GA NEWS: New GA moderator holds post-election press conference, Reyes-Chow finds Internet “part of my way of being”

SAN JOSE — Minutes after being elected moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Saturday night, June 21, Bruce Reyes-Chow said during a press conference he was eager to get back to his hotel room.


It was not that he wanted to get a well-deserved rest after Saturday night’s speech, question-and-answer session, and his second-ballot election. Instead, Reyes-Chow said he was keener on checking the Internet buzz his election was generating.

(OUTLOOK readers will remember Reyes-Chow’s two articles, “Blogging as spiritual discipline and pastoral practice,” and “The case for Facebook,” in the magazine’s Web 2.0 edition, November 12, 2007.)

Reyes-Chow, a 39-year-old San Francisco pastor, husband and the father of three daughters between the ages of four and 11, said blogging and using Facebook and other social networking sites “is part of my way of being, how we naturally engage with people.”

He believes being transparent and prolific will “help people feel invited to participate in the church in a new way.”

He also recognizes people have “concerns about why we share so openly,” especially on the occasion when he places his political views online.

“I see something and I think, ‘That’ll blog,’ and I put it on,” he said.

During his campaign for moderator, someone asked Reyes-Chow if he could tell the person something about himself that could not already be found on his blog. “Not really,” Reyes-Chow said. “I am an open book, pretty much. I am excited about connecting with folks and using my spiritual practice of blogging.”

He also plans on physically visiting Presbyterians “where they are,” in a store or cafe, “to laugh with them and ask about their kids. I love finding out about people, and I hope they’ll be open to conversation.

“I hope I won’t be [seen as] Bruce, the earring-wearing urban pastor coming to our rural area,” he added. “Meeting people is exciting and expands my understanding of God.”

With a nod to his three children — Evelyn, 11; Abby, seven; and Annie, four — the new moderator said that he felt called to run for the office because the church has been so good to him, “helping me to be the person God called me to become.”

He said he wants “the church to be the same for my kids and all our kids” and “always open to what is next.”

He said he’s been talking with people who “are struggling to stay in the denomination” and that “it would be a risk to say, ‘here is where we are right now. Who is in and who is out?’”

A better question, he said, is, “Can you be in relationship with me in the face of these issues?” He added: “It would be easier to focus on things outside the turmoil.” Instead, he’d rather hear people say, “I know you disagree with me, but I believe God has spoken to you and that is where you landed. I don’t believe we say that enough to each other.

“We can keep spinning the issues,” he said, “but I hope during my term we’ll invite people who are already here who I hope will feel [the church] will have a place for them.”

He said he’s not too worried about the impact the travel demands of the job will have on his young family. This fall all three girls will be attending the same school, which will “make pick-up and drop-off much easier.” In fact, on some trips Reyes-Chow said he might bring a daughter with him in place of his wife, Robin Pugh.

“I don’t want to be a burden, but if I am bringing an 11-year-old or a 5-year-old (as Annie will be soon), will that affect how we engage? It’s important for me as a father to model doing things together.” Still, he said with a laugh, “I think they’ll all fight about the trip to Hawaii.”

Reyes-Chow confirmed that he owns a tie and promised to wear one during Sunday morning worship.

“But the members of my church will never stand for me,” he said, thus eschewing a time-honored tradition extended to General Assembly moderators when they enter the room or are introduced.

“I think they’re coming to Sunday’s worship just to see me wear that tie.”