The Rev. Neal D. Presa, 35, newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 220th General Assembly, told a press conference Saturday night (June 30) he would seek as his primary goal the unity of the church even with our differences.

“I am humbled and grateful for the 220th General Assembly’s affirmation of this call, and as I have emphasized in the last months and tonight, it is important that we seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace to find the way for us to journey together as the church with all of the differences that we bring. I do not call on folks to subtract or to diminish their convictions, but how can we move humbly and prayerfully together with Jesus Christ leading us?”

Asked if he thought there was a future for denominations and what that future might look like for the PC(USA), Presa said, “It will be much more flexible, nimble, still anchored in our Reformed tradition. Because we have diverse theologies, there will be diverse practices. … So how do we nimbly, while anchored in the Reformed tradition, respond as a community that loves one another, not through judicial action or legislation, or continual launching of bombs and missiles, but one where we live in that tension of trying to discover community together, without jumping or playing the ‘gotcha’ game with each other?

Asked if during this week it came down to maintaining unity or being faithful to the gospel and letting the chips fall where they may, how would he counsel the Assembly, Presa said he didn’t see it as either/or.

“I don’t see those as mutually exclusive, “ he said. “To be united in Christ—as Christ prayed in John 17 [and we] see in the New Testament corpus where the apostle Paul uses the phrase ‘one another’ continually in his letters—it’s not a diminishment of anyone’s convictions. It’s saying we are united already, let’s continue with the differences, and how then do we move together with those differences still intact?”