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General Assembly 2004

Candidates for Moderator

Candidates for Moderator respond to Witherspoon questions

One of the first acts of the 216th General Assembly will be the election of a new Moderator. To help our readers weigh this important choice, the Witherspoon Society has asked each of the three candidates to respond briefly to five questions that reflect Witherspoon concerns — and, we believe, concerns of the wider church.

With thanks to the candidates for their cooperation in responding, we are happy to share their comments here -- listed in alphabetical order.

bulletThe Rev. Dr. David McKechnie
bulletThe Rev. Dr. K. C. Ptomey, Jr.
bulletRick Ufford-Chase
Rick Ufford-Chase to run for moderator  [2-13-04]

Advocate for migrants to run for moderator rejects 'me-first' ethic of global economy

by Alexa Smith, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE -- February 12, 2004 -- A 39-year-old mission volunteer and advocate for migrant workers and others who suffer in an unfair global economy is the third candidate for moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, a co-founder and co-director of BorderLinks, a cross-border (U.S.-Mexico) organization supported by the PC(USA)'s Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD), was endorsed unanimously by the Presbytery of de Cristo on Jan. 23 during a meeting in Tucson, AZ.

The other candidates are the Rev. David McKechnie of Houston, TX, and the Rev. K.C. Ptomey of Nashville, TN.

"I want to get the message out that there is a world out there that most of us are unaware of," Ufford-Chase told the Presbyterian News Service in a telephone interview. "And the church has a special responsibility to figure out how to create a global community that matches the global economy."

Ufford-Chase said there must be an alternative to displacement and despair for impoverished workers and families. He said he believes part of the solution lies in creating links between poor communities and those of wealth and privilege. And he believes Presbyterians are called to support marginalized church partners around the world.

"I believe that we are called to live as Jesus lived, to risk as Jesus risked, and to care as deeply as Jesus cared," Ufford-Chase proclaims at his Web site,, where he details his platform and goals, describes his faith journey and reflects on the challenges the church faces.

Ufford-Chase has been active in support of besieged communities in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, and of Palestinian Christians living in Bethlehem and Hebron on the West Bank. He is a co-moderator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and also is active in Christian Peacemaker Teams, a pacifist group that sends Christians to live in communities plagued by violence.

Ufford-Chase, who is fluent in Spanish, is a member and elder at Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church, whose pastor is former PC(USA) Moderator John Fife, and serves as a member of the Presbytery of de Cristo's committee for long-range planning and funds development.

He has been active since 1986 in a number of refugee-support groups in Tucson, including Humane Borders, a faith-based organization that maintains water stations in the desert for migrants; The Samaritans, a desert search-and-rescue group; and the Maquila Organizing Project, which trains labor leaders to work with Mexican factory workers.

Ufford-Chase is a Presbyterian "preacher's kid" who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the Colorado College in Colorado Springs and spent a semester at Princeton Seminary before leaving in 1986 to become a mission volunteer.

Ufford-Chase said he realized that he was called to run for moderator while he was leading a group of seminarians in the desert and hearing migrants' stories: of a couple who'd left a 3-year-old daughter behind to seek work in Kansas; a 16-year-old boy who hoped to find a job in North Carolina; a man trying desperately to get to New York to find out what happened to a brother and son who worked in the World Trade Center and haven't been heard from since Sept. 11, 2001.

He said he wants to tell their stories, and countless others like them, to the church.

Taking responsibility for building a more humane global economy isn't easy, he said, "but it is no more scary than it was for people in Jesus' time … to hear his message. To take down barriers. And to step out and be with one another. "

He told PNS: "I see this as an opportunity for our church to be re-invigorated" and to energize people willing to "stand against the 'me-first' message of the first world."

Ufford-Chase and his wife of 12 years, Kitty Ufford, live in Tucson and have one son, Teo.


Ufford-Chase named as candidate for Moderator   [1-31-04]

Rick Ufford-Chase was endorsed unanimously by the Presbytery de Cristo at its meeting on January 23, 2004, as a candidate for Moderator of the 216th General Assembly.

He is the co-founder and co-director of BorderLinks, a binational organization that provides experiential education on issues such as trade and globalization and the concerns of migrants on the border. Rick is sponsored in that work as a Mission Co-Worker in the Worldwide Ministries division of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is also a co-moderator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

His address to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship at the 215th GA is posted here on the Witherspoon website.  It was entitled "Empire and Church: Pitfalls and Priorities for the Presbyterian Church in a time of Globalization."

