History made as PC(USA) elects Co-Moderators for first time

June 19, 2016

Co-Moderator Election T. Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston are elected as Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly.

Co-Moderator Election T. Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston are elected as Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly. —Danny Bolin


 On the 60th anniversary of making women eligible to be pastors, and the 85th anniversary of ordaining its first woman elder, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made history again Saturday, electing two women as co-moderators for the first time.

Denise Anderson, a pastor from National Capital Presbytery, and Jan Edmiston, a presbytery executive from Chicago, were overwhelmingly elected Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016).

By the way, it also was the first-ever election of co-moderators, which was possible because of a change made in the standing rules just two years ago.

Moreover, in the history of the denomination, women had never been elected as both moderator and vice moderator.

“This is simply historic,” said Anderson, the pastor of Unity Presbyterian Church in Temple Hill, Maryland. “It is the first time our denomination has elected co-moderators. Either way the wind blew tonight, you were going to have co-moderators.”

During a press conference after the election, she also noted that she is the youngest person ever elected as moderator or vice moderator.

“This is very humbling,” said Edmiston, associate executive presbyter for ministry at the  Presbytery  of  Chicago. “This is the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women to Word and Sacrament and the 85th anniversary of the ordination of women as ruling elders. This is support for the leadership of women. We will be modeling a new way to be the church in the 21st century.” Anderson and Edmiston defeated Adan Mairena, a teaching elder and new-church development pastor from Philadelphia, and David P. Parker, a ruling elder and lawyer from North Carolina, by a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent.

In speeches and during the question-and-answer period after the election, both teams emphasized that this is a time of transition and opportunity for the PC(USA).

“We want you to remember this number: 104,” Anderson said. “That is the number of weeks between now and the next General Assembly. We pledge to show respect and compassion. Listening is more than waiting to talk.”

Edmiston explained that she was told this is the terrible time  to stand for co-moderator, with congregations leaving the denomination and with the retirement of Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons. But “God works best in times of transition, and chaos and anxiety,” she said. “It is in times like these that the Spirit shows us what God can do, which we cannot do ourselves.”

In the same vein, Mairena explained how he learned from his parents, natives of Honduras, that the denomination is a connectional one that enables people to live out their passions for social justice.

Parker expanded upon the value of working together in planning for the church 25 years from now, when half of those who are members now will have died. “We must address who will we have and what will the world and the church look like,” he said.

All agreed that part of the historic value of the PC(USA) is that it makes it possible for people who disagree to come together in disagreement as well as in agreement.

“This job is not about who is gifted for it, but who is called to it,” Edmiston said.

Parker noted that the PC(USA) is one of the few institutions in which people who aren’t in agreement can come together to express their viewpoints, then break bread together without rancor.

In answering a question about congregations that have left the denomination, Anderson said: “The most important thing that Christ gets the glory. I want you to stay, but church will still go on, and Christ will still be its head.”

Edmiston and Anderson acknowledged that how a co-moderator model will work is yet to be determined.

“We are going to have to work out the nuts and bolts,” Anderson said. “This has never been done before.”

They said each of them expects to handle about half of the moderator’s role.

“We don’t have to be at everything together,” Edmiston said, “but there is the advantage that people always want to see the Moderator, not the Vice Moderator. Now, whichever one of us they get, it will be the Co-Moderator.”

  1. As a member of All Souls Parish Presbyterian in Port Chester, NY, I am asking that you consider making a statement for Christians who believe that our vision is to show our caring for all people, in whatever ways we can. As a country we must stand for the values of honesty, justice and humility if we want to be seen as leaders in this world. We need our religious and other respected leaders for our "nation under God" to speak as we move through these dark days towards building a new America for all. As an affiliate with the United Church of Christ, I am sending this message to the President, in the hope that possibly other denominations might also join, even a council of churches, as we need leadership to confront the painful decisions being made for our country. I pray for your guidance under God in leading our religious bodies towards the vision of "wholeness".

    by Mary Alice Warner

    February 1, 2017

  2. At this time in our churches' and country's turmoil, I am asking that you as leaders of our Presbyterian Churches claim our values as caring for all peoples, Americans and all others. Security is important only if we keep to our vision of sharing with all people the blessings that we take for granted. I am writing to the President of the United Church of Christ, with which I am also affiliated, with the same message, as caring Christians must stand for fairness and bringing us together as a country.

    by Mary Alice Warner

    February 1, 2017

  3. I cannot contain my joy in seeing two most capable women, nurtured in NCP, as PCUSA Co-moderators of a church that I love. Congratulations to you both. May God's grace and wisdom go with you as you lead us for the next few years.

    by Margaret Washnitzer

    June 30, 2016

  4. As a proud REC to GA 222, may I say that I'm looking forward to the next 103 weeks of joyous collaboration with - as the YAAD's say - our "Co-Momerators"... :-D

    by De Lano G. Hull

    June 27, 2016

  5. Congratulations to our co-moderators! Prayers will be lifted for you both as you serve the church these next 2 years. How exciting!

    by Jayne Wellman

    June 25, 2016

  6. This is one big happy reason all women should be Presbyterian!!

    by Dorothy H Martin

    June 23, 2016

  7. Thanks be to God and to Him be the Glory! All in the strong name of His Only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! May our new leaders be blessed in His service!

    by Elder Luvenia A. George

    June 21, 2016

  8. Hi women pastors and moderators of pcusa congratulations on 60 th anniversary of women ordination . I Rev. Rebecca first woman of sindh Pakistan ordained as Presbyter.

    by Rev.Rebecca Aqeel

    June 21, 2016

  9. Amen, Amen

    by Maria Medina

    June 19, 2016

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