It didn’t take long for the kudos to start pouring in Friday after the 222nd General Assembly (2016) elected J.Herbert Nelson as the PC(USA)’s new Stated Clerk, the highest ecclesial office in the 1.5-million-member denomination.
Nelson, 57, is the first African-American elected to the post. “On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I wish a warm welcome to J. Herbert Nelson as he takes up the responsibilities of his new position,” said General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “I am eager to meet personally with him, to share our views and discuss how best we can work together in the quest for Church unity and the unity of humanity.
“The new stated clerk and co-moderators of the General Assembly bring remarkable gifts and skill in addressing the things that make for peace, justice and unity,” Tveit said. “We in the WCC look forward to collaborating with you, as we have with retiring Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, a member of the Central Committee who throughout his tenure has lent great strength and wisdom to the work of the World Council. May God’s blessing continue to be felt in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!”
Derek Browning, ecumenical officer of the Church of Scotland, said, “We congratulate your new Stated Clerk and celebrate his election. What a bold and historic step for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!”
From the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Principal Clerk Steven Kendall, said, “We have had great relations with Cliff (Kirkpatrick) and Gradye (Parsons), and I have had a chance to talk with J. Herbert Nelson this week. I look forward to his fresh perspective and his carrying on the strong ecumenical commitments of the PC(USA).”
“I am thrilled by the election of J. Herbert Nelson, said Tony de la Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “All of the Presbyterian Mission Agency is looking forward to continuing our strong working relationship. As a person of color, I am personally looking forward to working with J. Herbert as we continue to live into the promise of the Confession of Belhar.”
One of Nelson’s predecessors as Stated Clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick, said. “J. Herbert’s election is a dream come true, not just because he is so competent, but because he’s a symbol of our commitment to diversity, and his commitment to the work and witness of the church in the world.”
Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, a workers’ rights organization, said, “Like Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Dr. Nelson understands that the faith community and the labor movement share a common mission to achieve racial and economic equality in America. By standing in solidarity with striking U.S. contract workers who are fighting for $15 per hour and a union, Dr. Nelson follows in footsteps of MLK who died supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis.”
Raafat Zaki, chair of the PC(USA) Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, called Nelson an “excellent selection” celebrated for “his distinguished gifts and faithfulness in serving church and society. We congratulate the PC(USA), the 222nd General Assembly and ecumenical and interfaith partners for this historic nomination and election that underscores how God continues to bless and lead the church.”