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Gay Mothershed, Vice-Moderator of the 208th General Assembly, dies at age 85

The respected Christian educator served the PC(USA) and its forebear at the congregational, mid council and national levels

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Gay Mothershed

LOUISVILLE — Gay Dawn Mothershed, Vice-Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996), died peacefully in her home in Black Mountain, North Carolina on May 13.

She was born on July 9, 1937, in Concord, North Carolina, the oldest daughter of John and Elvie Mothershed. She delighted in being big sister to Linda, Auntie to Richard and John, and special member of the Bannerman family. She learned to knit, crochet and craft from her mother — creative skills and creations which she generously shared with many. She was a gourmet cook (who used and didn’t just buy cookbooks) and the consummate hostess who knew how to throw a great party. She travelled around the world (26+ countries) and all around the United States, collecting Christmas ornaments as she went. She loved classical music and savored evenings at the symphony or theater with friends, when she wasn’t at home reading a good book.

She was baptized and nurtured by the members of Second Presbyterian Church in Concord, where she received perfect attendance pins in Sunday school and was confirmed and celebrated as a unique child of God. She was active in the local youth group as well as on the presbytery’s Youth Council, and she helped clear trails at the new Camp Grier in Old Fort, North Carolina. She graduated from Concord High School before attending Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina (now St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina) from which she graduated cum laude in 1959.

She continued her call to the ministry of Christian education when she graduated in 1963 with a Masters of Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, now Union Presbyterian Seminary. She served local churches as director of Christian education in Dunn, North Carolina; Waynesboro, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Houston; and New Orleans, and was associate executive presbyter for 12 years in Grace Presbytery (200+ churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex area). She retired in 2012 as executive presbyter of the Presbytery of West Virginia in Charleston before moving to Givens Highland Farms in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

In 1996, Mothershed was elected Vice-Moderator of the 208th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a role in which she served the church actively and tirelessly with Moderator John Buchanan to help bring about reconciliation during a very contentious time in the life of the PC(USA). Throughout her term, she represented the best of Christian education and Christian educators to the church and modeled the significant contribution which Christian educators can and continue to make to the church.

She was an active member of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, the Board of Union Presbyterian Seminary/PSCE at the time of federation, and finally the Board of Union Presbyterian Seminary — more than 11 years of service — where she worked to keep the institution the unique theological school it has been and is becoming. In 2011, she was honored as Distinguished Alumni of Union Presbyterian Seminary.

She also made significant contributions to the larger church as a member of the General Assembly Mission Board in the former Presbyterian Church US from 1972-83, and again as a member of the General Assembly Council from 1983-89, beginning with the reunion of the denomination. She served on and chaired numerous work groups and committees in her career and was a valuable member of the Workgroup to Study the Role and Status of Educators in the PC(USA) from 1996-98. She brought to the deliberations of this group her distinguished history and experience from service on the Committee for the Ordination of Church Educators, which worked from 1977-83 in the PCUS.

Mothershed was a certified educator from the beginning of her career and served as a member of the Council for Certification of Christian Educators from 1965-74, when the certification process was in an important period of evaluation, emerging vision, and significant expansion in its scope and practice, and again from 2008-12 as the certification process continued to be shaped and formed.

She had been a member of the Association of Partners in Christian Education (APCE) and its predecessor organizations since becoming an educator and was honored by the organization in 2000 as Educator of the Year. She was a leader among leaders — a visible, articulate visionary for education and educators in the church as well as for justice for all God’s people through her tireless work with the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. She was quick to stand to ask the hard questions and passionately took a stand where issues of injustice and inequity were present.

Throughout her career, Mothershed was a respected Christian educator in the life of the PC(USA) who used her special gifts effectively in her ministry as a local church educator, as a presbyter, and as a leader in the denomination. Her joy of learning and love of teaching were basic to her understanding of the task of education, which she tenaciously defended as a vital and important aspect of both the life of each individual child, youth, and adult in the congregation and the ministry of the larger church.

She is survived by her sister, Linda Shrader (Richard) of Rhinebeck, New York; nephews Richard Shrader (Michele Martin) of Watkinsville, Georgia and John Shrader of Rhinebeck, New York; and cousin Patricia Nichols (Wayne) of Concord, North Carolina. She was a dear friend and mentor to many around the world and encouraged all to claim the gifts that God had given them and to step into God’s future with energy, intelligence, imagination, love and enthusiasm.

The family asks those who wish to honor her life to consider contributions to Union Presbyterian Seminary, Black Mountain Presbyterian Church (, or a charity of your choice.

Read Mothershed’s full obituary here.

Her memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on June 4 at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, 117 Montreat Road, Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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