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Board Appoints Executive Director

Laura Leigh June 2020 headshot

FSM Board on Navigating Our Transition

The First Stone Ministries Board had no plans in place for what was to unfold for 2023. Stephen Black was our trusted source of information and during lockdowns, the Board did not meet as it should have. At that time, there were three members of the Board: Stephen Black, FSM’s Executive Director, Randy Rice, who has been a Board member for 20 years, and me, with four years of service with FSM. Unfortunately, the Board was made aware of a very important missed deadline and long-time Board member, Randy Rice, offered to find out what happened. What he discovered was that there were two missed legal deadlines, and the staff was afraid to give honest feedback on separate internal issues.

The Board convened a staff meeting where each person had the opportunity to share concerns and observations with Stephen. Stephen’s response was completely unexpected and unacceptable. He was asked to go on sabbatical, to give him time to work out a variety of personal issues affecting his leadership. It is important to point out that at no time were we concerned about sexual immorality.

It was plain to see that our Board needed to take a more active role in fostering the growth of the ministry. I was able to recruit Dr. Kevin Clarkson to join the Board. Dr. Clarkson had served on the OBU Board of Directors and was a long-time pastor of First Moore. He currently pastors Liberty Church in Yukon. Our second addition was Gaylene Stupic, who serves as FSM Board Secretary, and attends Bridgeway Church. She has a passion to see people walk in the fullness of their identity in Christ and serves in prison ministry as well as a women’s ministry, Beautiful Restoration.

And then there was the flood. The FSM staff had to hurriedly pack up ALL the First Stone property to keep it from damage, locate and move to temporary offices, run a ministry out of boxes then, and during subsequent construction, and negotiate the details of the missed deadline. From the outset of Stephen’s sabbatical, Laura Leigh Stanlake played a stabilizing and pastoral role. It was only a few weeks into the sabbatical that the Board received Stephen’s written notice of resignation. The Board then asked Laura Leigh to step in as interim Executive Director, while the Board worked through a separation agreement that would honor Stephen’s service to the ministry without putting him or the ministry at risk.

The weight of the loss of such a long-serving FSM Executive Director was more bearable thanks to the latent talent of the entire FSM ministry team. The staff flourished under Laura Leigh’s leadership and within weeks, it was clear that she was more than capable of handling the duties of an interim Executive Director. She attended to the long-overdue fiduciary tasks and held the Board to our deadlines and commitments. It was obvious that the anointing of God was guiding Laura Leigh on the direction FSM needed to go administratively as well as ministerially. The Board voted unanimously at the September 2023 Board meeting to officially make Laura Leigh the Executive Director.

Since that time, we have watched the staff go through illness, surgery, and the death of a family member and yet the staff is vibrant and full of ideas to move the ministry forward. Laura Leigh invited a lovely ministry friend to host a prayer night at our host church, Crestwood Vineyard. It was well-attended, and we look forward to the next one after the first of the new year. We praise God that her vision and abilities have provided clear direction and a promising future.

Bob Linn, Chairman