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GA NEWS: Cliff Kirkpatrick recipient of E.T. Thompson Award

The board of directors of The Presbyterian Outlook has awarded its 2008 Ernest Trice Thompson Award for church leadership to Clifton Kirkpatrick, an ecumenical leader who has served as stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the past 12 years.

 Editor Jack Haberer and immediate past president of the Outlook board, Richard Ray, presented the award at the Outlook’s June 21 banquet that marked the opening of the General Assembly in San Jose, Calif.

Kirkpatrick, the president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches since 2004, is not seeking a fourth term as stated clerk, leaving that role at the end of this year’s General Assembly. He plans to continue his work with Reformed churches across the world, write books, and begin teaching as a visiting professor of ecumenical studies and global ministries at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in January 2009.

The Outlook’s board of directors established the Thompson award in 1986, replacing the Harrison Ray Anderson Award for significant contributions to church unity.

The award is named for E. T. Thompson, who was a long-time professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond and served as a co-editor of the Outlook for nearly 60 years, until his death in 1985.

The award honors individuals who exemplify the kinds of commitments Thompson stood for over decades as he worked to improve race relations, to unify Presbyterians and to advocate for the ordination of women.

Throughout his career, Kirkpatrick – a man who has attracted both controversy and acclaim in his decades of leadership; who marries eloquence and humility in a tall, sometimes rumpled package – has worked to advance Christian unity and care for the world.

Before becoming stated clerk, Kirkpatrick served as director of Worldwide Ministries for the PC(USA) and in other capacities overseeing Presbyterian mission work internationally. In a recent interview, Kirkpatrick said that “one of the passions that never got out of my soul has been the world mission one.”

After growing up in Memphis, Kirkpatrick earned degrees from Davidson College (B.A.), Yale Divinity School (M.Div.), and McCormick Theological Seminary (D.Min.), and did further post-graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School.

Earlier in his career, Kirkpatrick led area councils of churches in Fort Worth and Dallas, and served for ten years as executive director of Houston Metropolitan Ministries, an interfaith agency that worked on community issues ranging from aging to hunger to immigrant settlement to prison ministry.

Kirkpatrick is the co-author of How to Spell Presbyterian (with James W. Angell), What Unites Presbyterians: Common Ground for Troubled Times (with William H. Hopper), and Conversations with the Confessions: Reflections on What the Church Needs Today (with Joseph D. Small), and co-editor of Presbyterians Being Reformed: Reflections on What the Church Needs Today (with Robert H. Bullock, Jr.).

Kirkpatrick and his wife, Diane — who has retired as the executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Louisville — are the parents of two adult children, Elizabeth and David.