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Presbyterian global mission leader Don Black dies at 93

Pennsylvanian headed Board of Foreign Missions, COEMAR, first GAC

February 19, 2013

LOUISVILLE

The Rev. Donald T. Black, who over a career spanning nearly 50 years helped lead the Presbyterian Church through multiple reunions and restructurings in a variety of capacities, died Feb. 16 in suburban Philadelphia. He was 93.

A native of Mercer, Pa., Black graduated from Grove City (Pa.) College, Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary and the Temple University School of Theology. He was ordained by the former United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1945 and began his career as founding pastor of Creston Hills United Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City. In 1950 he became pastor of Boulevard United Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

While in Philadelphia, Black was elected to the UPNA’s Board of Foreign Missions and served as its president. He also chaired the New Wilmington Missionary Conference board, and in 1954 was elected executive secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions.

In 1958 the UPNA united with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to form the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and Black was chosen as associate general secretary of the new Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (COEMAR), where he served until that agency was dissolved in a 1972 UPCUSA restructure.

For the next five years, Black served as pastor of the American Church in London, during which time he was instrumental in the creation of the Association of Community Churches in Europe and the Middle East.

In 1977, Black returned to New York to become associate director of the UPCUSA’s Program Agency, a post he held until Presbyterian reunion in 1983, when he was tapped as the first executive director of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He retired in 1988.  

Throughout his career, Black was involved in local and global ecumenism. He was the first president of the Oklahoma State Council of Churches. He was a delegate to the founding assembly of the  National Council of Churches and served on several committees. He attended two assemblies of the World Council of Churches and was a member of its Division of World Mission and  Evangelism, where he chaired its Christian Literature Fund Committee. Black also attended two assemblies of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

For 64 years, Black was married to his beloved Frances. She died in 2008. They had four sons: David, Donald, Joseph and Timothy; seven grandchildren and 11 great-granchildren. A memorial service will be held Feb. 22 in the auditorium at Rydal Park, a retirement community near Philadelphia where Don Black lived.

This Presbyterian Historical Society taped an interview with Don Black in which he described the momentous events and challenges that occurred in the Presbyterian Church during his distinguished career. To watch the video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woTyH86xmUc.

  1. some of us think Don was head of National Council Churches not the UPCUSA. Please check

    by Barbara Roche

    February 27, 2013

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