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Moravian Church Eastern District Elects President
The Eastern District of the Moravian Church in North America elected the Rev. Gary M. Straughan, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as its President during the 40th Eastern District Synod, held in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on June 16-19, 2004. A synod is an assembly of church delegates, including clergy and lay people, who are called together every four years for discussion, decision, and policy-making regarding church matters. The Eastern District of the Moravian Church in North America consists of 54 recognized Moravian Congregations throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada.
The position of Eastern District President, along with an executive board of elected lay and clergy, has supervisory responsibility for the congregations and clergy of the District, works with congregations in calling pastors, addressing conflict, establishing quotas, managing finances, and determining budgets for the various ministries that congregations do together. The Board and the President are concerned with all aspects of congregational life and ministry. They represent the entire District and not geographic areas.
In order to be elected as Eastern District President, a person must be ordained clergy serving on call to the Northern Province and is elected by Synod vote without nomination. A two-thirds majority vote is required for election. On the second ballot, Straughan received 135 out of 179 legally cast votes re-electing him to the position he has served since 2002, completing the term of then Eastern District President, the Rev. David L. Wickmann, who was elected to serve as President of the Northern Province, Moravian Church in North America, following the retirement of the Rev. Burke R. Johnson. Each term is four years long. In his address to the Synod floor, Straughan stated, “I love my work. …”I love the diversity of our district. I love the variety of gifts that emerge from our congregations. I love the dedication of so many people in such varied occupations and yet all concerned about the work of the church.” Later, at a banquet for synod delegates and guests, he commented on the future of the church by saying, “At this synod, the Synod of 2004, let it be said that we are determined to step into the future ready to give our all to a faith that is to be lived. Let this Synod be the catalyst for a renewed church. Let it be a time when we assert a bold vision.”
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Straughan graduated from Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1963, and received a Master’s of Divinity degree from Moravian Theological Seminary, also in Bethlehem, in 1966. He was ordained a Deacon in 1966 and consecrated Presbyter in 1972. He has served as the pastoral leader at Freedom Moravian Church, Appleton, Wisconsin (1966-1969); Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (1969-1976); Wisconsin Rapids Moravian Church, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin (1976-1987), including a co-pastorate at Rudolph Moravian Church, Rudolph, Wisconsin, (1976-1981); Downey Moravian Church, Downey, California (1987-1993); Hope Moravian Church, Hope, Indiana (1994-1998); and Lititz Moravian Church, Lititz, Pennsylvania (1998-2002). In conjunction with the time that he served as pastor of various congregations, Rev. Straughan also served on the Western District Executive Board, the Pacific Southwest Moravian Board, and the Eastern District Executive Board. As President of the Eastern District Executive Board he also serves as a Vice President of the Provincial Elders’ Conference, Northern Province, which serves in partnership with the Southern Province Provincial Elders’ Conference, constituting the Moravian Church in North America.
Rev. Straughan is married to Amelia (Amy) nee Romanchuk. He is the father/step-father of five adult children, Kevin, Georgina, Todd, Vanessa, and Alexander; and the grandfather of eight, the youngest of which was born while synod was in session. Rev. Straughan and Amy reside in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with their beloved dogs, Rainman and Thor.
All delegates and guests gathered to install the Rev. Straughan and the other newly elected members of the Eastern District Executive Board in a special closing worship service of the synod held on the grounds of Moravian College at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 19, 2004.
The Moravian Church was founded in Germany more than 500 years ago and at that time was officially called the Unitas Fratrum, or Unity of the Brethren, which remains the church’s official name today. The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant denominations dating back to 1457 in Europe and first coming to America in 1735. Moravians have a strong tradition of ecumenical work and are best known for their missionary work and rich musical heritage. The Moravian Church in North America is comprised of the Northern, Southern and Alaskan Provinces. The Northern Province has approximately 28,000 members in 102 congregations in 13 states in the U.S. and two Canadian provinces. The Southern Province includes nearly 20,000 members in 58 congregations, which are located primarily throughout the Southeast. Moravians now number more than 789,000 worldwide and are spread across five continents and more than 20 jurisdictional provinces.