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March 28, 2008: Recommendations To Nominees

This is a public service announcement.

For all nominees for Moderator and Stated Clerk: please, please, please do not go to the "For such a time as this..." nominating speech. It is a terrible temptation. Do not succumb. I am posting this now to give you a heads-up: for me, it is a disqualifier.

General Assemblies begin to blur together after a number of years but I seem to remember one Assembly when there were three separate "for such a time as this" nominating speeches. Not good.

The reason why it rubs so wrong is because it comes across as spiritually manipulative. Mordecai said that line to Esther, not to the masses who would benefit from her intervening on their behalf (Esther 4:14). While personally discerning the call to stand for election, it is fair to evaluate how your gifts match the denomination's needs. However, the "for such a time as this" allusion does not work in a nominating speech because it suggests that the Assembly would be unfaithful to discern in favor of anyone else.

On a more practical level, it is not a good thing for commissioners and advisory delegates to hear the audible groan from experienced GA folk in the audience for using such a cliche'd speech.

The nominating speech introducing and advocating your candidacy is limited to five minutes -- use the time wisely.

Second, and while I am at it, let me make this suggestion as one who stood for election in 2004: have a group of people praying specifically for you -- now and all the way through the Assembly. Here are some things to include in the list for those praying for you:

  1. Pray for clarity. It is remarkable how confused your tongue can get when you get into the spiritual mix of the Assembly. You can be perfectly articulate in all the question and answer meetings and practices leading up to the Assembly, and then find yourself with a swollen tongue that is tripping over basic sentences. Eloquence is a bonus, clarity is the prayer.

  2. Pray for strength. Standing for election is a sprint. Even the most extroverted folks are drained after meeting and greeting so many in so short a time.

    For moderator candidates, there are about twelve hours of real opportunity for interaction before the election takes place. Then, at the end of the day, they are on the podium, looking out over literally thousands of people, trying to respond to questions in short bursts.

    For the stated clerk candidates, they only have a few official hours to meet and greet, but they have all week to have unofficial conversations -- within the rules -- and a ubiquitous presence before the election process on Friday morning.

    Either way, it is a taxing process.

  3. Pray for peace. I firmly believe that all who stand for election deserve respect and admiration for their willingness to be vulnerable and subject themselves to the judgment of peers. It is a humbling experience. It is incredibly edifying as people encourage you with kind words. It is incredibly disheartening to be shunned by those who are not even willing to look you in the eye. Both are inevitable experiences the candidates will have. From my experience, it was a great blessing to know that I had people who love me praying for me to have peace; I really believe God granted their petition on my behalf.

  4. Pray for a spirit of joy. Standing for election is an act of obedience, all by itself and without regard to the outcome. This was the greatest answered prayer for me. By nature I am a competitor and losing does not sit well. However, God blessed me by allowing me to see the value in running the race. Coming off the platform after the Q & A -- and even before the votes were cast -- I had a tremendous experience of joy that I had been obedient to God's call. Looking back, God's plan for me since 2004 has been a wondrous adventure. Then (and even now), I was grateful for God's grace in affirming me with joy for running the race well.

  5. Pray for a renewed vision of calling at the Assembly. For those praying for the Moderator candidates, remember: win or lose, their work has just begun.

    Whoever is elected Moderator takes on a two-stage responsibility that is a bit of a whirlwind. After the celebratory parties on Saturday night, the job begins in earnest the next day. Being able immediately to step into the role and having the confidence to utilize the resources available to help is important.

    Those not elected enjoy/endure a certain celebrity status throughout the Assembly among others. I have seen candidates for whom not being elected was a stone weight on their shoulders. They wore it like the scarlett letter. I have seen others who have used that celebrity to encourage others -- in essence, exhorting others, "If I can stand up and speak, so can you."

    (Because the election of the Stated Clerk will happen on the last full day of the Assembly -- immediately prior to the debate/vote on whatever ordination standard/sexuality issue proposal is being recommended -- there is not a whole lot of post-election interaction.)

Those are my recommendations. For what it is worth, the urging to have people praying for you applies also to commissioners and advisory delegates; most of the list of specifics translates easily to your service, too.