Getting to “yes”

Getting to “Yes”

Thoughts About Serving As Acting Stated Clerk

I have recently taken on a role as Acting Stated Clerk of San Diego Presbytery. What this means is that I am the procedural mechanic who helps people understand how to get to yes.

That may not be the most typical definition of a Stated Clerk, but it is such an essential function that I think it encapsulates the essence of what it means.

In this time of declining institutions and the need for adaptive change, the “rules” often function as a vehicle to say “no”:

  • “No, you cannot do that.”
  • “No, we have never done it that way.”
  • “No, it will upset too many people.”

Those non-starter statements dampen enthusiasm. They give the impression that what once was, always will be.

True, not every idea is a good idea. However, a problem that has arisen over the course of years is that — systemically — we have thwarted people by process rather than affording them the opportunity to pursue new ideas on the merits. This is where a Stated Clerk comes in.

The goal and role of a Stated Clerk is to help people navigate the procedural waters so that they know how to get to “yes.” The Clerk’s job is not to get them to yes; rather, it is to point the way so that they can get to yes themselves. Assisting someone does not equate with agreement. Further, assisting one person does not mean that the clerk is conflicted from providing procedural guidance for someone with the complete opposite view. Informally over the years, I have found that presenting the likely best paths of both pro- and con- to any and all parties who want help facilitates a greater likelihood that the question will be debated on the merits.

I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Linda Therien, whose retirement triggered my stepping into this role. She modeled the heart and integrity of  a great clerk. She cared for the people of this presbytery enormously. She was remarkable for her ability to provide advice without letting on what was her own personal opinion of the idea. She also would go the extra mile to figure out a way forward in the event that the obvious path was blocked.

Already in a few short weeks, I have had numerous of phone calls and messages to which I responded, “No, you cannot do it the way you have described; however, here is a different way you might approach it to get to the same goal.”

Thus, I am the procedural mechanic who helps people understand how to get to yes.

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