Our mission statement begins “Connected congregations . . . .” What that mission and vision statement doesn’t include are the 98 minister members whose membership is in the presbytery. Unlike the United Church of Christ or the American Baptist Church, ministers’ or Teaching Elder’s membership is not in the 26 congregations and 4 new worshipping communities of the Presbytery of Riverside.
We no doubt have a membership of Ministers of Word and Sacrament (Teaching Elders) in the presbytery because John Calvin had a vision for a Company of Pastors, as he called them. Yet, nowadays there are a whole lot more ways “to be a church” than in a congregation. Hospitals, hospices (Les Bishop and Narcissus Bishop), industrial places (Andrew Parnell), prisons, General Assembly agencies like the Presbyterian Foundation (David Loleng) and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (Mickie Choi) and mission service (Esther Shin and Noah Park) come to mind.
The Healthy Pastors and Congregations Commission has been tasked by this presbytery to fulfill our Constitutional requirement to (1) keep tabs on what’s called “validated ministries” of the presbytery and (2) members at large who due to “family or other individual circumstances recognized by the presbytery” cannot serve in a validated ministry. Both kinds of ministers are to participate in a congregation of the PCUSA “or a church in correspondence with the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
In the next few months, HPCC will be looking at our 98 minister members. Many (27) are pastors. Many others are retired (37). But that leaves about 30 pastors who we need to “annually” validate or annually be considered as members-at-large. It’s the only way to be honest about the meaning of ministry. After all, the Internal Revenue Service reduces downward the Adjusted Growth Income by what a “minister” spends on housing to all adults that are either in the ministry (or the military), a considerable benefit. It’s only fair to the American public to be honest about those who serve as ministers.
I am guided by my theology professor, Paul King Jewett who said once, “professional ministry is for a season.” It’s alright with God if at some time you say, “that season is over even if it costs me money and loss of self-esteem.” Pray for your HPCC as we have conversations with ministers who are in validated ministries or are already members-at-large on their status as ministers of Word and Sacrament within the PCUSA. You will find the Form of Government G-2.0503 very helpful if you have further questions about validated and member-at-large ministers.
It’s not the easiest ministry that HPCC has. But it’s an important one.