Friends University graduate Dr. Cliff Loesch, pastor of University Friends Meeting, has been honored with an additional, global ministry: serving for three years as presiding clerk of Friends United Meeting.
“It’s humbling that they asked me to do this,” Dr. Loesch, music education ’79, said of the volunteer position, which began in August.
Friends United Meeting, based in Richmond, Ind., consists of 29 regional associations of Quaker churches, called “yearly meetings.” It is the largest Quaker branch, with 38,000 members in North America and the Caribbean and 300,000 in Kenya.
“It’s the big umbrella,” Dr. Loesch said. “Friends United Meeting has a great deal of diversity. I enjoy the diversity.”
As presiding clerk, he will travel to Indiana to lead three-a-year board meetings, help manage board and organization business, oversee the next triennial meeting in 2014, and venture annually to Kenya, where mission work led to the country’s thriving Quaker church. Dr. Loesch has served on their board all but three years since 1996 and since 2008 was assistant presiding clerk (Friends University alumnus Kelly Kellum, G’89, presided).
“I’m basically a known quantity. They know what they’re getting into,” he said, with a touch of humor. “It is a great honor that they thought I was the person to sit in this spot for the next three years.”
Friends United Meeting has member associations in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Jamaica and Uganda. But its most sizable are in Kenya, which presents a challenge that Dr. Loesch looks forward to. “I would really like to see a greater sense of unity among all the different yearly meetings,” he said.
Friends United Meeting has worked in recent years to strengthen the bond with Kenyan associations, a relationship complicated by distance and finite resources. It created an Africa office a half decade ago, and now has assistant presiding clerks for North America and Africa.
“We are looking for ways to strengthen those global partnerships,” he said. The overarching goal is to “move forward in our mission together, to have a clear sense of what God is leading us to do.”
Dr. Loesch felt the call of ministry about a year after graduating in 1979 and went on to earn a master’s of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1984 and a doctorate from Drew University in 1993. He has been University Friends’ pastor since 1994.
A member of the Friends University board of trustees, he teaches Introduction to Philosophy each fall. His wife, LaVonna, also is adjunct faculty, teaching piano, and leads the church choir. Their children both attend Friends University: Parker is a senior majoring in religion and philosophy; Molly a junior double-majoring in business and history.
While presiding clerk, he will continue to serve University Friends Meeting. “I really do enjoy preaching. I love the whole worship experience, with the music and speaking. The other thing I enjoy is the personal connection with people.”
And as presiding clerk, he will continue to keep in mind the Friends way: “The Quaker process tries to take into account every voice. … If you work with the process long enough, the hope is that you’ll come up with something better than two or three individuals could come up with.”