Clay’s appointment was announced during the Foundation board’s June 18-20 meeting here by search committee chair Eleanor Hite, who said the search for Robert E. Leech’s successor has been “re-opened.” Leech will retire on July 3 after more than nine years as the Foundation’s head.
“This is a large and complex job, so recruiting is very complicated,” Hite told the board. “We thought we were making sufficient progress but have come to the conclusion that we have to reinstitute the search.”
Clay, a lifelong Presbyterian and partner in the Louisville law firm of Woodward, Hobson, and Fulton, promised the board, “I’ll give it my best and we’ll have fun.”
The graduate of PC(USA)-related Davidson College and the University of Kentucky’s law school, praised Leech’s service. “The staff, and therefore the Foundation, is much stronger now than when he came,” Clay said.
He acknowledged historic tensions in the relationship between the Foundation and the General Assembly Council (GAC) over the use of some restricted funds entrusted to the Foundation but needed by the GAC to fund General Assembly mission.
“Look, we are part of one church and a sister agency of the GAC,” Clay said. “It’s not us versus them. We must model unified behavior to the best extent we can so we can all move forward and exhibit leadership to the church that will be galvanizing and exciting for mission.”
Clay said he fully understands the tension between business and church, between law and ministry. He attended seminary for one year before settling on law as a career. “I live [the tension] vicariously through my wife, who’s a seminary graduate,” he said.
“I’m going to have to take off my lawyer’s hat occasionally,” Clay added, “and sometimes I’m going to have to put it back on.”
He praised the work of a Restricted Funds Resolution Committee — set up to resolve disagreements between the Foundation and the GAC over the use of some funds. “What emerged was a process where we can work out disagreements over donor intent when those donors are not available [by death or disability],” Clay said.
“I will try my best to avoid sending anything to the resolution committee,” he said. “Disagreements do not mean that we don’t like each other or are enemies. People in the pews are looking to see if we’re relevant and it’s our’s and the GAC’s together to demonstrate we are.”