SFTS CHIMES | Fall 2012 03
Presa calls for
“Unity with a Difference”
ev. Neal D. Presa (M.Div. ’02) became the 16th
member of the San Francisco Theological Semi-
nary community to be elected moderator of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly in June
in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Presa, a Filipino-American, was elected by majority vote
over three other candidates, including fellow SFTS alum
Rev. Randy Branson (M.Div. ’71). Among the other SFTS
community members who have been elected moderator of
the PC(USA) General Assembly is Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
(M.Div. ’95), whose two-year term ran from 2008-10.
Besides serving as pastor of Middlesex (N.J.) Pres-
byterian Church, Presa is affiliate assistant professor of
preaching and worship at New Brunswick
Theological Seminary. A noted ecumenist,
Presa has provided leadership through the
World Communion of Reformed Churches
(WCRC) and its predecessor, the World Al-
liance of Reformed Churches (WARC). He
has also chaired the PC(USA) General As-
sembly Special Committee on the Heidel-
berg Catechism, was vice chair of the Pres-
byterian Mission Agency Board (formerly
the General Assembly Council), and held
positions as vice moderator and moderator
of the Presbytery of Elizabeth.
Here’s what he has to say about his expe-
riences at SFTS and how they have helped
him negotiate the challenges facing the
PC(USA) and church in the 21st century.
“A key characteristic of theological edu-
cation that I experienced at SFTS when I
was an M.Div. student from 1999-2002 was
the community life that welcomed freedom
of thought while tethered to the Reformed
tradition,” Presa said. “I look at my time at
SFTS with great delight as it was a community that lived
with the tension of the broadness of the theological spec-
trum — this is where the Church needs to be.”
Presa’s quest for unity and cooperation has become the
polestar of his role as moderator. Leading up to the election,
Presa was faced with conflict when it was re-
vealed his vice moderator running mate, Rev.
Tara Spuhler McCabe of National Capital
Presbytery, had signed a marriage certificate
for a lesbian couple in Washington, D.C.,
where same-sex marriage is legal.
Presa said that as a church officer, he
holds to the PC(USA) Constitution, which
recognizes marriage as between a man and a
woman. “But I’ve known Tara for 10½ years
and though we disagree, we live with this ten-
sion because of our relationship,” Presa said.
Days after their election, McCabe resigned
over this divisive issue.
“I think our focus now has to be on how
to develop a community that allows dissent-
ing views but still allows that person or per-
sons to belong to the community,” Presa said.
Toward that goal, Presa plans to initiate a
new conversation within his church.
“One of the first initiatives will be Unity
with a Difference, a gathering of conservative
and progressive leaders to catalyze a church-wide conversa-
tion on our common Christian faith while dignifying the
differences we have,” Presa said.
The Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin contributed to
this story.
“I think our focus
now has to be on
how to develop a
community that
allows dissent-
ing views but
still allows that
person or persons
to belong to the
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