Rada elected moderator of 221st General Assembly on first ballot

June 15, 2014

—Danny Bolin

Heath Rada, a retired ruling elder who served the American Red Cross as CEO of the Greater Richmond chapter and president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, was elected moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Saturday evening (June 14) on the first ballot.

Serving with him as vice moderator will be Larissa Kwong Abazia, Church of Forest Hills, a multicultural, multiethnic congregation in Queens, New York.

Rada received 52 percent, or 331, of the votes. John Wilkinson finished second with 157 votes (25 percent), while Kelly Allen was third with 143 votes (23 percent).

“I believe the role of the moderator is to listen carefully,” Rada said in a news conference following the election. “I will try to do my best to interpret the decisions of the Assembly.

“There’s a lot of anger out there. At some point when people are angry, they divorce, we’ll have to deal with that.”

During his speech, Rada displayed a t-shirt that said “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.”

“That’s Original Sin into a sassy sound bite,” he said. “How easy it is to wear that t-shirt.”

But Rada accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior when he was 12-years-old. Ever since, he said, Jesus has continued to open doors and show new dimensions. “Leaders of many faiths have helped me to see that truth can be understood from many different angles. People who were sure they were Jesus’s favorites had their minds expanded.”

His call as a ruling elder was to develop mediation skills that could be used to make life better. He put these to use in his service with the Red Cross, working to help make peoples lives better in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“We have to challenge those who want to be favorites. In too many instances we forget the power of the gospel. We need to abound in hope and get rid of this message,” he said.

All three candidates emphasized the need for building relationships and having conversations that reconcile across divisions. When asked what place in the PC(USA) of the future they see for evangelical and more conservative folk, Wilkinson said, “We can all disagree with each other, and yet we can find our common life in our baptism, Bible study and fellowship together. A bird needs two wings to fly.” Allen finds common ground among Presbyterians through evangelism tied with justice. Rada emphasized that “the love of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the foundation that unites us.”

Rada said about congregations deciding to leave the PC(USA), “We need to find ways for people to live together and disagree. A mediator can help find significant common ground. “ Allen spoke about her intense feelings of sadness when people choose to leave. Wilkinson hopes that presbyteries have not only guidelines and principles, but relationships at the deeper level.

All of them spoke about their hope to welcome back those who have gone to other denominations in the future.

Responding to a question regarding what gifts the candidates had witnessed LGBTQ people bring, Rada said, “Let’s allow people to be God’s children, and not have to focus on labels.”

Wilkinson said, “Their gifts are no different than the gifts all people bring. We need to discover that God doesn’t gift a group of people one way, and a different group of people another way.” Allen spoke about remembering people have been isolated and excluded.

The group fielded questions on communication, the role of younger adults, the Belhar Confession, and their understanding of global partnerships.

On the role of young adults, Rada noted how many were present at the Assembly. “What a lot of people. Bringing us a new understanding of church. They need space to explore who they are. What they believe. We need techies. We need selfies.”

Rada is looking forward to a creative partnership with his running mate. He explained that he first declined to run because he didn’t think of his face as the face of our emerging denomination.

When he was introduced to Kwong Abazia, he decided to answer the call to run. “She’s everything I’m not when it comes to demographics. One of the joys of these past months has been getting to know her.

Following his installation, Rada said, “I’ll do my best with Larissa beside me as an extraordinary partner. We’re going to give it everything we have. If I had the power, I would fix every single glitch we have endured tonight.”

Read this article in Spanish.

  1. Prayers begin now for your leadership in this awesome new role for you (and Peggy). New e-mail now in effect for us. Love you both.

    by Graydon and Judy Spivey

    June 27, 2014

  2. Heath, I am so encouraged by your election as Moderator. You have been amply prepared for this position, you will do well. Unity has always been a challenge, we Catholics know division too well. It has consumed my faith and hope. God be with you old friend.

    by Michael Bechelli

    June 25, 2014

  3. You win some, you lose some. We applaud Presbyterian Church USA, Heath Rada, John Wilkinson and Kelly Allen for their commitment to justice and their consideration to divest from Israeli firms and those around the world that invest in occupation and apartheid. Its 60 years too late. Jesus will be ashamed. But, he is a forgiving God. Do not be afraid! BDS is a democratic, non-violent weapon of the powerless.

