Pastor transition

Pastor transition

Pastor transition at First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa

Our beloved senior pastor, Dr. Jim Miller, is retiring at the end of October 2023. We invite you to join our congregation in praying for this season of change as we walk the path God has laid for First Church. Find updates and information here regarding the transition to an interim pastor and, in God’s perfect time, a new senior pastor. 

Pastor Transition Leadership
Pastor Transition Updates
Roadmap of Pastor Transition
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The Pastor Transition Team, left to right: Urbanus Masaku, Allison Biggs, Brett Crane, Jim Diacon, Stephanie Madsen and Gary Mathews.

Pastor transition leadership 

Session has formed a Pastor Transition Team whose duties are to prepare for Dr. Miller's upcoming retirement. This includes announcements and communication to the congregation, as well as working with Dr. Miller and staff to address concerns and keep the transition in leadership as smooth as possible. This team will also work closely with the Personnel Committee to perform the search for an interim senior pastor/head of staff to begin serving after Jim’s retirement.

Transition Team Members include Allison Biggs, Brett Crane, Jim Diacon, Stephanie Madsen, Urbanus Masaku and Gary Mathews. If you have questions, concerns or comments, please email any of the members of the team at

Pastor transition updates

Friday, September 15, 2023 

Listen in to “The Transition” podcast hosted by Rev. Julia Metcalf. Each episode will explore the process and progress of the pastoral transition we are walking through. The first two episodes are available now! The first gives an overview of the three-phase process, and the second takes a deep-dive into each phase. Stay tuned for our third episode, which is an interview with our General Presbyter Tim Blodgett who provides perspective, wisdom and encouragement.

Sunday, September 17, 2023 

Beginning this Sunday and continuing into October, expect to welcome a member of the Transition Team into your Sunday School worship during the 9:30 hour. Offering updates and answering questions, the team looks forward to these heart-to-heart congregational discussions as we prayerfully prepare to walk through the coming months of pastoral transition. Sunday School classes can coordinate with Transition Team members for a time for a visit.

Pastor transition roadmap


This Roadmap comprises both procedural and suggested steps, taken from the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery’s guidance and the Book of Order. Some implementations may differ slightly from the intended sequence of events.

July 2023 - Pastoral Transition Team appointed

At the July 25, 2023 called Session meeting, the Session (Elders) appoints the Transition Team. They begin their duties planning congregational announcements and communication methods, consulting with the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery to gain information and set time frames.

August 2023 - Announcement of pastoral retirement

On August 22, 2023 Jim submits a letter that announces to the congregation his intent and plans for retirement as of October 29, 2023.

September 2023 - The search for an interim pastor begins

The Transition Team, with the help of the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, begins a national search for an interim pastor. With the oversight of the Personnel Committee, a job listing posts among appropriate avenues, as advised by the Presbytery.

September & October 2023 - Interviews and planning with Dr. Miller and staff

The Transition Team meets with Dr. Miller to gain insight on his duties and works closely with the Personnel Committee to make sure all tasks are planned to be covered by others after his retirement. The team attends staff meetings and works with the Personnel Committee.

October 2023 - Dissolution of the pastoral relationship

Session calls a congregational meeting to take place for a formal dissolution of pastoral duties between Dr. Miller and First Church. This is a protocol by the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery during transitions in pastoral leadership.

October 2023 - Celebration of the Millers

On October 29, 2023 a Festival Sunday will provide opportunities for the entire congregation to worship with Dr. Miller during his last Sunday as head pastor of First Church.

Interim pastor appointed

The Transition Team recommends an interim pastor, and Session approves and appoints. The Transition Team assists with interim onboarding before the team dissolves, transitional duties concluded.

Mission study commences

A Mission Study Team is appointed by Session (Elders) to lead this study; it is a process of discernment and listening to both the Holy Spirit and the congregation. The study is an assessment of where the church is presently and a conversation within the community of faith about the future of our ministry.

Community study, congregational survey and conversations

The Mission Study Team works with staff and church committees to study the congregation, engagement with the Tulsa community and the mission around the church. Congregants are asked for input to understand the strengths of the congregation’s culture, readiness for change and what may be missing.

Mission study concludes - a report is finalized and approved

The Mission Study Team compiles all findings into a single mission study report. This report seeks to define and project the ministry priorities and goals for the next 3-5 years for First Church. It will aid in aligning new pastoral leadership with the church ministries.

The Pastor Nominating Committee is elected

The pastoral search begins after the mission study is complete. Session calls a congregational meeting to elect the Pastor Nominating Committee, a group of candidates brought forth by the Nominating Committee.

Mission report information session

The Session (Elders) and Mission Study Team presents the mission study report to the congregation. This report will guide the Pastor Nominating Committee as they develop the ministry discernment profile, the help wanted ad.

Applications open for candidates for senior pastor

The Pastor Nominating Committee utilizes the ministry discernment profile to search for candidates. The committee begins receiving and reviewing applications from candidates.

Candidate interviews begin

The Pastor Nominating Committee begins interviewing senior pastor candidates while continuing to receive applications.

Applications close

The Pastor Nominating Committee closes applications for the position of senior pastor.

Pastor Nominating Committee selects a candidate

The Pastor Nominating Committee selects a senior pastor candidate subject to the Presbytery’s approval.

Congregation votes to “call the candidate”

The Pastor Nominating Committee presents the candidate’s name and the congregation votes to call the candidate to be the new senior pastor of First Church.

Installation of the new senior pastor

When the congregation, Presbytery and candidate have all concurred in a call to the permanent position with First Church, a service of installation occurs in the context of worship.

Pastor transition - FAQs

Here are several of our frequently asked questions.

Read all Q&As here.
Have an additional question? Email us here.
Listen to "The Transition" podcast here.

Q: What do the months leading up to Dr. Miller’s October retirement look like?

Dr. Miller’s last Sunday will be October 29, 2023. It will be a Festival Sunday that allows everyone to hear Dr. Miller preach in one 11 a.m. service in the Sanctuary with streaming to the Great Hall. Plans are in the works for a farewell reception immediately following the service. Watch the bulletin and First Church E-News for information. The congregation will have an opportunity to make contributions toward a retirement gift as well. There will be ample rejoicing in the gift of the Miller family to this congregation! A Transition Team, appointed by and working closely with the Personnel Committee, will perform the search for an interim senior pastor/head of staff to begin serving after Jim’s retirement.

Q: What will be Dr. Miller’s involvement after he retires on October 29?

Jim and Diane will take some much-deserved rest and time off after his long career. There will be opportunities for Jim’s continued involvement with the church in the future. While Jim’s pastoral services will end with his retirement, the Millers’ personal friendships with members of the congregation will, of course, remain.

Q: Who is the Transition Team and what is it doing?

Session has formed a Transition Team to prepare for Dr. Miller’s upcoming retirement. If you have questions, concerns or comments, please reach out to the team via e-mail here. The Transition Team includes Allison Biggs, Brett Crane, Jim Diacon, Stephanie Madsen, Urbanus Masaku and Gary Mathews. The team is providing proactive support to the congregation and staff by communicating developments along the way, answering questions and engaging the congregation and staff. They are also working closely with Dr. Miller to fully understand what his duties entail, to create a road map that will help leadership transitions be smooth.

More Q&As here.
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