McCormick Alum and Current Board Member Stands for Moderator of the PC(USA)


John Wilkinson ('89) is endorsed as a candidate for Moderator of the PC(USA) by Genesee Valley Presbytery.

If elected, the Rev. Dr. Wilkinson will serve as Moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The General Assembly, national gathering and meeting of the PC(USA), will meet June 14-21, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan. Following the General Assembly, Rev. Wilkinson will continue to serve the PC(USA) for a two-year term traveling, speaking, and representing the church.

John Wilkinson holds degrees from the College of Wooster (BA), McCormick Theological Seminary (MDiv 1989), and Northwestern University (PhD), with a dissertation in American Religious History. His ministry has focused on urban and metropolitan settings: pastorates at St. James Presbyterian Church and Fourth Presbyterian Church (both in Chicago) and at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester New York, where he has served as Pastor since 2001.

A second generation Presbyterian minister, John’s service to the church began in high school when he was ordained as a ruling elder, and has continued in three presbyteries and at the General Assembly level where he has served on committees consistently through his ministry. His service has included search committees, Committee on Preparation for Ministry and Committee on Ministry. He is currently the Moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

At the General Assembly level, John was a member of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church and he is currently a member of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, for which he served as moderator.

John was at the drawing board for the formation of several church-related groups including the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, NEXT Church and the Rochester-based consortium Urban Presbyterians Together.

John has served on the boards of two seminaries—McCormick Theological Seminary and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS). He chaired the CRCDS Board for three years.

Rev. Frank Yamada, President of McCormick Seminary, commented, "I was so pleased to hear about John's nomination to be moderator. He is an exceptional non-anxious presence with a clear vision for what the church needs in this time of change. We are proud of him as an alumnus and for the leadership that he has exercised throughout our denomination."

John and his spouse, Bonny Claxton, are the parents of Kenneth, a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Ann, a senior at Brighton High School in Rochester. He is an avid fan of baseball, as well as Bruce Springsteen, the Simpsons and all things pop culture.

Following his endorsement, Wilkinson commented: “I am humbled, excited and a little daunted to be endorsed by my presbytery colleagues and friends to serve the church in this way at such an important time. The theme for the Detroit General Assembly is “Abound in Hope.” I have embraced a theme for my own efforts based on that: “With an urgency born of this hope…” is not only an affirmation from the Presbyterian Confession of 1967, but it is a theological promise as well. The Presbyterian family is facing change and conflict. Yet we are called to be urgent – not anxious or fearful – as we face our future. The hope we embrace is not our own, but is a gracious gift from God. As we affirm this gift and rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit, we will live into a Presbyterian future filled with possibility and transformation. I hope that my vision, gifts and experiences might serve the church in this important moment, and I am grateful indeed for my presbytery’s affirmation.”

Third Presbyterian Church’s Clerk of Session Christopher Bensch said: “The congregation, session and staff of Third Presbyterian Church wholeheartedly support John's endorsement for the position of moderator. John has led us for over a dozen years with deep faithfulness and insights, and we believe that his gifts could serve our denomination as a whole. We are grateful for the opportunity to share his leadership with the wider church.”

To learn more about Rev. Wilkinson, visit