A second team has emerged to stand for co-moderators of the 2020 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – one from the north, one from the south.
Gregory J. Bentley, a minister, and Elona Street-Stewart, a ruling elder, have announced they will stand together as a team – releasing a statement in which they say they have a “deep embrace” of the Matthew 25 initiative, and want to work to “better recognize the diversity and mutuality of gifts around us” in the church and in the world.
The Presbytery of North Alabama has endorsed Bentley, pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area has endorsed Street-Stewart, who has served as the synod executive for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies since 2015.
In the announcement, Bentley and Street-Stewart say they will bring an “inclusive message” to the role of co-moderator – a message shaped by their personal histories.
Street-Stewart is descended from the Delaware Nanticoke tribe, whose ancestral land is across the Chesapeake Bay from where the General Assembly is scheduled to meet June 20-27. She is the first Native American to serve as a synod executive in the PC(USA) and, if elected, would be the denomination’s first Native American moderator.
Bentley, who is African American, said in the announcement that his maternal grandmother, Virginia B. Howze, was able to finish high school because of a mission school founded by what was then the northern branch of the Presbyterian Church. At the time, the state of Alabama would only have provided her education through the fifth grade.
“My mother, Juanita B. Hattaway graduated from the only Historically Black College founded by the (then-) Southern Church, Stillman College, of which I am an alum as well,” he said in the announcement. “It was the PC(USA) that taught me how to blend head and heart, to nurture the ‘learning and the burning.’”
Street-Stewart said in the announcement that “even before becoming Presbyterian, this church nurtured me, welcomed me, educated me and encouraged my voice. It is through these decades of service that my voice, and with me the voices of ‘All my Relations,’ emerged to speak from truths often overlooked. Gregory and I represent the people who have been a part of this church from the beginning — but often not in roles that have allowed them to bring their full selves.”