In his address before the Assembly, Wade demonstrated the hope and enthusiasm he has for the church of Jesus Christ. He answered the installation questions while the one who chose him for his new role, GA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, looked on.
Over the next two years, Wade will travel the country on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sharing and listening to stories of mission and faith. He will also assume other duties as needed from Reyes-Chow. The two men have known each other for 20 years, working together at Montreat, the Young Urban Presbyterian Pastors’ Group, and Youth Triennium.
Both the new moderator and vice moderator are young pastors, 39 and 45, respectively. Both were born and reared on the West Coast, though Wade now lives and works in North Carolina, and both are married fathers of young children.
There are differences, too, of course. Reyes-Chow has served an innovative new church development in trendy San Francisco; Wade serves a 140-year old congregation that is a traditional presence in the state capital of Raleigh.
Together, the two represent a “huge change,” as Wade says, in the national life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Seeing younger people in leadership is a positive experience for both young and old in the church,” he said. An African American and an Asian “represent what the church can become.”
Wade is hopeful about the future. “As the Spirit of God leads us, we can help propagate the faith, helping people in and outside the church develop a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We will find new ways to do that, and that’s exciting.”
Wade is married to Regina Fleming Wade, a North Carolina native, and the two of them have a 6-year-old son, Andrew. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of the Redlands in California. He also holds an M.A. from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, an M.Div. from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from McCormick Theological Seminary.
His first pastorate is the one he is still serving after 12 years. He is an active member of New Hope Presbytery, filling many positions within its structure and currently serving as vice moderator. On the national level, he has been part of the Black Presbyterian Caucus and on several committees relating to ministries with youth. He was an elected member of the General Assembly Council from 1993 to 1999 and currently serves on the planning team for the 2009 National Pastor’s Sabbath.
The Rev. Tolokun Omokunde, a colleague of Wade’s in New Hope Presbytery, upon hearing of his confirmation as vice-moderator, said “I can imagine that Dr. Jim Costen, Clinton Marsh, and other African-American Presbyterian leaders are having a big celebration in heaven, cheering Byron on as he begins this part of his race. He is a prime example of African-American excellence. He is just what we need as an example to other African Americans, especially men. He sets a high standard.”
“In a way,” Omokunde said, “Rev. Wade is ‘old school.’ He believes in the whole family going to Sunday school and church together, and he models that. He comes from a great family, and he is a great husband and father. He’s an earnest believer who’s not ashamed of the gospel. So yes, he’s old school, but in a new way.”
“I fully expect that the Rev. Byron Wade will become one of the all-time heroes of the African-American church.”