By Ed Thompson

We have a great opportunity at the February 16 Presbytery meeting. Not only do we get to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of Kanawha United Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church, Charleston, but we will also have the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson (pictured) with us at this meeting. He will be offering his perspectives on the “State of the Church” as well as preaching during worship.

Rev. Nelson is the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly and was elected to that position at the 222nd General Assembly in 2016. As it says here, “The son, grandson, and nephew of Presbyterian pastors, he is the first African American to lead our denomination, which has a 300-year history in the U.S. As Stated Clerk his duties include interpreting assembly actions, representing the church on various denominational and ecumenical councils, witnessing on behalf of the church to social justice issues, and making statements as directed by an assembly.”

I have heard J. Herbert Nelson speak several times, and I have always been impressed by what he’s had to say. I also think he’s one of the best preachers I have ever heard. I encourage you to come to this meeting and to bring people from your congregation, even if they can only stay for the morning.  It will be time well spent. Very seldom do we have the chance for the Stated Clerk, one of the leaders of our church, to be with us. That’s happening February 16.

In the afternoon, we‘ll get to vote on amendments to the Book of Order coming out of last summer’s General Assembly meeting. While they are important, to be honest, they don’t bring the same type or perhaps the same level of change as some of the constitutional amendments we have voted on in recent years. I encourage you to read over them before the meeting and to see what you think. While there will be opportunity on the floor to raise questions, we’re also planning to set aside an area at lunch where you will have time ask questions as well. I also understand that we’re planning a video explaining some of the background behind and the issues addressed by these proposed amendments, so be on the lookout for that next week.

Also in the afternoon, we’ll have the second reading of our revised manual. The first reading took place at what ended up as the December 2018 presbytery meeting. Based on comments the Leadership Team received, they approved some changes to the revised manual. Those changes are highlighted in the version of the manual that’s a part of the packet for this meeting.

Let me lift up four of them. 1) There’s a clarification of who would be a temporary member of the presbytery. 2) There a change in the number of ministers and churches that are represented that would be required for a quorum. The number of ministers and the number of churches would be dropped from 20% to 15% for a stated meeting of the presbytery and it would be dropped from 15% to 10% for a called meeting of the presbytery. (Both of these first two changes are related in that they represent different ways of dealing with the problem that we frequently face of having enough people present to have a quorum at our meetings.) 3) Places the oversight of the Leadership Development Coordinating Team with the Nurture Committee, and 4) Places the oversight for the training of ruling elders to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and their annual reports with the Vocations Committee.

With the second reading, there will opportunity for amendments from the floor before the revised manual is approved. Please take the time to read through this, even if you have read through it before, so that you can know what you’re voting on.

Finally, let me encourage you to also attend Big Tent 2019. It’s being held in Baltimore on August 1-3. Big Tent has been called a Presbyterian family reunion. It’s an opportunity “to engage in hands-on learning opportunities, Bible studies, and worship with Presbyterians from across the country.”   I’ve been to four of these biannual events now, and I’m planning to go again this year. Both the February 16 Presbytery meeting and Big Tent 2019 can help you grow in your understanding of, as well as grow in, your appreciation of what it means to be Presbyterian. I hope to see you at both of these events.