For two hours Wednesday morning, the candidates nominated to be the next Stated Clerk of the General Assembly stood and delivered to special constituents – the commissioners who will choose one of them Friday morning at the 222nd General Assembly 2016 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC(U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, the choice of the 10-member Stated Clerk Nomination Committee, and Dave Baker, stated clerk and director of communications for the 18,000-member Presbytery of Tampa Bay, who was nominated from the floor on Sunday, shook hands with well-wishers, chatted and posed for photos with people eager to meet and learn more about their next ecclesial leader.
Some commissioners had clear preferences.
Amy Pospichal, a teaching elder in the Presbytery of Sierra Blanca, said she’s “enthused about the prospect of having another person of color in the highest level of leadership,” should Nelson prevail during Friday’s election. She said she wanted to learn “how his experience in the field of public witness will be an influencing factor in his work as Stated Clerk.”
Dan Johnson, a ruling elder from the Presbytery of Tampa Bay who placed Baker’s name in nomination, said Baker “isn’t afraid to try new things. He also has a mastery of technology that will help us do more with less.”
Paul Lucia, a ruling elder from Lehigh Presbytery, said he planned to wait in line to meet both candidates. He’d already heard from one earlier in the week.
“J. Herbert Nelson came into our Social Justice Issues Committee meeting and spoke one grand sermon in about four minutes,” he said. “I think he’ll help us look to the future,” including “the greening of the place.”
Baker said he looked upon his two-hour slot with commissioners and others as a listening exercise.
“We’ve got to do a better job listening, and I want to hear people’s concerns,” he said, adding that former Moderator Heath Rada “has already done a great job listening to people’s concerns, and I’m hearing today some of what he heard.”
Baker said his expertise using technology to deliver services to congregations and mid-councils church-wide will not only save money but attract more young people to the church. “Companies and churches are already doing that,” he said. “It’s where our younger folks already are.”
As for Nelson, he said Wednesday’s event was for him more than a meet and greet.
“We have to go about the business of transformation,” he said. As for upcoming divisive issues, such as the possible merger of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, “we are going to have to spend some time preparing ourselves” for upcoming assemblies in St. Louis and then Baltimore.
The Stated Clerk election is set for Friday’s first plenary session, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.