The Rev. Laura Mendenhall is the recipient of the 2012 Ernest Trice Thompson Award. She received the award on Saturday at the Presbyterian Outlook luncheon that was held as part of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Mendenhall has served as Christian educator, pastor and, most recently, senior philanthropy advisor for the Texas Presbyterian Foundation. She may be most well known for her tenure as President of Columbia Theological Seminary.
Jack Haberer, editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, said of the recipient, “Laura has been such an extraordinary presence at Columbia Seminary through new faculty appointments, new construction and renewal of the campus. The reputation of that institution for making great pastors was enlarged by her tenure there.”
“Thank you so much. I am deeply grateful and truly humbled,” said Mendenhall.
Included in the program were comments from the four candidates standing for Moderator of the 220th General Assembly.
The Rev. Neal D. Presa, pastor of Middlesex (N.J.) Presbyterian Church and member of Elizabeth Presbytery, spoke first and proposed that General Assembly “is a time to have a family gathering, a time for discussion, gathering at the table, sharing our common story.”
The Rev. Susan Davis Krummel, general presbyter and stated clerk of Great Rivers Presbytery, said that it is time for the PC(USA) to decide which part of the body of Christ we want to be. “Right now we resemble the appendix. It is a part that was once useful but now is only noticed if it causes pain and nausea,” she said.
In his remarks, the Rev. Robert Austell, member of Charlotte Presbytery and pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, spoke of his passion for the local church. “This is the frontline – the frontier mission – of God’s work in the world…. We are here to equip, to bless, to work through the local congregation,” he said.
Finally, the Rev. Randy Branson spoke. The pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Graham, Texas, and a member of Palo Duro Presbytery, Branson told the story of two wolves – one representing anger, resentment, jealousy and hatred; the second representing love, joy, peace and generosity. The wolf that wins is the one that is fed. Branson called on the 220th General Assembly to feed the second wolf, the one of love.
Others in attendance who brought greetings included the chair of the board of directors of the Outlook Foundation, the Rev. Chris Edmonston; General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine; General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. Gradye Parsons; and 219th GA Moderator Cynthia Bolbach. In her remarks, the moderator said, “I want to say how significant the Outlook is. We’ve had major changes in our church and I don’t know how anyone would understand or follow all those changes without the independent perspective of the Outlook.”