August 4, 2020
Last week First Pres leadership sent three letters to help orient you to our ongoing pastoral transition. This week and next, we’re partnering with the PNC to tell you more about its nominating process which has brought us to this point.
But first, we want to acknowledge that some of us are disappointed by the news that our interim Senior Pastor, Steve Schibsted, was not selected by the PNC as its candidate. Many of us, while trusting God’s leading of the PNC, are grieving that we will lose our pastor and friend. Saying goodbye is not easy and sadness, frustration, and even anger are to be expected. And yet, in hope, we look forward to meeting and welcoming our next Senior Pastor and living in the tension of farewell and welcome.
As a Session, we are always mindful that we serve as your elected leaders in governing our church. Likewise, the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) members have also served as the congregation’s representatives to nominate a final candidate as our new Senior Pastor. The congregation elected them in this capacity in Fall 2018, and they have brought us to this point after 18 months of solid work and sacrifice for themselves and their families. What they’ve done is extraordinary, really—trusting in God and one another while choosing a final candidate who is not yet known to the rest of us, and doing so when we have enjoyed capable and loving leadership from an interim pastor who was also a candidate. Whatever we may be feeling, we recognize that this decision took courage and conviction.
We realize that it is natural to seek answers and clarification to help better understand decisions that leadership makes in any season. To that end, the PNC has tried its best to answer some important questions about its process in the below FAQs. We also formed a team to take your questions and listen to your concerns. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch with you personally.
First Pres, we love you and we hope the best for our church. With that hope, and trusting in God’s gracious plans for our church, we affirm the work of the PNC and recommend its work to you. Stay tuned for next week when we will write again with updates and another set of FAQs to help us all stay in loving fellowship as we receive and extend God’s grace. Thank you again for your patience while we wait with great anticipation.
Your sisters and brothers in Christ,
Barbara Brenner Buder
Sue Burger, non-voting
|Tom Elson, Teaching Elder
Mindy Philips, Clerk
Mark Stryker, Teaching Elder
Cece Carranza-Davis, student
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) answers questions
about its discernment process to date.
These are questions posed to the PNC about its process to date along with its answers. If you have additional questions, please email email@example.com so we may address them. Next week, leadership will answer questions about how the process will continue to unfold before and during the congregational meeting that will be called for the purpose of acting on the PNC’s nomination of the candidate as our next Senior Pastor.
What were the standout characteristics for choosing your final three candidates?
The final candidates are all seasoned pastors with hearts attuned to God and people and the executive skills necessary for leading large, complex organizations. Beyond all the expected markers of faith in Christ, leadership, Gospel-based preaching, ethical comportment, collegial endorsement, and congregational affirmation, each candidate was exceptionally gifted and we learned from them. Each of the three ministered to us as persons and as a committee. We heard them pray, preach, and respond to our challenging questions. They gave generously of their time and engaged our questions thoughtfully. They did this in the midst of the pandemic which radically affected their ministries and their lives. We had the rare opportunity of seeing pastors responding to a global crisis of unprecedented scope. Each of the candidates gave us a glimpse of how Jesus might respond.
Please tell us more about the candidate pool.
We cast our net wide, networking with recognized leaders both inside and outside of the Presbyterian Church, as well as inside and outside of the United States (US). We also asked these leaders for other people we should network with for potential candidates. The majority of the candidates were from our denomination, the PC(USA), and pastors of churches of all sizes. As we narrowed the pool, we focused on those at mid to large-size churches. They spanned the continental US, were trained at different seminaries, and most of them were men and most were of European descent.
Did you have any specific issues in mind that qualified or disqualified a candidate?
No. We have diverse views and, though we didn’t all agree all the time, we were always in respectful conversation with one another. We didn’t make decisions based on a particular issue, but sought to understand one another’s views on the various issues. Throughout the whole process, no one issue was a litmus test.
How did you make your decision?
