Dear North Creek Presbyterian Church Family -
In a traditional transitional period, time is given to exploration and self-understanding, along with the development of a mission statement or vision for future ministry. This all happens before staffing is addressed. However, we find ourselves in unusual times. The church is walking through a pastoral transition in the midst of a global pandemic and political turmoil. We have faced loss upon loss. There is naturally some eagerness to move forward quickly.
I have worked with the Commission on Ministry (COM) and staff of the Northwest Coast Presbytery to clearly lay out a pathway for having healthy conversations about pastoral staff. This is a complex matter, and while some may have clearly formed opinions, our polity, our ordination vows, and our faith require that our process of discerning a pastoral call involves time and space for us to hear from one another and to hear from God together. This document outlines a process that creates space, but also will move us through some significant decisions without delay.
I want to specifically address the question of Pastor Kurt’s future with NCPC. Our polity allows for some flexibility within specific situations. There are some at North Creek who want a full pastoral search. Others desire to see Pastor Kurt become either the transitional or installed pastor, or both. For some, that is an expression of appreciation for Pastor Kurt’s long and meaningful ministry at NCPC. It may also be the most painless solution or feel stabilizing in this time of global crisis. It would also be expedient....why spend all of this time on discernment, and prolong uncertainty, when the "obvious" solution is before us? And yet there are cautions and pitfalls associated with this kind of succession.
Our Constitution requires a pastoral call to be discerned together. Pastoral Leadership of a congregation, whether transitional or installed is discerned together between Pastoral Leaders, session, congregation and NWC Presbytery (through the COM), each playing a particular role in the process. In addition, our Constitution requires a 3/4th majority vote of Presbytery for either a temporary pastor or an associate pastor becoming the installed pastor. This is an extraordinary requirement, outside the normal call process. The framers of our constitution specifically addressed this type of call transition with a required supermajority vote in order to avoid conflict between staff members, avoid conflict in the congregation as a pastor leaves where some may want the Associate to take over while others may not, and to avoid congregations doing the easy thing when going through a search process would be a healthier choice.
During the next several weeks, Pastor Kurt and I will continue to be engaged in conversation with COM, with the Session, and then with the congregation about these matters. You will see in this document that we will have an open conversation about staffing at our Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 31. There will be a follow up conversation about our next steps in this process in mid-February.
Our congregational life is built on the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, calling us to be his body – a community of faith in the world. We are led by the call to love God, love our neighbors, live in unity of Spirit, and to be led by God’s Spirit in all matters. Friends, we don’t want to get out ahead of God’s Spirit. We will listen well to each other and listen for God’s leading together. In the end, we may not all agree but we will trust that God has led us in the process. Please join me in praying that this will be so. That this will be a moment that brings healing and unity in the body of Christ at North Creek Presbyterian Church.
In His service,
Pastor Heather James