|Presa (M.Div. '02) elected as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rev. Neal D. Presa, a San Francisco Theological Seminary graduate, was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh on June 30.
Presa earned a Master of Divinity degree from SFTS in 2002 and is now pastor of Middlesex (N.J.) Presbyterian Church. Presa was elected by majority vote over three other candidates, including fellow SFTS alumni Rev. Randy Branson (M.Div. ’71), who finished fourth.
The election of Presa continues the historic tradition of SFTS graduates who have achieved the leadership role of moderator. Among the 16 SFTS community members who have been elected PC(USA) moderator is Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow (M.Div. '95), whose two-year term ran from 2008-10.
Presa, a Filipino-American, is committed to the unity of the Presbyterian family and spoke personally about his parents’ pending divorce during the time of his engagement to be married 10 years ago. “I didn’t know if they would both be at the wedding, but Presbyterians prayed them back together. God holds us all together in Christ – it’s called grace.”
It was that kind of grace and trust, Presa said, that caused him to retain his vice-moderator running mate, the Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe of National Capital Presbytery, after she recently signed a marriage certificate for a lesbian couple in Washington, D.C., where same-gender marriage is legal.
Presa spoke of issues that are currently dividing the Presbyterian community. “United we stand, divided we freak out,” noting that earlier in the week Elizabeth Presbytery dismissed its first congregation. “We told them we didn’t want them to leave, and if they ever want to come back, we’d love to have them," he added.
Presa, who said he “brings a pastor’s listening heart and a non-anxious presence” to his new role as moderator, called for the whole church to be missional, which he said “at the very center and circumference is to be gathered and sent where God is at work, in the church and in the world, meeting people eye-to-eye and face-to-face and to see Jesus Christ alive in them.”
Presa has served the PC(USA) at all levels and has also been heavily engaged in global ecumenical relations. He recently completed his term as moderator of Elizabeth Presbytery and served as chair of the General Assembly Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism.
Presa served two terms on the General Assembly Council, including one term (2003-04) as vice-chair. He has also served on the Committee on Theological Education and on the board of trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Ecumenically, Presa served two terms as convener of the Caribbean and North American Area Council (CANAAC) of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), where he served on the executive committee. He also represented the World Alliance of Reformed Churches at the Faith and Order Plenary Commission of the World Council of Churches and at the Vatican Symposium on “Harvesting the Fruits.”
In addition to his role as pastor at Middlesex Presbyterian Church, Presa serves as an adjunct faculty member at Somerset Christian College and is an affiliated assistant professor at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
After receiving his M.Div. at SFTS, Presa graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM) and Drew University (M.Phil. and PhD). At Drew, Presa was a Henry Luce Foundation Graduate Fellow for the Center for Christianities in Global Contexts. He also studied at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.
SFTS community members who have been elected Presbyterian moderators:
Rev. Dr. Neal Presa, M.Div., ThM, PhD
2012: Pittsburgh, Pa., 220th General Assembly
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, M.Div.
2008: San Jose, Calif./218th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Jack Bartlett Rogers, BD, ThM, ThD, DD
2001: Louisville, Ken./213th General Assembly
Rev. David Lee Dobler, M.Div.
1993: Orlando, Fla./205th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Herbert Duncan Valentine, BD, D.Min.
1991: Baltimore, Md./203rd General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Benjamin M. Weir, BD, MA, DD
1986: Minneapolis, Minn./198th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Harriet Nelson, M.Div.
1984: Phoenix, Ariz./196th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. J. Randolph Taylor, BD, PhD, DD, LLD
1983: Atlanta, Ga./195th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Howard Leland Rice, Jr., BD, DD
1979: Kansas City, Kans./191st General Assembly
Rev. John T. Conner, STD Candidate
1977: Philadelphia, Penn./189th General Assembly
Rev. Paul Stuart Wright, BD, DD, DHL, LLD
1955: Los Angeles, Calif./167th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Jesse Hays Baird, BD, DD, LLD
1948: Seattle, Washington/160th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Robert Francis Coyle, DD, LLD
1903: Los Angeles, Calif./115th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. Henry Collin Minton, DD, LLD
1901: Philadelphia, Penn./113th General Assembly
Rev. Dr. James Eells, DD, LLD
1877: Chicago, Ill./89th General Assembly
Rev. William Anderson Scott, DD, LLD
1858: New Orleans, La./70th General Assembly (Old School)
Presbyterian News Service contributed to this report.