Michael offers an addendum to this letter: Addendum: Reflections on the SARC Report by Michael Burkley – published on November 29, 2017

[clear-line]

“It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”  Not a very original opening for a review of any event, but it describes how I feel about our November 15th Presbytery meeting.  I had a wonderful time visiting with many colleagues at the meeting, telling them that I appreciated their ministry to me and to others; that I had never seen them bullying anyone, nor creating a climate of fear and harassment in our Presbytery.  There were people I didn’t speak to, not because I thought they were bullies but simply because I knew too many people to get to them all!  That was a wonderful time of reconnecting, however briefly, with important people in my life, people I don’t always agree with but always love.  That was “the best of times” (stretching the point a bit, but you understand).  But the reason I had to do that was because of what I heard and read in the report of the Synod of the Northeast Administrative Review Committee (SARC).  That report seemed to say that our Presbytery has exhibited a pervasive culture of disrespect, bullying and fear that makes our Presbytery an unsafe place.  That is “the worst of times,” in part, because I haven’t seen the reality of it.

It’s true, I haven’t seen the culture of bullying and fear that was presented (though naming specific people and pointing fingers of blame at them as was done in the SARC report could be an example of such behavior, in my opinion).  I’m not saying that bullying doesn’t happen – it’s happened to me – or at least I thought it was happening, until I went to the person involved and talked it over with them.  But I don’t think that bullying is one of the common strategies that we as a presbytery have used to keep opposing views in their place.  But common or not, if it happens to you, do something about it.  Shout it out and let everyone else know so that we can get behind you to put a stop to it!

But it upset me to think that the SARC report appears to present our presbytery as a dangerous place.  In my experience, our presbytery is welcoming and contentious, loving and determined, open and opinionated, being just as it should be.  I’m certainly welcomed here, and I recognize I’m on the outliers of the PC(USA).  If you ever perceive me as bullying you or trying to make you fear, then please, let me know, and if necessary, let everyone know.

But that wasn’t all that made this past meeting among the worst of presbytery meetings for me.  A recent decision of the Trustees, announced at the meeting, is to require that all churches give them copies of all the keys of our church buildings (did they forget to mention combinations to safes and keys to safe deposit boxes or just never thought of it?).  That’s very upsetting to me.  The reminder that they would be keeping a list of churches that complied and would contact those that didn’t, also didn’t make me very comfortable.  The rational was that the Trustees needed the keys so they could open the church building in case of an emergency.  Really?    It’s not been seen as a kind and caring gesture by the people I’ve shared it with.  I don’t see it as something that is conducive to helping the church I serve be voluntarily drawn in and connected more strongly to the life of our presbytery, and that’s sad.

There were installations of officers, commissioning to a ministry, sharing ministries and hope, worship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper (I particularly liked how we returned to our seats via the central aisle, letting us all see each other and give thanks for each other), and many other wonderful things.  Those were parts of “the best of times.”  I choose to focus on them, not ignoring the rest, but letting the good carry the most weight.  What about you?

[clear-line]

Michael offers an addendum to this letter: Addendum: Reflections on the SARC Report by Michael Burkley – published on November 29, 2017

About Rev. Michael Burkley

Michael has been a pastor for over 30 years (unbelievably to him) and for over 11 of those years he has had the privilege of serving in Albany Presbytery as the pastor of the Rockwell Falls Presbyterian Church. He is currently serving as the Albany Presbytery Vice Moderator and is very glad to be serving God here with us.

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.