Dear Siblings in Christ:
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! We pray you are well and safe during this challenging time of ministering to God’s people. We have all been required to do ministry in new and inventive ways. We continue to be amazed at all the wonderful ways the ministers and congregations in this presbytery have met those challenges. You are an inspiration to us.
As you know, the Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan scheduled for March 14, 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic so we could assure the health and well-being of our members. It seems clear that the CDC and governmental officials are not able to predict when it will be safe for us to gather in numbers larger than ten. Looking ahead, the Leadership Team would like to make provisions for the presbytery to meet at its regularly scheduled stated meeting on June 9, 2020 by electronic means using ZOOM technology, if we are unable to meet safely in person.
The Bylaws of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan do not offer a provision by which the presbytery can meet electronically. Before we can meet as an entire presbytery by ZOOM, we first would need to change the Bylaws. Currently, the Bylaws of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan offer the following provisions:
|60:30||Any three (3) minister members and the elder members present, provided that at least three (3) churches are represented by elders, shall constitute a quorum. [G-3.0304]|
|80:10||These bylaws may be amended at any stated meeting of the Presbytery by a majority of the members present provided written notice of the amendments was given at the previous meeting. Proposed amendments shall be posted on the official web site and submitted to the Stated Clerk and the Leadership Team through the Administration Ministry Team for counsel and review. The reviewing body shall report its recommendations at the next stated meeting of the Presbytery.|
We have conferred with our presbytery attorney, Mr. Ken Tiews, who reviewed the Presbytery of Lake Michigan Bylaws, the PC(USA) Book of Order, and the most current version of Robert’s Rules, and, in conversation with presbytery leaders, has concurred with the following process:
- Two stated meetings will be called on Saturday, May 2, 2020 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portage with the first scheduled for 10:00 a.m. and the other scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Both meetings will be held for the sole purpose of revising the Bylaws of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan to allow for electronic meetings.
- The meetings will occur sequentially on the same date.
- The only items on the docket for the 10:00 am meeting will be worship, which is required at each meeting of the presbytery, and notification of intent to change the bylaws as detailed below to allow for meetings of the presbytery by electronic technology. (Please see sample docket below)
- The only items on the docket for the second meeting will be worship and consideration of the recommendation to approve the bylaws change.
- Since the governor’s office has mandated that no more than ten people can gather, those at the meeting will be the following:
- Moderator Dru Wrasse (Ruling Elder at Buchanan First),
- Vice Moderator Seth Weeldreyer (Teaching Elder at Kalamazoo First),
- Cal Bremer (Teaching Elder – Transitional Co-Leader),
- Fran Lane-Lawrence (Teaching Elder – Transitional Co-Leader/ Stated Clerk),
- and two other Ruling Elders from two different congregations close to Kalamazoo, MI to fulfill the bylaw requirements for a quorum at presbytery meetings.
- The period between April 13, 2020 and May 2, 2020 will be open for discussion and questions about this proposal and the proposed bylaws change.
- A ZOOM link will be made available so members of the presbytery can observe the stated meetings on May 2, 2020, if they wish.
The following is a sample docket:
DOCKET of the STATED MEETING
The Presbytery of Lake Michigan
May 2, 2020
Westminster Presbyterian Church – Portage, MI
10:00 OPENING OF THE STATED MEETING
- Declaration of Quorum
- Approval of the Docket [ACTION]
- Opening Worship
10:15 Plenary Business I
- To approve the recommended change to the bylaws [ACTION]
- To amend the Presbytery By-Laws, Article VI, by adding the following section 60.50 Meetings of the Presbytery may be conducted electronically at the discretion of the Leadership Team or as approved by Presbytery at a previous stated meeting
Please direct questions and comments about the proposed bylaws change to the following individuals:
- Elder Dru Wrasse – Presbytery Moderator at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rev. Seth Weeldreyer – Presbytery Vice Moderator at email@example.com
- Rev. Cal Bremer – Transitional Co-Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rev. Fran Lane-Lawrence – Transitional Co-Leader/ Stated Clerk at email@example.com
Thank you in advance for your participation and consideration.
