A denominational official from Washington, D.C., and a presbytery leader from Tampa, Florida, were nominated Sunday to be the next stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
J. Herbert Nelson, the director of the church’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., was the first to be nominated. He was the unanimous choice of the 10-member Stated Clerk Nomination Committee, named to find a successor for Gradye Parsons, who will retire Saturday at the end of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) after serving two four-year terms as the denomination’s top ecclesiastical officer.
Minutes later, David Baker, stated clerk and communications director for the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, was nominated by Dan Johnson, a ruling elder in the presbytery.
The 594 General Assembly commissioners will have a chance to meet informally with Nelson and Baker Wednesday morning. Before voting on Friday, they will hear from both candidates and have an opportunity to question them.
On Sunday the Nomination Committee described the process by which Nelson emerged from the 12 other candidates, including five meetings and five conference calls, a church wide survey on the qualities Presbyterians want in their next stated clerk, and an interview process that cut the field to six candidates, and then to the final three.
“From the very beginning, we were a community, open and honest with one another,” said Carol McDonald, the committee’s moderator.
She said the committee commends Nelson to commissioners “as one who models the characteristics most desired in the church wide survey.”
Spend 10 minutes with him, she said, and you will experience his commitment to Jesus Christ, his passion for communication, his “yearning to build bridges, and his dedication to being a team player.” She noted that Nelson is a third-generation teaching elder who was nurtured as a child by a father who worked in the civil rights movement.
“J. Herbert is a leader for such a time as this,” McDonald said.
In nominating Baker, also a teaching elder, Johnson said he will “provide a new type of leadership for this different age.”
“Our denomination is in crisis,” Johnson said, commenting that the national staff of the PC(USA) “is doing good work, but a new model is needed.”
Johnson said Baker started two companies while working other jobs. “He gives new meaning to multi-tasking,” he said. “I know David to be a man of dedicated faith. He seeks this office not out of sense of prestige, but because he believes the Lord wants him to do so.”
“You have two superbly-qualified candidates to consider,” he concluded. “I ask you to support David’s candidacy.”
The assembly’s co-moderator, Denise Anderson, ended the meeting by dismissing the nominating committee “with our thanks.”