Becoming the Moderator of the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada has been a new and challenging experience for me. Though I’ve moderated a presbytery before, I’ve found it far more challenging to begin a new work than it ever was to manage an older one.
I’ve been involved in the work of the church for some time. I had the honor of chairing the Pastoral Nominating Commission (PNC) that brought Pastor Henry Greene to Central Presbyterian Church of Merced, CA, where I serve as an elder. During Henry's tenure here, I also had the distinct pleasure of "carrying his briefcase" as he helped to lead the effort to restore orthodoxy to the church. We served as General Assembly Commissioners together in 1986 in Birmingham and served as Moderators of the Presbytery of Stockton. I also served as a Commissioner to the Presbytery and to the Synod of the Pacific and served on a Synod Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC), hearing many of the most controversial cases that would contribute to the massive changes occurring in the PC(USA).
As a result, I considered myself a strong advocate for orthodoxy in the Church. So heavily involved was I in the process that I didn't even notice what was happening to my faith walk. And then I had the great privilege of attending the Fellowship conference in Colorado Springs. My attitude about what we needed to be as a church was radically reformed. Instead of continuing to pursue a warrior's path with respect to orthodoxy, which turned out to be self defeating (at least for me), it became quite apparent that God was doing something new in the Church which would much better contend for the faith. Instead of battling something old, we began to be called to something new. It seems trite, but the new call on our lives made all of the difference. Two new ways of holding fast to our understanding of the Word and living out our faith began to take shape. One would later become ECO, and the other the Fellowship. Initially, we thought the Fellowship was our path. However, we were called once again to attend the General Assembly as part of the Presbyterians For Renewal (PFR) team in Pittsburgh in 2012 where our specific calling to a new work was confirmed.
At the time, we fully expected to depart the PC(USA) with the blessings of our brothers and sisters in our Presbytery, and enter ECO graciously and ready to take on this new work with vigor. Unfortunately, that plan was not to be. Though our departure was gracious, the man we fully expected to be the Moderator of our new Presbytery when formed, Henry Greene, went to be with the Lord he loved so much in November of 2013, while hiking in Yosemite. In his absence, I agreed to become the Moderator of the Presbytery.
Since that time, it seems like all of us on our presbytery team have been drinking from a fire hose! The first wave of churches arrived to form the initial members of our new body (which is rapidly filling with additional churches!). It has been amazing to watch God’s call upon the lives of our pastors and elders, and indeed our congregations, as we begin this new work. The dedication and sacrifice of time and resources of our teams has been remarkable. Our presbytery meetings have been joyous and productive.
Since the presbytery formed, we have ordained new pastors, taken several new candidates under care, and even more churches have began to inquire about joining our work and possibilities for planting and growing new churches have began to present themselves. Doing all of this work with volunteers and on shoe-string budgets has been a challenge, but it's seems that God is multiplying the fish and loaves as we move forward.
As I look back on my faith journey, I am constantly amazed at how God has pursued me through the years in spite of significant times of rebellion against His call upon my life. I was raised in a Christian family, placed my faith in Jesus and was baptized in the Disciples of Christ when I was 11, but functionally was a Presbyterian from an early age having hung out in Presbyterian youth groups.
I met my wife, Jean, in college at UC Davis. She happened to be the daughter of two Presbyterian Elders from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church where we were married in 1972. I went on to law school, and after a commission in the Navy, I entered private law practice. We have four children and nine grandchildren, all of whom, by the grace of God, are involved in the church.
I can’t even begin to describe how blessed we feel having arrived in ECO. Looking forward to ministry and being about God's work, making decisions about property and second campuses, calling new pastors, and growing the body, even with its continuing challenges has been so much more satisfying than the campaign for orthodoxy ever was, though it was and remains a great calling for many.
Finally, it has been an incredible journey, and a continuing challenge getting to know the churches in our presbytery that are moving toward ECO. We seem to be visiting churches on a weekly basis and interviewing sessions and pastors as the process moves forward. It has been remarkable and encouraging to see the talents, resources, and the heart for the ministry of Christ that our churches have and their desire to now re-connect with (and be accountable to) one another to worship the risen Lord, proclaim the Word, and provide for the needs of our people as we all reach out together to proclaim Christ and engage in His mission to a lost world. I can't wait to see what God has in mind for us.
Ken Robbins lives in Merced, California and attends Central Presbyterian Church. He enjoys spending time with grandchildren, learning new things, traveling with friends, and enjoying time with his wife of 42 years and fellow elder, Jean.