The PNC is composed of people with diverse views and perspectives. Through deep listening and sharing we sought to understand and learn from one another in order to inform our decision-making. In our denomination, the PC(USA), we’re encouraged to vote our Spirit-led conscience, seeking God’s work to be done through the church and in the world. Communion with God, one another, and the candidates, always conscious of our Bay Area context, was essential to our collaborative work.
Do you unanimously support the candidate?
Yes. By God’s grace and the leading of the Spirit, we came to wholeheartedly support and love our final candidate, and the candidate has experienced a sense of call to love and lead our congregation.
Steve has done so much for First Pres, and so ably, why wasn’t he chosen?
Steve was one of our final three candidates and all three were exceptionally well qualified. Steve was, of course, an excellent candidate and yet we were led in a different direction when selecting the final candidate. We’re grateful to Steve and know that his loving and effective Interim work has prepared the way for the new pastor. The candidate we felt led to select is remarkable in many ways and we look forward to being able to tell you more.
I shared my thoughts with the PNC but did not hear back from anyone. Were my ideas/thoughts taken into consideration?
Every member of the PNC read every communication that was sent to us, and we considered many points of view in our deliberations. We apologize if you did not receive a reply! We definitely could have done a better job of acknowledging all the input we received, and done so in a timely fashion. Thank you for all your interactions with us and please know that your thoughts were helpful as we prayed and discerned.
Why did the PNC not push pause on the process to arguably give us better continuity during this time of pandemic?
A time of challenge is a time of opportunity for God’s people. As Steve preached on Sunday, July 26, from Jeremiah 29, when we experience dislocation we are to live courageously and thrive. When the PNC prayed about the situation and listened to others, we experienced no call to “push pause,” from God or within our own hearts.
What about COVID-19? How are we going to get to know this person and them, us?
As a PNC we’ve had the blessing of seeing how the final three candidates have responded to this pandemic crisis. We’ve seen amazing creativity, faith, and care. That’s very much true for the candidate we’ve selected. Moreover during the past year, we’ve all grown to believe that the final candidate is able to step into this present circumstance and lead us well. The candidate has a great ability to connect and engage in person and through video, and significant skill at navigating new situations. We are working with Session and staff to identify creative approaches that allow for the person and the congregation to get to know each other better. Obviously, these will be virtual in the near term, and we will make every effort to have many, many opportunities for all.
Can you please explain again, why the wait and suspense before we can know who is the candidate?
Traditionally a PNC just springs the news on the congregation and everyone can rejoice together in the provision of the nominated candidate and look forward to the next season of ministry. Our circumstance is more complex as our interim pastor was also a candidate, and we are working collaboratively with Presbytery and the candidate’s church. So our timing and content for communication is substantially different this time around also because we’d like to end our interim period well before we move to an announcement. Thank you for being gracious with us as we work with the Session and the candidate to communicate well while you wait in suspense.
Also, why the need for such a high level of confidentiality?
We held our work as confidential to protect the process, the candidates, the candidates’ churches, and our congregation. We know that at times it seemed as though we were not forthcoming with detailed information—this has been as frustrating for us as it might have been for you. We were holding onto our pledge of confidentiality to you and to one another on the PNC while following the process outlined by our denomination.
What can we look forward to with next week’s communication?
The pastoral transition communications team will say more about the next steps leading up to our announcement of the candidate and until Candidating Sunday, when we will have the opportunity to hear our Senior Pastor candidate preach in worship. After worship we will gather for a Congregational Meeting to hear the PNC’s report, vote on the PNC’s recommendation to call the new pastor, and also to vote on the terms of call.
I’ve read through these FAQs and have more questions about the process, how can I learn more?
PNC members will hold conversations during the next couple of weeks at which you can ask questions about their process and hear from them directly. Should you want to attend one of these sessions, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thinking ahead, what is the best way we can thank you?
This is easy for us to imagine…please give our candidate the best First Pres welcome possible!