Some Moderators of the General Assembly north and south
We are delighted to have Co-Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Denise Anderson, with us today. Of course, Denise is not the first Moderator of the General Assembly. That honor belongs to Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was the Moderator of the First General Assembly in 1789. He was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He became the first President of the College of New Jersey which became Princeton Seminary.
In 1861, the Rev. Benjamin Palmer was the first Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Rev. Palmer was a gifted preacher and served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church on New Orleans. With his preaching, he helped convince 47 southern presbyteries to break away from the northern Presbyterians and form their own southern church.
In 1870 Robert Lewis Dabney served as Moderator of the southern Presbyterian Church in the United States. Dabney served as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army, and as Chief of Staff of General Stonewall Jackson. After the Civil War, Dabney had a distinguished teaching career at Union Seminary in Richmond.
In 1879 the Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson served as Moderator of the southern Presbyterian Church in the United States. Rev. Wilson was the father of President Woodrow Wilson.
William Jennings Bryan never served as Moderator of the General Assembly. Bryan has been called the greatest loser in American history. Three times – in 1896, 1900 and 1908 – he ran for President of the United States. Three times he lost. In 1923 he ran for Moderator of the northern Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He lost. But God is good. In 1924 the arch-conservative, Philadelphia pastor Clarence Macartney was elected Moderator. He named Bryan as his vice-Moderator.
In 1971 Ruling Elder Lois Stair was the first woman elected as Moderator of the northern United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
In 1976 Ruling Elder Thelma Adair was the first African American woman elected as Moderator of the northern United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Elder Adair was a professor in City University of New York. She spent many years in ecumenical and social justice work in Harlem.
In 1978 Sara Bernice Moseley was the first woman Moderator elected in the southern Presbyterian Church in the United States. Elder Moseley was a strong advocate of the reunion of the northern and southern churches. Beginning in 1983, she served as the first Chair of the General Assembly Council in our, reunited Presbyterian Church (USA).
In 1986 the Rev. Benjamin Weir was elected as Moderator of our Presbyterian Church (USA). Ben and Carol Weir served from 1953 to 1984 as mission co-workers from our church to Lebanon. In 1984 Ben Weir was kidnapped off the street in Beirut. After his long captivity, he was honored to be elected Moderator. Ben Weir passed away this October 2016.
In 1992 the Rev. John Fife was elected Moderator of our Church. Fife was the pastor of the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona. Along with colleagues from several denominations, Fife was a leader of what was called the Sanctuary Movement. These church leaders opened their church buildings to undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Their ministry pushed a very public conflict with the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan.
In 2008 Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow visited our Presbytery, and taught a class at our Saturday Seminar. That is the only other Moderator visit we have had since I have been in this Presbytery.
And today in 2016 we are honored to have Co-Moderator Denise Anderson with us. Denise is a blogger. Her blog is better than mine. The title of her blog is SOULa Scriptura. SOULa is a constructed word: SOULa. The sub-title of her blog is even better: “to be young, gifted and Reformed.” I was very pleased to have dinner with Denise last evening. She is indeed, young, gifted and Reformed. Please stand and greet the Moderator of our General Assembly.