October is LGBT History Month, a fitting time for the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) to announce the public phase of its Pam Byers Memorial Collecting Initiative. Financial support for the initiative has been raised through the Pam Byers Memorial Fund.
Pam McLucas Byers was a ruling elder at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and the first executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a group that advocates for a fully inclusive Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Byers died in 2014.
Beth Hessel, PHS Executive Director, and Nancy Taylor, PHS Director of Programs and Services, began collecting materials and raising funds to establish a researcher-focused memorial to Byers in 2016. Jeff Byers (Pam Byers' husband), Deborah Block, Patricia Dykers Koenig, and Barbara Wheeler provided key assistance during the quiet phase of the project.
Dykers Koenig, a previous organizer of the Covenant Network and member of the More Light Churches Network, donated ten cubic feet of personal papers. Sharon Rogers, widow of former Moderator Jack Rogers, donated her husband’s papers, which include his work and writings on human sexuality. Jerry Andrews and Jack Haberer have also contributed large document runs from their time as leaders in the Presbyterian Coalition and other Presbyterian organizations.
These collections join a growing body of records at PHS related to the denomination’s four decade struggle over the full participation of LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians and their families in the life and leadership of the church.
“Pam used her generous hospitality, deep intellect, faithfulness to Jesus Christ, and commitment to justice and unity to connect Presbyterians in difficult conversations around the full inclusion of LGBT individuals,” Hessel said.
“We are looking for the records of individuals and organizations from across the theological spectrum that engaged on these issues. Minutes, correspondence, photos, personal diaries, published work, campaign materials, speeches and sermons that reflect on understandings of sexuality and faith, on ordination or marriage rights for LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians, are all valuable.”
Elizabeth Wittrig will serve as Pam Byers Memorial Fund Project Archivist. In addition to writing finding aids that increase researcher access to collection materials and sharing stories with the wider public through social media and blogs, including her recent work on the UPCUSA Task Force to Study Homosexuality, Wittrig will gather new items for the initiative. Contact her to discuss donating materials or recording an oral history.
Wittrig previously worked at the Mennonite Church USA Archives and the LGBT-Religious Archives Network, experiences that taught her “how a denominational archives can become a space to preserve and share a living history” and “how the stories of LGBTQIA+ advocates in the PC(USA) fit into the larger societal context.”
“At the same time,” Wittrig added, “the stories of LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians are unique—shaped by each individual’s experience with congregations, mid councils, and other communities. I hope we are able to connect the stories we collect with people of all ages and backgrounds.”
To contribute financial support to the Pam Byers Memorial Fund, make an online gift or contact PHS Director of Development Kim Shiley. Learn more about the Pam Byers Memorial Collecting Initiative at the PHS website.
Located in Philadelphia since 1852, the Presbyterian Historical Society collects, preserves, and shares the story of American Presbyterianism with churches and individual researchers around the world. Its collections go back 500 years and feature church records from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; personal papers of prominent Presbyterians; and correspondence from overseas missions. PHS is the national archives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and an Office of the General Assembly ministry.