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Supporting role of the Associate Presbyter is focus for church-wide gathering

Jun 14, 2007
Associate Executive Presbyters from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination will gather June 18-20 at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for a church-wide meeting, the first of its kind in recent history. Sometimes referred to as Associate General Presbyters, this group of about 130 religious leaders serves in a variety of ministerial roles in presbyteries across the nation. Yet, they have not had formal opportunities to connect with and learn from each other.

“They hope to form a national association of Associates for mutual support and continuing education,” said David Sawyer, who is helping to organize the event. Sawyer is Professor of Ministry and Director of Lifelong Learning and Advanced Degrees at Louisville Seminary.

“The Executive Presbyters have had such an association (Association of Executive Presbyters, AEPs) for many years. Having served as an associate executive myself in the past, I have a special feeling for this group and understand how coming together on a regular basis can benefit this unique ministerial role and the church in general,” he said.

Sawyer will also provide the continuing education for the event by leading practical theology exercises in discerning what God is doing in the church and how an individual or group can move from reactive leadership to transformational leadership, joining God’s transforming and redemptive power. Time for reflecting on the unique, supporting role of the associate will be offered throughout the program.

Many of the 173 presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are served by a single executive staff person, the Executive Presbyter. Mid-sized presbyteries might have one Associate Executive Presbyter, who serves as a generalist, sharing the leadership and administrative duties of the presbytery with the Executive or General Presbyter, such as staffing committees, planning programs, and visiting and counseling with churches and pastors. Larger, urban presbyteries such as those around Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, or Dallas, have several associates who hold delegated roles that are both ecclesiastical and programmatic.

“For example,” explains Sawyer, “some might provide staff leadership to the Committee on Ministry to help with issues of the relationships between pastors and congregations. Others might focus on educational ministries, congregational development, or mission and outreach, or pastoral care of pastors. Each Presbytery organizes its staff according to its own mission and ministry needs.”

The church-wide gathering will begin with community building and worship on Monday evening and conclude with some organizational planning on Wednesday morning.

Inquiries may be directed to one of the planning team members:
Brenda Jarvis: Brenda@detroitpresbytery.org
Jeannie Harsh: Jeannie@psvonline.org
Felipe Martinez: fmartinez@whitewatervalley.org
David Sawyer: dsawyer@lpts.edu
Michael Purintum: mpurintu@ctr.pcusa.org

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