    by Debbie

    June 24, 2014

  4. Congratulations on your stand regarding the Jewish actions toward the people of Palestine. I'm certain there was heavy pressure placed on the church to soften it's position.

    by Herb Stokes

    June 21, 2014

  5. I have a sign in my guest bathroom with that statement: Jesus Loves You but I'm His Favorite. My take on that is that each of us is Jesus' favorite. At 73 I can say with assurance that I've been Jesus' favorite since I was 8 year old. His presence has always been beside me. I'll bet you can say the same. God's blessings on you as you begin to lead us.

    by Elizabeth R Snead

    June 20, 2014

  6. Heath, I am so excited to hear of your becoming Moderator of the GA! Congratulations and best wishes. I feel very comfortable about the GA with you at the helm! Prayers and blessings.

    by Miriam Dunson

    June 18, 2014

  7. And all this time, I thought I was Jesus' favorite.... Congratulations, Heath and Co. Keep on holding us close to the Gospel, and together, for Christ's sake!

    by Adlai Boyd

    June 17, 2014

  8. Congratulations! The General Assembly is in good hands!

    by Vann Joines

    June 17, 2014

  9. I will continue to hold you and this call in the Light. Keep listening.

    by Robyn Josephs

    June 17, 2014

  10. Dear Heath, Remember, you are Love and it's power is with you and Larissa! No doubt this path will hold many adventures. May each one enrich you both beyond your imaginations!!

    by Kathy Spivey

    June 17, 2014

  11. Heath, you are an instrument in God's hands and we pray that God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit will lead you now and in the two years as General Assembly Moderator that "we all will abound in hope"(Romans 15:13).

    by Joanne Hixon Kirven and Ross Kirven

    June 16, 2014

  12. Heath, I am soooo proud of you. You will be a wonderful moderator. You are in my prayers. Ann McNeill

    by Ann J. McNeill

    June 16, 2014

  13. Heath, what a good man you are. It is a pleasure being family. We love you!

    by Edward Rada

    June 16, 2014

  14. Heath. What a good man you are.it has always been a delight being family.

    by Edward Sawyer Rada

    June 16, 2014

  15. "For such a time as this," by the providence of God Heath you have been elected Moderator of the PCUSA. Your life experiences as a servant-leader -Ruling Elder of our Lord Jesus Christ serving from the pew in the local congregation, larger church, President of PSCE, President of the Richmond area Red Cross and in other endeavors ... over decades as a disciple - has equipped you to bring to bear acquired wisdom in helping Presbyterians find middle ground in expressing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and in serving together in the Church despite differences. May God's grace and strength be with you Heath.

    by Edwin (Ed) W. Stock, Jr.

    June 16, 2014

  16. Congratulation Heath! When the Moderator is going to visit Indonesia. From Kadarmanto & Ruth (PSCE alumni/ae).

    by Kadarmanto Hardjowasito

    June 16, 2014

  17. You were only a teen-ager in my youth group in 1961-1963, but even then you displayed Christian character and love of others. I think of your dear mother and her prayers for the church and for you. They have been answered as God has used you to be a blessing to others. Thank you, Heath and congratulations.

    by Linda Echols Perry

    June 16, 2014

  18. Congratulations, cousin. Now go forth and change the world!

    by Joe Rada

    June 16, 2014

  19. Heath and Peggy have been special friends of ours since PSCE. They will be special friends to the PCUSA also. We look forward to Heath's leadership in the next two years through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for Heath!

    by Parks and May Williams

    June 16, 2014

  20. Heath, God has chosen you to lead and given you Peggy and family to support your leading. We are in good hands. Love and blessings.

    by Glenn & Evelyn Bannerman

    June 16, 2014

  21. What a great leader for a difficult time! The Assembly acted wisely in my opinion. Congratulations Heath! You and the Assembly will be in our thoughts and prayers as you deal together with issues of great importance. Hope you can relax sometime during this Assembly as well. Perhaps that is impossible but a good wish anyway.

    by Rev. Dr.Judson C. McConnell

    June 16, 2014

  22. I am so grateful to God that He led the hearts of GA delegates to choose this great servant to lead our church in these complex times. Heath exhibits a heart for God, honesty, integrity, transparency, and such a true gift of relating to people of all types and persuasions with love and joyful hospitality. He will bring a healing, uniting presence to PCUSA. May God bless and empower him in this important role.

