Susan Mattingly says faith in God’s plan for her life has made her a bolder person, and that bolder Susan Mattingly is pushing for a return to ecclesiastical discipline within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The resident of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., and one of the three newest members of the Presbyterian Lay Committee’s Board of Directors is hopeful that she can help guide in that direction by serving through the PLC.
“I don’t think we gain people for Christ by simply telling them they are wrong,” Mattingly said. “We need to be ambassadors in the world, taking the love of Christ to people, helping them grow in their faith and discipleship. I think the Presbyterian Lay Committee can be an important part of that by providing dialogue and keeping that dialogue going.”
Mattingly said the PLC was a valuable resource for her church, Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian, when it was going through a period of discernment. Mattingly heard PLC President Carmen Fowler LaBerge speak to the congregation she serves as an elder, and the message delivered was about being an asset.
Mattingly prayed about the matter at hand and was led to pursue a position with the PLC board.
“In working through that (discernment period), I became much more aware of the national level of politics in the PCUSA,” Mattingly said. “I was very concerned with people like myself – lay people – who came in to serve on a committee and may not understand the faith at a level beyond just serving the committee. They may not understand the politics of the denomination.
“I don’t have a lot of fancy degrees, but I do understand if you are an elder and a church is in discernment, there has to be a foundation to defend its faith. I’d like to be that for others, the way the Presbyterian Lay Committee was for me and our congregation.”
Mattingly said faith in God’s plan for her life is what she uses as her guide to overcome any difficult situations.
“The most important thing is my faith in God’s plan, for me and the rest of God’s children on the planet,” she said. “That frees me up from a lot of worry and lets me live with things that may not be comfortable, and allows me to talk with people not like me. He’s allowed me to be a bolder person. My faith lets me know when I need him, He’s there. If God calls me to do something, He will equip me to do it. If I feel silly or unprepared to do something, I leave it at the feet of Jesus. God’s grace will cover me.”
That new-found boldness allows Mattingly to stand firm in what she wants to see from the PCUSA.
“I think the PCUSA needs to get back to a time of fair representation with ecclesiastical discipline,” she said. “While we are still a denomination afraid to offend or uphold what we believe, I think we will remain in battle, conflicted and fragmented. I’d like to see our denomination turn back to God and get back to Scripture. I don’t think we have to condone every lifestyle and belief. Jesus does call us to a transformed life, and I’d like to see the denomination get back to that.”
When not serving the PLC Board, Mattingly is a middle school teacher at Pierce Middle School with the Grosse Pointe School District just outside of Detroit where she lives with her husband Ray, a professor of pharmacology (cancer research) at Wayne State University, and sons George, 19, and Raymond, 16.
She works with special needs students at Pierce, primarily those with autism. She had been an aide but started tutoring students in math. She determined she could teach math, so she returned to school and earned her certification in math and political science, embarking on a new path.
“What I most like are the ‘ah-ha’ moments when a student gets it,” Mattingly said of the joy she gets from teaching. “That shows when they understand a concept or a complete a task they have been struggling with for a while. It doesn’t matter what the moment is. You see them struggle with it, and they use their creative minds to grasp it. That’s when they show that independence and creative thought.”
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., Mattingly earned a degree in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where she met her husband. They lived in Burlington, Vt., before moving back to Charlottesville and eventually settling in Grosse Pointe Woods.