Opening Words from Sun. February 24 by Krystal White

Good morning. Two months ago, Leader Kate Lovelady announced she would step down from the Ministry Team Leader position, effective June 2020. I would like to update you on actions the Board has taken since that announcement.

First, the Board continued developing our Society’s Strategic Plan, charting a visionary course for the next five years or so. The Strategic Plan has four pillars: Member Experience, Outreach, Diversity, and Sustainability and Growth. Making progress on the Strategic Plan will be a primary focus for our congregation, Board, and especially our Ministry Team in the coming years, and the Strategic Plan helps inform how our new Leader will devote time, skills, and programming.

Additionally, the Board continued and then concluded the evaluation of the Two-Leader Model. Through surveys, interviews, and a 9:45 Forum, members and staff offered feedback on our Ethical Society being led by two Leaders. Overall, folks preferred having two Leaders give platforms and pastoral support, and felt that the current two Leaders complement each other well in attributes and skill sets. This evaluation process answered the first question: Should the Ethical Society of Saint Louis continue to have two Leaders? Overwhelmingly, the consensus was yes.

With those two processes mostly concluded, the Board had enough information to appropriately frame next steps. The Ethical Society would hire an individual for the Ministry Team Leader position. The Ministry Team Leader would partner with the Board, coordinate the programming and pastoral support to achieve the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan, and that person would be supported by an additional Leader, ideally one whose skills complement those of the Ministry Team Leader.

Through much conversation, the Board explored various combinations of how to meet the Leadership needs of the Society and the best option rose to the top. The Board recommends James Croft to be the Society’s Ministry Team Leader candidate. While James Croft has been a Leader, the Saint Louis Society has significantly expanded its outreach to the wider community and the ethical humanist message has a much broader reach. The Society’s programming is wide-ranging and our members and visitors are from a younger and more diverse demographic. He’s also incredibly charismatic, an effective communicator, and a thoughtful and passionate individual. Our Society has been enriched by his Leadership, and his efforts and skill set correspond with our Strategic Plan. Confident that we have the best candidate already here at the Society, the Past-President, President-Elect, and I met with James to explore his interest in stepping into the Ministry Team Leader role. He enthusiastically said “yes!” to being our Ministry Team Leader candidate.

You may be wondering “what are the next steps in this process?” The next steps are yours, frankly, because the membership hires Leaders. You are welcomed and encouraged to attend a Town Hall after platform on Sunday, April 7 th , where you can share your thoughts and feelings regarding James Croft as the Ministry Team Leader candidate. A month later, the congregation will vote at our Annual Meeting to accept or decline James as the Ministry Team Leader, beginning in June 2020. According to the By- Laws, “an affirmative vote of two-thirds of Active Members voting either in person or by absentee ballot […] shall be required to initially hire a leader.” Please mark your calendars for the Annual Meeting on Thursday, 16 May, 7 PM, so that you can cast your vote in this important decision.

I shared the Board recommendation with Kate earlier this week; she was absolutely thrilled and expressed total confidence and support for the choice. She’s speaking at the Ethical Society in Atlanta this weekend, so she cannot jump up and down with enthusiasm in your presence but you should know that she is 100% confident in James’s capabilities in stepping into this new role.

The Ethical Society currently has two phenomenal Leaders. If the congregation votes affirmatively and James steps into the Ministry Team Leader role in June 2020, then this upcoming 2019 – 2020 year will be spent in transition. Kate plans to mentor and guide him through this upcoming year – ensuring he fully understands all the parts of the Society and how to keep it running – and I expect that James might take on more responsibility as the year progresses. Overall, the transition should be smoother and the learning curve less steep in June 2020.

Additionally, the Society structured the current two-leader model based on Kate’s skill sets. If he is voted in, the Ministry Team Leader job description will change a bit to best match up with James’s skill sets and to position the Ethical Society in the best way for success. Afterwards, the Society will put together a Leader Search Committee, craft a job description for a second Leader, and conduct a search for another phenomenal Leader to join our community.

The Board feels tremendously honored to serve during this Leadership transition period. Thank you for trusting us and thank you for your passion and commitment to the Ethical Society, this community, and to each other.

Krystal White
President of the Board of Trustees, Ethical Society of Saint Louis

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.