Conference leadership committee charts new course

The Eastern PA Conference’s former Committee on Nominations is now the Committee on Leadership, with a new name, a new chairperson and a new way of handling its business.

Carlen Blackstone

Carlen Blackstone became the Nominations Committee chair last fall, taking on a job that can seem “overwhelming” in its duties. The committee of up to 25 people attempts to “identify gifted clergy and laity from across the Conference to fill positions that are requested by various conference committees,” said Blackstone. That can mean phone calls to ask as many as a hundred people to serve, especially during quadrennial leadership changes.

What follows is getting information, filling out interview forms for all of them, preparing and presenting the final slate to Annual Conference “with as few mistakes as possible,” and then correcting the inevitable mistakes and making changes that are sure to emerge.

Rev. Anita Powell

The conference’s new Director of Connectional Ministries, the Rev. Anita Powell, led an effort to change this burdensome modus operandi by recognizing that the process needed more “buy-in” by more people—including a shift from the passive to the active, where more people ask to serve, rather than being asked. In addition, it needed to be a continuous process, not limited to a yearly crunch period just before Annual Conference.

And the Nominations Committee would need to evolve into one that did more than just nominate, but would also help cultivate capable leadership to help the conference grow into its future.

With collaboration, online technology and assistance from the Communications Office, Powell and Blackstone created and promoted an online Leadership and Service Interest Form to receive and compile data shared by people willing to serve on conference boards, commissions, committees and teams.

The Google Docs form, which remains accessible to those who want explore conference ministry opportunities, is divided into four types of conference ministry groups:

  • Group 1: Those groups whose members and leaders are recommended to the Committee on Leadership and then elected by the Annual Conference.
  • Group 2: Those groups who determine their own members and elect their own leaders for approval by the Annual Conference.
  • Group 3: Those conference-affiliated groups whose leadership is determined by their members, without the need for approval by the Annual Conference.
  • Group 4: Those groups whose membership is determined by the Bishop.

Many new members were invited to serve in ministry groups this year because of information they provided on the form, which can be either completed online or printed, filled out and mailed to the conference’s Connectional Ministries Office, P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820.

“It’s critical for our database to have accurate information for people who want to serve now or later,” said Blackstone, who manages the form. “Much extra effort by committee members can be avoided when every person takes responsibility for communicating vital information in a timely fashion.”

While presenting a slate of new nominees to the 2018 Annual Conference, Powell and Blackstone will also share the reason for the Committee on Leadership’s renaming.  “This change will help redefine our process moving forward,” said Blackstone. During Annual Conference she will greet visitors to her committee’s table in the Exhibits Area, where people are welcome to bring corrections, as well as suggestions and questions about the new process.

As always, the conference body will have 24 hours after receiving the committee’s report to examine and then approve the new nominees.  All elected and approved leaders will be encouraged to attend a Changing Racism Workshop if they have not already, and also the conference Connectional Table’s Retreat for Spiritual Leadership, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6, 9 AM to 3 PM, site to be determined.

‘We believe this is sacred work’

“We believe this is sacred work,” said Blackstone, “and an effective connectional system must include conference-wide teams of dedicated people to support and extend the ministry of the local church. At Powell’s invitation to serve as Leadership Committee chair, she herself contemplated how her life had been “enriched by involvement in conference-wide ministry over the past 40 years.

“My opportunity to work with diverse, committed and gifted clergy and laity would never have been possible at the local church level alone,” she explained.  “Most conference leaders are also actively involved in local church and district capacities; but conference leadership provides a much greater view of our diversity as a church and our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I hope others will consider joining us.”