The Clifton Kirkpatrick Oral History Project | Presbyterian Historical Society

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The Clifton Kirkpatrick Oral History Project

December 6, 2023

PHS is happy to announce that three oral history interviews with Stated Clerk Emeritus Cliff Kirkpatrick are now live and available for viewing in Pearl.

Clifton Kirkpatrick was elected as Stated Clerk of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly in 1996. At the end of his term of service in 2008, he was elected as Stated Clerk Emeritus. Prior to his becoming Stated Clerk, he served for fifteen years as the Director of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the PC(USA). An ordained Presbyterian minister, Kirkpatrick is a leader in the global ecumenical movement, thanks to his work as Stated Clerk, as well as his six-year term serving as President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC).

Among other leadership roles in the Presbyterian Church, Kirkpatrick serves as Co-moderator of the General Assembly Special Committee on the Belhar Confession and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. He attended Davidson College (BA), Yale University (MDiv), and McCormick Theological Seminary (DMin).

Oral histories with Cliff Kirkpatrick can be accessed via Pearl Digital Collections

The interviews, conducted by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa, took place on July 24, July 25, and September 7, respectively. Presa, a Filipino/Pacific Islander American pastor and theologian, presently serves as Vice President of Student Affairs and Vocational Outreach and Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. In 2012, he was elected the Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA).

Of his relationship with the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, Presa said:

“Clifton Kirkpatrick and I have been colleagues in ministry and friends for more than a quarter of a century. We served together in the General Assembly Council (predecessor of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board), and then he invited me to serve as Convener of the Caribbean and North American Area Council of both the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. In 2012, when I was Moderator of the 220th General Assembly, I appointed him as co-moderator of the General Assembly Special Committee on the Belhar Confession."

Presa continued, "As I took on leadership roles in the World Council of Churches, Cliff has been a supporter and continues to have a keen interest in national and global ecumenism, the arena in which he invested most of his professional vocation. So when over a year ago Cliff and I discussed an oral history project, he was excited about the opportunity to tell the history he lived and which he influenced. For my part, as a student and teacher of our Presbyterian history and polity and an ecumenist, it is important to curate the legacy of Clifton Kirkpatrick as one of the few surviving living legends of our shared story. His critical perspectives and personal vignettes provide rich texture of pre-1983 reunion, the 1983 reunion and the aftermath, and the various dimensions of the modern ecumenical movement as he was the Stated Clerk who bridged the 20th and 21st centuries. We give thanks to God for Cliff’s life, witness, and legacy.”

Visit Pearl Digital Collections to watch Cliff Kirkpatrick's video history