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Stated Clerk Nomination Committee selects Parsons for a second term

First unchallenged incumbent since 1983 Reunion

March 21, 2012

Louisville

The Rev. Gradye Parsons has been selected by the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee (SCNC) to stand as its nominee for a second term as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Gradye’s references describe him as one who is ‘committed to Jesus Christ and the whole church’ and ‘disarmingly wise,’” said the Rev. Dennis Hughes, a teaching elder from Seattle, Wash., who chairs the SCNC. Hughes is also a member of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly.

According to Hughes, a virtual consensus emerged from both references and colleagues from the six agencies of the PC(USA) when asked whether Parsons and the Stated Clerk position continue to be a good fit. “They told us, ‘He is called to it’ and ‘He loves the church we are and believes in the church God wants us to be,’” said Hughes.

“The SCNC concurs,” continued Hughes. “We are very pleased to nominate Gradye unanimously.”

The SCNC was elected by the 219th General Assembly in 2010. The nine members include four past General Assembly commissioners, three individuals from COGA, a representative from the General Assembly Mission Council, and a representative of mid-council staff.

Since its election, the committee has overseen a churchwide application process. Applications were available in October 2011. Five application packets were requested. In the end, however, Parsons was the only individual who submitted an application by the January 3, 2012, deadline, making him the first unchallenged incumbent since Reunion in 1983.

According to Hughes, the SCNC felt it “had a responsibility to ask hard questions of the Stated Clerk” during their interview time with Parsons in Chicago on March 13-14, 2012, because of the issues and tensions that are present across the denomination.

“The Stated Clerk is not responsible for causing those tensions,” said Hughes, “but we thought it was important to reflect on his present term in light of the tensions and to focus on his vision for the future.”

When asked in his application to identify highlights from his first term, Parsons’ mentioned the adoption of the new Form of Government, the formation of the Mid Council Commission, the six-agency leadership initiative, the start of a process to recreate the National Council of Churches, and annual gatherings of national staff from all six agencies to help promote harmony and collaboration among the agencies.

Hughes pointed out that respondents gave Parsons high marks on fostering collaboration. A national staff member commented, “These relationships [among the six agencies] are the healthiest they have been in my tenure. Gradye understands collaboration and encourages it in every endeavor.”

In responding to the SCNC’s nomination of him for a second term, Parsons said, “I am humbled and honored to be nominated to serve another term. I believe God is doing something amazing in the church, and we are all fortunate to be both witnesses to it and participants in it.”

“He is the right person for the job at this time,” said Hughes, “especially with his non-anxious presence.”

Hughes continued, “Gradye is someone who believes in God’s future to the core of his being.”

Parsons’ nomination will be made by the SCNC to the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 1, 2012.

In addition to Hughes, members of the Stated Clerk Nomination Committee include ruling elders Reid Beveridge (Wilmington, Del.), Melissa Kirkpatrick (Gainesville, Va.), and Vincent Thomas (Minneapolis, Minn.), and teaching elders Terry Epling (St. Louis, Mo.), Dan Krebill (Bozeman, Mont.), Eileen Lindner (Tenafly, N. J.), Matthew Schramm (Bay City, Mich.), and Judith Wellington (Albuquerque, N. M.). The staff resource person to the committee is ruling elder Barbara Murphy (Orange, Calif.).

  1. I was apparently one of five people who requested a 2012 application packet for GA stated clerk but did not send it in. After consultation with friends and family and open-ness in prayer, I was not led to apply. I did hope that someone else would apply and sent a letter to churchandworld.com to that effect. Here are some reasons I didn't run: 1. I have already run. Twice. I didn’t want to be Harold Stassen. 2. The election of the clerk in a contested election at the end of GA makes it hard to beat the incumbent who is up there in front of folks all week. 3. I got 25 % of the votes in 2008. I would assume many, but not all, of my votes were from evangelicals. But since the repeal of G-6.0106b, our numbers are diminishing. 4. Even if I, or someone like me, were to be elected clerk, I think the chances of real change proceeding in a "top down" manner are slim. My real interest is Revival--and revival in American churches is historically "bottom up." I still am expectant about Revival in the PC(USA) not because of who we are but because of Who God is! 5. As I have written in the past, while no system is perfect, and we are indeed always governed by imperfect systems, nevertheless I think it can be argued that there is some (intentional or unintentional) "theological gerrymandering” in the selection of GA commissioners. By that I mean that a. larger membership congregations are numerically under-represented in the process (and they tend to be more evangelical) and b. because many teaching elders in specialized ministries are elected as commissioners, grassroots (read “rooted –in-the-life-of-a-particular-congregation”) representation is diminished. While I think the Assembly could vote to set aside the Standing Rules and accept nominations from the floor, I am not sure what that would accomplish. I do not see the lack of another nominee for GA stated clerk as a sign of vitality and life. I do not see it as a commentary --pro or con--on the job Gradye has done. I see it rather more an indication of fatigue and lack of hope that change can come about through contesting this office. Winfield Casey Jones, candidate for GA stated clerk, 2000 and 2008

    by Winfield Casey Jones

    March 22, 2012

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