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Longtime presbytery leader the Rev. Edward D. Gehres, Jr. dies at 82

Gehres led three PC(USA) presbyteries after brief careers as an accountant and an academic

Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Edward D. Gehres, Jr.

The Rev. Edward D. Gehres, Jr., died on January 22 at the age of 82.

According to his obituary, he was born December 31, 1941 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and lived in Baltimore as a small child until he moved to Detroit at age six. He graduated from Roseville High School on the east side of Detroit and was then admitted to the charter class of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. After a brief time away to work he graduated from Oakland University in 1966. At Oakland, he met his wife of 60 years, Evelyn (Adams), and they were married in January of 1964.

After working briefly as an accountant, Gehres felt the call to ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and entered McCormick Theological Seminary in the fall of 1966. While in seminary he was able to fulfill a dream to study Reformation history and theology on the Protestant faculty of the University of Tubingen, in then-West Germany. He earned the Evangelisch Studienwerk Villigst Fellowship in 1968, and after language school, studied with famed Reformation scholar Heiko Oberman in 1968 and 1969. He completed seminary and was ordained as a minister in 1970, serving eight years as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Illinois and as an assistant professor of Religion at Millikin University before beginning his ministry as a church executive.

Gehrens had a distinguished 23-year career as an executive presbyter, leading Maumee Valley Presbytery, the Presbytery of Detroit, and the Presbytery of Philadelphia. He was passionate about urban ministry, believing that church communities could drive positive socio-economic change that contributed to urban renewal. He also served on several PC(USA) committees, including a role in the administrative work that led to the reunification of the northern and southern branches of the Presbyterian Church in 1983. Even after his retirement in 2007, Gehrens continued his ministry with guest preaching and pastoral roles in his retirement community at Riderwood in Silver Spring, Maryland.

He believed deeply in devotion to family and community. He lived a great American love story with his wife of 60 years and as a father to his son Ed (III), grandfather to Abigail and Roman, and uncle to many nieces and nephews. In his retirement, he returned to many hobbies he had enjoyed earlier in his career, such as singing in the men’s chorus, advocating as an elected member of Riderwood’s Resident Advisory Committee, working on graphic design projects, and attending many classes on art, history, and politics at Prince George’s Community College.

He is preceded in death by his father Ed, his mother Ruth, and his sister Mary Ann. He is survived by his wife Evelyn, his son Ed (III), his daughter-in-law Mary Elizabeth (Brennan), grandchildren Abby and Roman, his brother Mark (Diane) and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Ed’s life was held last week at the Riderwood Community Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Edward Gehres Jr. & Evelyn Adams Gehres Urban Ministry Fund at the Presbyterian Foundation, 200 East Twelfth Street, Jeffersonville, Indiana, 47130, or online here.

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