Heather McKenzie

Acting Presbytery EO

As Presbytery Executive Officer I oversee all the work of Southern Presbytery which is a broad ranging role. Southern Presbytery is the body of oversight of all the 70 Presbyterian and Cooperating/Union churches in Otago and Southland parishes, and three campsites and other ministries of the presbytery. In general, terms the Presbytery provides oversight for all ministry positions, property developments costing over $50,000 and the life of the churches. The lion share of Presbytery’s work is through our four “Workgroups” covering regular reviews of parishes, ministry and leadership, finance and property and selection and support of candidates for the ministry.

Each of the 70 parishes is part of one of 5 ‘Resource Groups’. These groups support each parish in mission, do mission planning together, provide pastoral care for members, and gather regularly. These are the heart of presbytery life.

We have a strong relationship with our sister organization known as the Synod, which distributes grants to Presbytery and churches for property developments and mission purposes as well as to the education sector. Many of the property decisions require the approval of both Presbytery and Synod to have effect as the Synod fulfils a role like the Church Property Trustees.

The Synod funds four positions working with the presbytery and its parishes focusing on leadership support, children, families, youth and parish mission.

There are approximately 100 different people with different roles in the life of the Presbytery in addition to ministers and other leaders working with parishes. With such a large organization coordination and communication is important. My role is to ensure that this occurs and that people are heard when they have a different opinion to the majority voice. Much of my work occurs by email. 

As the Clerk of the Presbytery I fulfil several constitutional roles as well as advising parishes, committees and individuals the limitations and extent of their powers. I need to ensure records are kept and confidential documents are kept secured and that records are archived.

The way Presbyterian, cooperating parishes and the Presbytery works is shaped by our Book of Order which contains our policies and procedures set nationally by our General Assembly. This also provides procedures for resolving conflict when these situations arise. Southern Presbytery has in addition adopted other policies for its responsibilities.

 

I can help the churches by assisting them to function as Presbyterian or union/cooperating parishes. Our churches are part of a regional and national movement of churches with reasonably strong commitments to working together. Our churches are not automatous or independent. Often I am approached by leaders asking who to turn to for support in a specific area, and usually there is someone I can refer them to. I also offer advice on which policies and procedures [in our Book of Order and additional policies] apply to a given situation.

My role is to assist congregations to stay connected and participate in shared decision making processes of the wider church and alongside this to engage with the inspiration and equipping available to them through the wider church. My role is also to remind leaders of who they are, their responsibilities and that the people of their congregations have rights to be respected by their leaders.

A few times each year I send out a Presbytery newsletter and some parishes have events they ask be to advertise to the wider body.