Change = Risk + Opportunity

jellenkc : April 24, 2015 3:50 pm : pastors-blog

I once read in a PC(USA) Women’s Bible Study that the Chinese character for change was a combination of the characters that represented both risk and opportunity.  Southminster has been in a time of change.  In September of 2013, after 8 years of faithful service in our midst, Chad Herring resigned his call as our Associate Pastor to take a call as Pastor of the John Knox Kirk Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, MO.  This marked the end of an extraordinarily long period of relative staff stability at Southminster.

We went through a period of reflection and dialogue about our ministry needs and staffing model.  The result of that process was an overwhelming affirmation of the two-pastor model and a desire to seek a new Associate Pastor.  We proceeded, in good Presbyterian fashion, to do two things:  1) appoint an Interim Associate Search Committee (APNC) to help fill our needs in the transition period; and 2) elect an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee to engage in the arduous process of seeking a new called, installed Associate Pastor.  Faithful members of our congregation stepped forward to undertake both of those tasks.

In March of 2014, our interim search committee brought forth the name of Karen A. Wagner, a candidate for ordained ministry in the PC(USA) who had recently relocated to Kansas City as their choice for our interim Associate Pastor.  Karen’s resume and work experience matched very closely the attributes and skills that had been identified in our previous dialogue sessions.  After a period of discernment and concurrence by our Session, Karen began her work among us as Interim Associate during Holy Week, 2014, and she was ordained to the office of teaching elder by Heartland Presbytery.

The APNC you elected is an extraordinary group of people!  They engaged in an extensive and disciplined process that included developing a Ministry Information Form for our congregation, reviewing over 50 resumes, engaging in a dozen or so telephone or Skype interviews, and conducting multiple face to face interviews with potential candidates.  That they were able to do all of this and come to a unanimous decision about their report to the congregation in a period of 18 or so months is “lightning fast” in PresbySpeak!

Karen A. Wagner was one of their applicants.  At the end of their exhaustive process, they were unanimous in their prayerful discernment that the Holy Spirit was leading us to call Karen as our Associate Pastor.  This was ratified in a unanimous congregational vote on March 29th, Palm Sunday, to make Karen Wagner our Associate Pastor-Elect.  On Tuesday of this week, at a meeting of Heartland Presbytery held in our own sanctuary, our higher governing body concurred in our discernment and approved Karen A. Wagner as the next called and installed Associate Pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church.

In the change that we have been through over these last 18 months, there has been both risk and opportunity.  In my own prayerful judgment, risk has led us to great opportunity.  On Sunday, May 17th, Heartland Presbytery will conduct a service of installation for the Rev. Karen A. Wagner as the Associate Pastor of Southminster.  I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for this new opportunity in our life of faith together at Southminster Presbyterian Church.

Grace & Peace,


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Presbyterians and Marriage Equality

jellenkc : April 20, 2015 8:02 pm : pastors-blog

March 19, 2015

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been in dialogue and discernment for many years about issues of inclusivity for our sisters and brothers who are LGBT in their sexual orientation. The traditional positions of the church defined LGBT sexual orientation as a sin and prohibited members of churches who had these sexual orientations from holding church office—ruling elder, teaching elder, or deacon. Presbyterian clergy were likewise prohibited from conducting a legal marriage service between same-sex couples. It is important to remember that many Presbyterians who are supportive of full inclusivity for our LGBT brothers and sisters continued to serve and worship in the PC (USA) even though the official position of the church was not in accord with their strongly held beliefs.

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Let Us Journey Together…

jellenkc : April 20, 2015 8:01 pm : pastors-blog

February 19, 2015

This week marks the beginning of the season of Lent in the circle of time that is the Christian year. Perhaps based on the forty days that Jesus spent in prayer and reflection in the desert…also a time of temptation by the evil one…Lent traditionally included 40 fast days in addition to the six Sundays, which were not fast days, leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord on Easter morning.

I have often shared this prayer as we begin our journey through Lent together and I do so again now as an invitation to us all to engage in a time of spiritual reflection and contemplation:

Merciful God,
you called us forth from the dust of the earth,
you claimed us in the waters of baptism.
 Look upon us as we enter these forty days
bearing the mark of ashes,
and bless our journey through the desert of Lent
to the font of rebirth.
May our fasting be a hunger for justice;
 our alms, a making of peace;
 our prayer, the hopes of humble and grateful hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. more »

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Connectional Church:
Financial Support for the Ministry of the PC(USA)

jellenkc : April 20, 2015 7:44 pm : pastors-blog

 January 22, 2015

One of the important principles that defines the Reformed family of Christian churches of which our Presbyterian Church (USA) is a part is that we are a connectional church. Decision-making and direction in ministry are the shared responsibility of Presbyters (ruling elders and teaching elders) at each level of our church’s governance. In the same way that our local congregation requires financial support in order to carry out our ministry and mission, the higher councils of our church—Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly—also require financial support in order to engage in the ministry and mission of the church nationally and internationally. I have always had great admiration for the unfailing financial support of Southminster to the wider Presbyterian Church (USA).

We provide that support in several ways every year through our annual budget. Your pledges and gifts to our congregation make that possible. Here are the important ways we provide financial support to our denomination:

      • The Per Capita Assessment
I have often heard this humorously referred to as the “head tax.” Each Presbytery is required by the Book of Order to remit a certain amount of support to the Synod and the General Assembly based on the number of members of all the churches within its jurisdiction. The Presbyteries themselves also rely on this per capita assessment for financial support of their work. Even though the requirement is at the Presbytery level, each Presbytery relies on its member churches to voluntarily remit this support. The purpose of the per capita assessment is to provide administrative support for the wider church—salaries and operational costs. This year the per capita assessment amount is $38.10 per confirmed member on our rolls. We reported 334 confirmed members at the end of 2014, so that comes to $12,725.40. Southminster budgets for this commitment each year. Some of our members choose to remit their share of the per capita assessment over and above their other financial support to the church to assist us and we are very grateful for that.
      • The General Mission Pledge
Each year, Southminster budgets for and makes an undesignated mission pledge to the wider church. The undesignated nature of this pledge is important to me and it is important to the ministry of our denomination. The fact that there are no strings attached to this pledge demonstrates our trust in the leadership of our church at every level to be able to carry out ministry that can only be identified and accomplished at that level. All of our national and international mission commitments in the Presbyterian Church (USA) depend on such support. For this year, our undesignated mission pledge to the work of the PC(USA) at the higher council levels is $24,325.

PC(USA) Special Offerings
We receive four special offerings each year to support specific ministry—The One Great Hour of Sharing, The Pentecost Offering, the Peacemaking Offering, and the Joy Gift. Information about these offerings can be found at

Many thanks for your generous support that enables ministry and mission through our denomination!


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