His candidacy is represented on the web at

Nashville pastor is candidate for moderator

Middle Tennessee Presbytery endorses K.C. Ptomey

by Alexa Smith, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE -- October 20, 2003 -- The Rev. K.C. Ptomey Jr., pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville, has been endorsed by the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee as a candidate for moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The presbytery voted Oct. 16 to endorse Ptomey's candidacy. Rita Hood, Westminster's clerk of session, said, "This call has come at a time when K.C. can be a reconciler and peacemaker for our great Presbyterian Church. I urge you to confirm this resolution and pledge your prayers and support for K.C. and for the session and congregation of Westminster as we look toward this wonderful opportunity to share K.C. with the whole of the Presbyterian Church (USA)."

Ptomey, 61, has served the Westminster church for 22 years. He has also served congregations in Texas and in Tennessee, ranging in size from 60 to more than 2,000 members.

"I am the pastor of a church with wide diversity in its theological and political opinions," he told the Presbyterian News Service, after the presbytery vote. "But we are a church that has always valued each other in our differences and keeping the church together. We are called to be the Body of Christ. So one can't say, 'We don't need your opinion,' or, 'We don't need your point of view.' "

"This congregation has taught me that … and maybe that is a gift of this congregation that the PCUSA needs right now," said Ptomey.

Born in Birmingham, AL, Ptomey earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. He holds the B.D. from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the D.Min. from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Ptomey has served the wider church as well, preaching at worship and music conferences at Mo Ranch and at Montreat. He also been the keynote speaker for Montreat youth conferences.

He served a six-year-term as a member of the General Assembly Council as a member of the Congregational Ministries Division Committee and the Committee on Theological Education. Ptomey has served as a commissioner to the 1973 General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (US), and the 1999 General Assembly of the PCUSA.

Ptomey has served on numerous presbytery committees, including serving as moderator.

"I find goodness in this denomination … joy in its people, zeal for mission, deep commitment to Jesus Christ and a passion for keeping the things of the mind and the heart together," he said, adding that friends persuaded him to consider serving as moderator.

"I don't think this is the kind of thing you aspire to; it is the kind of thing that (one) must be convinced one is called to," he said, speaking of his time of discernment.

Ptomey is married to the Rev. Carol Tate, a new church development pastor. He has two grown children and two stepchildren.

Ptomey gave the nominating speech at the 1999 General Assembly for former General Assembly Moderator Freda Gardner.

The moderator who is elected next June at the General Assembly in Richmond, VA, will be the first to serve a two-year term since the denomination will shift to meeting every other year.

Houston pastor is 1st candidate for moderator

Grace PC's McKechnie endorsed by New Covenant Presbytery

By John Filiatreau, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE -- August 25, 2003 -- The Rev. David Garth McKechnie, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX, has become the first candidate for moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Presbytery of New Covenant voted unanimously to endorse his candidacy on Aug. 23. His presenter, the Rev. Gerald Hurst, pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Missouri City, TX, called McKechnie "one who will work with both sides of the aisle toward the peace, unity and purity of the church ... (and) the healing and reconciliation of the church."

Because of the shift to having Assemblies only every other year, the moderator elected next June at the GA in Richmond, VA, will be the first to serve a two-year term.

McKechnie, 63, an avid skier, had surgery Monday on a shoulder he dislocated in an accident on the slopes last year.

He is a native of Ottawa, Canada, who was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1972. He has a bachelor's degree from Nyack College in New York and has studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from an ecumenical program at New York Theological Seminary, Union Seminary and General Theological Seminary, all in New York City.

After ordination in the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (the old northern church), he joined the staff of First Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY, and while there obtained a degree in psychology and counseling from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also has an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Montreat-Anderson College in North Carolina.

After serving on the staff of First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, OK, McKechnie became pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Beaumont, TX, in 1975. He became the pastor of 4,300-member Grace Church in Houston, a Confessing Church Movement congregation, in 1981.

For many years, Grace was among the fastest-growing churches in the PC(USA). Membership declined by about 200 in 2002, when average attendance at worship was about 1,500 and more than 2,950 people were enrolled in Christian education programs.

McKechnie has served on the boards of trustees of The Texas Presbyterian Foundation, the Medical Benevolence Foundation, Austin College, Schreiner College and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

He was the Presbyterian representative on the radio program The Protestant Hour (now called Day 1) in 1992, and has written two inspirational books: Experiencing God's Pleasure and Let's Start Over.

McKechnie and his wife, the former Linda Marsh, a musician and recording artist, have two children: Sheri, a graduate of Houston Baptist University who lives in Charlotte, NC; and the Rev. Peter McKechnie, a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and a Presbyterian minister.

Check out the Presbyterian News Service report for a photo of Mr. McKechnie.


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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