Healing a breach dating from the Civil War, the nation’s two largest Presbyterian bodies were reunited in Atlanta last month, ending 122 years of separation. After three-and-a-half days of simultaneous business sessions in the cavernous World Congress Center, the 987 commissioners (elected delegates) of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPC) and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS, known as Southern Presbyterians) were joined by a host of fellow Presbyterians and 100 ecumenical delegates in a festive parade to city hall. The throng of 7,500 was greeted by Mayor Andrew Young.
That night—Friday, June 10, at 8:37 P.M.—the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was officially constituted at a Communion service attended by 14,000 and witnessed by thousands more via satellite TV.
The following morning the merged assemblies chose as their first moderator Jay Randolph Taylor, 53, pastor of the Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Taylor named as vice-moderator the black woman who had nominated him, the Reverend Joan Salmon-Campbell, 45, of Philadelphia.
According to George Gallup, Jr., who addressed one of the assembly breakfasts, the newly formed church is now the most evenly distributed of all U.S. denominations. Its 3.2 million members (74 percent from the UPC) make it fourth in size of America’s Protestant bodies. Both the UPC and the PCUS suffered membership losses in 1982 of 36,682 and 8,200 respectively. But the UPC decrease is nearly 10,000 fewer than that of 1981 and the lowest in more than 10 years. Deriving little comfort from that statistic, Robert H. Meneilly, founding pastor of the 7,000-member Village United Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, Kansas, and chairman of the 1982-created Special ...1
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