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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gary Walter: an outsider's insider

The nominating committee's selection of Gary Walter as the candidate for the presidency of the Evangelical Covenant Church is a good move. I have commented several times on the position and the process. When I asked for leaks about the short-list of candidates, Gary's name came up every time. Why? 
Gary is a producer. He gets things done. In a short term as an appointee on the board of Church Growth and Evangelism, I appreciated the flow of meetings and the genuine growth and progress we have all seen in the planting and establishing of new churches around the country. Gary gets it. 
Gary encourages strong leaders and welcomes the critical voice. With staff like Dave Olson, Don Fensterman, Don Davenport and others, he is devoted to getting facts from the field, not validation of current opinion. 
Gary understands California, growing up here and being educated here. I think it is critical for the next president to "get" California, not because it's cool or hip, but because it is so large and growing so fast. The theological and ecclesiological issues here are interesting, complex and challenging. 
By virtue of his seminary experience and tenure at headquarters, Gary probably gets Chicago as well. It's important that an outsider not be too far outside or they would face isolation and rejection from those groups with long and deep ties (like some seminary deans faced). 
Gary will be a great candidate because he comes with the bias that the local church is where the health and life of the Covenant is and will be in the future. 
The questions for him are many: will he bring new initiatives? will he communicate transparently? will he be accessible? will he be able to lead the seminary and help it connect more and better to the local church? will he be able to shuffle the deck of leadership within the denomination to bring in other new, strong voices? 
In this post-denominational era, I'm excited for what Gary can bring.

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