By Dionne Gleaton, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson regards his hometown of Orangeburg as the place where he received the spiritual nurturing and development that propelled him to be elected the top ecclesiastical leader of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The son of the late James Herbert Nelson and Johnalee Nelson, he was elected Stated Clerk of the PCUSA on June 24 during the 222nd General Assembly meeting held in Portland, Oregon.
Nelson, director of the PCUSA’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., succeeds the Rev. Gradye Parsons in the four-year term, which he will begin serving on Aug. 1.
He is the first black man in the more than 300-year history of Presbyterianism in the U.S. to be elected as stated clerk of the church. The denomination is more than 90 percent white.
“I felt both humbled and heartened by this opportunity as the first person of color in the history of this denomination to assume this position,” Nelson said.
“It is just the ability to evangelize and find new ways of working with individuals who are nonwhite in this society. We’re beginning to see increasing numbers and also anticipating that in a few years, Latino and Hispanic communities will become the majority in this country,” he said. “It’s a time of great transition in both society and the life of the church, and I’m humbled and heartened to have an opportunity to serve.”
The 57-year-old said his role as the ecclesiastical leader of the PCUSA encompasses a multitude of tasks.