By Joyce Pettis Temple, Photo credit: Rich Copley Presbyterian News Service
Fellowship Presbyterian Church’s (FPC) Minister of the Word and Sacrament, Reverend Gregory Bentley, has been elected Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly (GA), PC USA, which convened June 19, 2020. He is the first African American male to hold this position. Reverend Bentley’s co-moderator, Ruling Elder Elona Street Stewart, a descendant of the Delaware Nanticoke Tribe, is also the first Native American to serve in this capacity. Three sets of leaders competed. Reverend Bentley’s election, a shining positive amid COVID-19 negatives, should shape future memories of this year for FPC members, especially when they will recall their church closing its doors to protect the health of its members.
Along with Ruling Elder Street-Stewart, Rev. Bentley was installed by Co-Moderators of the223rd GA, Reverend Cindy Kohlmann, Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, and the PC (USA) GA Stated Clerk, Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, also African American. The co-moderators’ responsibilities include presiding over the meeting of the GA and serving as emissaries of the denomination throughout their two-year term. In 2004, FPC member Elder Robert Wilson was another luminous example from FPC elected Vice Moderator of the 217th GA. Wilson served with Moderator Rev. Joan Gray from Birmingham, AL. In another historic first, because of COVID-19 restricted gatherings, the 224th Assembly was held online, a technological feat. Reverend Bentley and Elder Street Stewart were physically in their respective homes with family members when elected, but hundreds witnessed the event online. The new co-moderators subsequently drove to Louisville, Kentucky, for orientation and the immediate onset of new duties, which included presiding during plenary sessions.
Reverend Bentley began tenure in 2012 as minister at FPC USA, following 24-years of spiritual leadership by the late Reverend Dr. John L. Herndon III. The only African American PCUSA church in North Alabama, the church will observe its 60th anniversary in fall 2020.