    by Susanne Query

    June 16, 2014

  23. Heath Rada will be more than a moderator. He will bring to our denomination what is needed for a time such as this-a wisdom gained from experience and insight to navigate changes facing our church.

    by joel m long

    June 16, 2014

  24. Congratulations, Heath. I was so excited to hear the news. You will do a great job because you love the Presbyterian Church USA, you are a great listener, and you will be fair and compassionate to everyone. You and all your family have been friends for many years, and you will all remain in my prayers these next two years as you serve and as they support your service as our moderator.

    by Rev. Tom Malone

    June 16, 2014

  25. Congrats..don't forget, you will be at Savannah Presbytery sometime next year. Well done!

    by Jean Vernon

    June 16, 2014

  26. Heath is the right man at the right time for the right job. He will model and show,us that to-accept diversity and different faith journeys only makes us stronger and more,like the family Christ died for.

    by Ina Jones Hughs

    June 15, 2014

  27. Heath is the rightman in the right place at the right time. He will help move us forward with hope and together despite our differences...which can now be celebrated rather than feared.

    by Ina Jones Hughs

    June 15, 2014

  28. So happy for the whole Pcusa. May you have the strength & wisdom to support all our churches as you have those of us in WNC. You will stay in our prayers.

    by Susan Denne & Dave Stover

    June 15, 2014

  29. So thrilled - congratulations! I have always been impressed with your ability to relate to people, and with your creativity, ever since my years at PSCE. You will be in my prayers!

    by Farris Goodrum

    June 15, 2014

  30. Heath, We are happy, and we hope Peggy is happy as well. We know you will serve in wonderful ways as God leads you. Good Bless, and we owe you and Peggy a dinner. A.T. & Doris

    by A.T. & Doris Brown

    June 15, 2014

  31. So very happy for the PCUSA and for Heath,Peggy and the family. The future of our denomination looks brighter today. Thanks be to God!

    by EVelyn Edwards

    June 15, 2014

  32. Thank you! Finally a Moderator who is not ashamed to admit a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! You will be in my prayers each day as you seek to remind us that Christ is the center and focus of who we are as the people of God. Shleimah refuah- perfect peace.

    by Rev. Elizabeth Morgan

    June 15, 2014

  33. Congratulations! Marvin and I send best wishes to Heath and Peggy (and the Vice Moderator, too) for the next two years. I agree; let us rejoice and be glad. I reminded the Northeast Georgia commissioners to listen and to pray. I believe the whole General Assembly has done so.

    by Cleda Locey

    June 15, 2014

  34. Dear Heath and family, After meeting your lovely daughter and son in law on Friday, as well as reacquainting myself with you. I prayed that you would be elected to lead our church into being a true connectional church with arms to embrace everyone. Congratulations. Hang on family as you all travel the world. Kitty Clark Manson

    by Kitty Clark Manson

    June 15, 2014

  35. The Lord has spoken, and we are SO grateful ! You have our best love and prayers for the next two calendar years . . . ( PJ, don't buy new clothes, just get a really strong suitcase ! ) "All who follow Jesus, All around the world, YES, WE'RE THE CHURCH TOGETHER ! "

    by Joe and Lyn Sutterlin

    June 15, 2014

  36. Congrats and blessings, Heath. I'm just so very impressed that I, a new Presby, got to be at the same lunch table as you last year at Big Tent. That says a lot about the PC (USA) working with Jesus in our world. Blessings.

    by Anita Coleman

    June 15, 2014

  37. Congratulations to Heath!! May God bless us all in his journey as Moderator. God could not have picked a finer person for the task. Yours in Christ, Jane & Steve Hansel First Presbyterian Church Swannanoa, NC

    by JANE & STEVE HANSEL

    June 15, 2014

  38. Our prayers are with you, Heath, as you undertake a big job. Know that God will guide us all together toward a powerful reconciliation as we work together to do justice, love kindness, and walk in humility with God.

    by Stan Adamson

    June 15, 2014

  39. Great, I'd expect a lot Moderator Rada with Khong Abazia !

    by Myung Ja Yue

    June 15, 2014

  40. Heath will be a wonderful moderator for our church. His openness, broad experience, deep faith, and energy will serve him and us well in this important role. We are glad others will get to know and love this exceptional man as we do. God is at work in this old world. Let us rejoice and be glad! and join in!

    by Marylyn Huff

    June 15, 2014

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