any doubt God is with us.”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.