We have a new moderator -- Joan Gray.
It was not an easy process.
First, there were technical difficulties involving everyone's laptop.
Gone are the notebooks filled with two reams of paper -- we now have LES and a wireless network so we can view documents on screens.
One vote tonight was: all those who have their laptop systems working vote yes, if it is not working, vote no.
The NOs had it by a slim margin.
Fortunately, laptops were not needed for the election of the moderator.
First came the nominating speeches. Each one was limited to 5 minutes, and a countdown on a screen reminded them of the time remaining.
The person nominating Halverson was first. She started by talking about Tim Halverson's 19 year old daughter, and as the speech ended, came back to the daughter by saying that it was 19 year old Helen Halverson who told her Dad he had to run for moderator, telling her Dad, "The church needs you."
A Native American gave the nominating speech for Joan Gray, and she began with an introductory sentence in Spanish. As she continued in English, the person nominating held up Joan's book on church government and said, "Joan not only knows church polity, she wrote the book."
The person nominating Carson said he was a very authentic person, which I found to be very true as I talked with him earlier in the day.
Block's nominator said that his favorite story of Deborah Block was from a 14 year old daughter of a pastor who said, "She is the coolest pastor I've ever known."
After the nomination speeches, the candidates were given an opportunity to give a five minute acceptance speech.
The first to speak was Tim Halverson, who gave what might have been the most dynamic speech of the four candidates. "He's got it in the bag," I thought, as he talked about the church regaining its passion to grow. One of his memorable statements came toward the end when he said, "I would rather fail at doing God's ministry than simply whine and complain that our church is deing. It is time for us to grow. It is time for us to regain our passion."
Tim Halverson was a tough act to follow, and Joan Gray was up next. She did a fair job, but it paled in comparison to Tim.
In her acceptance speech, Joan said, "Polity is not going to save us. One thing will save us and that is a God who makes a way for us." She talked repeatedly about how God makes a way. Joan talked about a church in Greater Atlanta in which God made a way for a small congregation to reach out to the homeless. In talking about her Interim ministry with conflicted churches, Joan said, "Some of them were so broken we disparied if things would ever get better. As long as we focused on fixing the problems of the church we made no progress. Only when we focused on Christ did we start to move forward. God makes a way where there is no way."
Carson's speech was fair as well. Not as dramatic as Tim's, he talked about how it was time for the church to let go of the status quo -- all it had brought us was status decline.
Then came Block, who talked about Africa in vague terms.
I was sitting with the press and a member of the secular press turned to me and said, "That was the worst speech I ever heard. Was it just me, or did that make any sense at all?"
No, it wasn't just him.
I have no clue what she was saying.
Maybe I was just tired.
Now came an hour of questions from the floor.
First from a Youth Advisory Delegate: How do you work with youth?
Halverson said, "If we were Ford Motor Company and we found out that youth didn't buy our cars, we’d ask why and talk with them and bring them in. That is what the church needs to do."
He was refreshingly brief and to the point.
Next up was Block. She was very long winded.
Throughout the question and answer period, however, Halverson seemed to lose steam. Block never shined. Carson and Gray gave consistently good, clear responses.
It was the fourth or fifth question that asked, "What is your view of the ordination of gays and lesbians."
Block gave a predictable answer, as she had been clear about this before. "I believe god calls all persons to ministry. The church has been slow to work with people of racial and gender difference. If a person who is gay or lesbian seeks ordinatin, the presbytery has the right to ordain."
Tim Halveson said, "It is not time to ordain gays and lesbians, although that is my dream."
Joan Gray spoke of her own discomfort over this issue. "I have a great deal of respect for gays and lesbians who want to be respected and called. I have not yet gotten my mind around that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle. I am uncomfortable and will remain so until God speaks and directs me." She went onto add, "The moderator acts as an officer of the church. I stand where the church stands, and if the church moves, I move.”
Kerry Carson clearly said, "I will not support an ordination of gay or lesbian."
The last question came from a man who said his 3 or 4 year old son liked to draw. "If you were to draw a child-like picture of the church two years from now, what would that picture be like?"
Gray talked about John Calvin's seal, which is a hand with a heart, and the heart is on fire -- on fire for God.
The next two candidates picked up on the imagery of hands. Kerry talked about the picture of two hands holding together, for that is what I see for the church.
Block, who had constantly talked of Africa and her experience with a short term mission there, spoke of American children's hands on a paper, along with the hand prints of African children. This prompted a secular reporter to groan, "What the hell does that mean?"
Halverson departed from the image of hands and spoke of a windmill that turns into the wind, as if turning to catch the spirit of God.
The questions ended, there was a prayer and the four candidates were escorted off stage by former moderator Susan Andrews.
The first ballot was very split. Two candidates had 22% each, and two had 28% each. Block was the leader, followed by Gray, then Halverson and finally Carson.
The second ballot had Gray leading with 40%, followed by Block at 32%. The two men had 14% each.
At the third ballot, we had a victor -- Joan Gray with 62%.
She was escorted back into the room, and those of us with press credentials were allowed to stand in a certain spot to get a photo of her walking by. I got a great shot of former moderator Susan Andrews as she escorted Joan into the assembly hall. If you look carefully, you can see Joan in the background.
Joan was installed as the new moderator. Roger Wilson was confirmed as the new Vice Moderator. There were words of appreciation to the retiring officers, and an exchange of gifts for them for the good work they have done.