Our gifted and vigorous General Secretary, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, has announced his departure from that position. I sincerely wish him health and happiness in this next stage of his life. Now it becomes the task of the RCA to choose a successor. Humanly speaking, it will not be easy. There will be pressures from many sides: to satisfy demands or requirements that speak to vested interests, to continue or depart from the shape given the position by someone who, over the course of sixteen years, truly defined it.
There are certain characteristics that will obviously be required of our next General Secretary, things that no one within the RCA could find objectionable. That person must be a Christian, and that person must be competent. In addition, I think that most would agree (although perhaps not all) that the next General Secretary must be a member of the RCA.
Beyond these, there are at least two other characteristics that I would like to see in our next General Secretary. They are quite broad, so I find it necessary to express these under categories one probably would not find on a typical job posting for an executive. In short, I hope that the next General Secretary will be multilingual and musical.
The General Secretary should be multilingual. I don’t mean literally, of course (although it would be a good thing for her or him to be able to speak Spanish, Korean, and Mandarin). No, what I mean is that it is important for the leader of this denomination to understand and converse in the varied religious dialects that we find among our members, often concentrated in certain geographic regions. We do not all speak the same. We do not all look at the same issues in the same way. Sure, there are common convictions that keep us connected. But the things we hold in common are so often expressed in different ways. And those varied modes of expression have often led to misunderstanding, indeed, even to mistrust. The next General Secretary must be knowledgeable about these varied modes of expression and the worldviews that are their basis, and must not let one dialect dominate the conversation so that all others are silenced.
The General Secretary should be musical. Again, I don’t mean literally (although that might be fun). Rather, I have in mind something like the collection of skills and virtues that make a good performing musician: a good sense of intonation, fine rhythm, stamina, agility. All of these are needed for the chief executive of this denomination, for the sake of the church but also for that person’s own health: a good ear to discern the harmonious and the discordant, a sense of the cycles of groups and of the self that impact productive work, a capacity to work hard and long and under great (often public) pressure, an ability to adjust quickly to the opportunities of the moment.
Besides these, a good musician needs a knowledge of the history of the music she or he is attempting to play. Whether it be Bach or jazz or the blues, the best, most thrilling musicians know the history of their art and bring that history into what they newly create. This, too, is similarly needed for the General Secretary (and, I believe, for all leaders in the RCA): an understanding of the history of this denomination, an appreciation for the Reformed tradition, a deep knowledge of the theological emphases and commitments that mark us and (rightly) continue to shape us.
May God bless the search committee in their labors.