One of the things I cherish most about the Presbyterian Church is its insistence that leadership in the church is not solely the domain of those who are paid by the church.
Leadership in our church is shared between ruling elders and teaching elders. Each of those ordered ministries brings with it unique challenges.
The challenge for a ruling elder is how to strike a balance among church responsibilities, work responsibilities, and family responsibilities.
[Note to teaching elders: I realize it's equally hard to strike a balance between your work responsibilities -- which are also your church responsibilities -- and your family responsibilities, but that's another post. This one's about ruling elders.]
When I was elected Moderator, I went to part-time status at my "day" job at legal publisher BNA, Inc. I realized that the travel schedule of the Moderator simply wouldn't allow me to remain full-time at BNA while serving as Moderator. Yet BNA is where I've spent my entire career. I'm an Executive Vice President there, and a member of the Board of Directors. It's a big part of who I am, and I wasn't ready to give that up. AndI believe that my work experience makes me a better ruling elder.
For my first year as Moderator, I was able to juggle church and work responsibilities pretty effectively (at least I think so -- maybe folks in the church or at BNA would disagree). But things changed at the end of August, when the BNA Board announced that we were recommending that stockholders accept an offer from Bloomberg Inc. to acquire BNA.
I believe Bloomberg’s offer is good both for BNA and for its stockholders – who are BNA employees and retirees. But BNA has been employee-owned for our entire history, so this tender offer represents a significant change for us as a company. I feel that it’s necessary for me to be at BNA as much as possible during the next few weeks, as I and other members of management spend time meeting with stockholders and talking with them about the Bloomberg offer.
During this time, I’m having to cancel some trips that I had planned to make as Moderator – among them a visit to Lake Michigan Presbytery this week, and attending the General Assembly Mission Council meeting next week.
I hate having to renege on engagements – and I hope folks understand why I’m doing this. The dilemma I’m facing now in trying to balance work and church is faced by every ruling elder at some point – can you be at a Presbytery meeting at 10 am on Tuesday when there’s an important meeting at the office? Can you afford to be away from the office for a full week in order to attend General Assembly?
I don’t have any easy answers as to how we resolve these dilemmas. I do know, though, that we need to acknowledge that these dilemmas exist, and we need to help ruling elders figure out how to best maintain the balance between their church lives and their work lives. Simply put, we cannot transform the P.C. (USA) into an effective tool for ministry in the 21st century without the input, commitment, and knowledge of ruling elders.