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The 226th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has its first candidate to stand for moderator. The Rev. Dr. Marian McClure Taylor has announced her intentions to run at next year’s assembly in Salt Lake City.

Taylor is no stranger to the work of the national offices of the PC(USA), having served as director of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) from 1997 to 2006. In addition to international work, she has focused on hunger, disaster assistance and self-development ministries.

Over the last six years, she served as pastor of the South Frankfort Presbyterian Church in Frankfort, Kentucky and has been involved with Mid-Kentucky Presbytery’s Hispanic/Latino outreach work. Her ecumenical leadership has included serving as executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches as well as associate director of the Edinburgh 2010 Conference, a centennial event that included recruiting leaders of a study group on “Mission and Power.”

“I am an encourager, and that makes me a good fit with the role of moderator,” said Taylor. “I particularly want to encourage truth and reconciliation work or ‘airing and repairing,’ encourage people to enter and stay in ministry vocations and encourage church musicians and global partners who are in crisis.”

Taylor says she has not decided whether to follow the moderator or co-moderator model that has been in place since the 222nd General Assembly (2016.) She plans to discuss the two models with current and former GA leaders so she can compare the advantages before deciding. She also wants to consider the preferences of commissioners who may be interested in partnering with her as a co- or a vice-moderator. Either way, she says she would prefer a partner who is a ruling elder to symbolize the collegial relationship that is at the heart of the Presbyterian way.

In her announcement, Taylor says the denomination’s ongoing emphasis on airing and repairing historic harms is especially important to her.

“The Matthew 25 vision has helped many parts of the PC(USA) affirm that sin can be structured and systemic, with the legacy of enslavement being one of the more glaring examples. The effects of structured and systemic sin on the well-being of groups and individuals are cumulative and devastating. This increasingly widespread affirmation about structured and systemic sin fuels a natural desire to air and repair, as best we can,” she said. “There are models for doing this work collectively, just as there are models like AA that show people how to do it as individuals. The PMA has embraced collective approaches, as have some local Presbyterian initiatives. Many of our ecumenical and missional partners are involved, too. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and I want to join my voice to those of moderators before me to keep this priority ‘front and center.’”

Three former directors of global mission in the Presbyterian Mission Agency: Cliff Kirkpatrick, Marian McClure Taylor and Hunter Farrell (photo provided)

The stress of ministry has come to the forefront in recent years because of the pandemic, leading to burnout for many and decisions to leave the profession. Taylor says she wants to use the position of moderator to attract people to the work.

“Ministers serving congregations have been more ambivalent about that work in recent years. This trend seems to be approaching a crisis point. Good minds and programs have been addressing this issue for some time now, and I’m appropriately modest about what I can do,” she said. “At this point I’m thinking of two roles I might play. One is to elicit more storytelling about the fulfilling aspects of ministry. The other is to use the ‘power of convening,’ a notion I learned from colleagues when I lived and worked in Mexico. What if a representative sample of the people working on this issue could come together to talk?”

Saying she is energized by the creativity and dedication of musicians, Taylor wants to be “intentional about thanking and collaborating” with them wherever she might go as moderator. She also wants the church to focus on the core values that guide the unification work, values stated or implied in the charge to the Unification Commission. She says she wants to help calm anxieties, especially for national staff.

“Many of our national staff feel keenly the gradual reduction of financial resources available to them. And yet, these pressures to make changes can lead to increased creativity and focus, something I can testify to personally from my experience in Worldwide Ministries,” she said. “I can also reassure staff who may be concerned about what might happen to their work lives. After all, I got my first opportunity to work for the denomination (in Mission Funding) because of the re-organization in 1993, and I ended my employment there (in Worldwide Ministries) as part of the re-organization in 2006. I’m a bit of a poster child for the refrain “God is good … all the time.”

Taylor is a graduate of the University of the South and Harvard University. She received her Master of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is married to Dr. Stephen Taylor, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Peace Hospital in Louisville.