Peace in the Name of our Risen Lord,
Rev. Cal Bremer
Rev. Fran Lane-Lawrence
Transitional Co-Leader/Stated Clerk
To view this letter in a PDF format click below:
I am writing in response to the request for feedback regarding the Stated Meeting for May 2, 2020. After carefully reading the letter requesting feedback and what the Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson, wrote in his Church in an Emergency/Pandemic Advisory Opinion, I would ask you to consider the following.
The Stated Clerk’s advisory opinion says “Yes. A presbytery may provide by rule for the meeting of the presbytery by electronic or virtual means. The rule needs to be included in the presbytery’s manual of administrative operations. The presbytery should make sure that all presbytery members and commissioners who are available as a quorum are able to participate in the discussion and vote. A presbytery may provide by rule for a quorum for the meeting but not fewer than three ministers of the Word and Sacrament who are members of the presbytery and three ruling elder commissioners from three different congregations.”
What stands out for me is, “the presbytery should make sure that all presbytery members and commissioners who are available as a quorum are able to participate in the discussion and vote.” I also understand there may be a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum; how to do business electronically without authorization to do business electronically. I would suggest the agenda of the Stated Meeting on May 2 be even more narrowly defined. I suggest the only item on the agenda to be approved by the very small portion of the presbytery assembled at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portage be an approval for ONE electronic/virtual meeting of the presbytery.
At this first virtual meeting of the entire presbytery, the only business on the agenda would be to do as the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA suggests and make every possible attempt to hear everyone’s opinion on the matter of electronic meetings. I would also see this as an opportunity for the presbytery to offer some advice on how to run future virtual meetings where procedures are in place for all to be heard. This may require helping some churches with technical assistance to join. It may also include intentional leadership to systematically open the floor to each person present to speak so they may not be overlooked by technical difficulties. We have probably all been to Zoom meetings where we were unable to get a word in edgewise and the discussion was hindered by technological limitations.
I would also suggest we keep a watchful eye on how the General Assembly is conducted in June. The PCUSA is using all its resources to virtually perform denomination business. We should be able to learn from how they virtually conduct business, and apply their best practices to future presbytery virtual meetings.
To those who feel presbytery business is not being done by taking a bit of a pause in meetings with full agendas, I would offer the wisdom of the teacher in Ecclesiastes. In Chapter 3 we read there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. At North Kent Presbyterian Church, we are stretching in ways we never considered before to offer love, spiritual, and physical nourishment to our members and our immediate community during this unprecedented time. Our church staff, session, and other church members are bringing their gifts to the forefront in ways we never needed before. While this learning curve and bearing witness to the Holy Spirit’s working in new ways is exciting, it is also exhausting. Those individuals who should have a voice in presbytery meetings are, for the short term, contracting their view to craft meaningful worship for the next week and finding ways for now to love and shepherd the flock. For now, there is less time to give prayerful consideration to the wider picture.
I am a relative newcomer to the PCUSA. I came from The Christian Reformed Church, which through a long and slow grinding process, decided it no longer had any use for my gifts. I was part of the body they found undesirable and had no use for. What attracted me to the PCUSA and North Kent Presbyterian Church is the unwavering desire to open its arms to all who search for a spiritual home and who long to serve God with one’s entire being. In I Corinthians 12, we read how important it is to honor all parts of the body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
I hope we carefully navigate these new waters with a view towards doing everything possible to include all parts of the body. This may require us to slow down and offer assistance to those who are technologically weaker. This is only for a season. If this process is done well, it will bring us out the other side a better connected and stronger body of Christ.
Blessings to you as you work to lead in the best possible way.
Thank you, Cara, for your insight and for bringing your concerns to us. The Stated Clerk (Fran Lane-Lawrence) have contacted you to respond to your letter.
– Kristen, Tech Manager