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Synod of the Northeast elects transitional leader

The Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley has ‘knowledge, talents, skills and resources’ to help lead the synod forward

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

the Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley was elected Friday as transitional leader of the Synod of the Northeast. She’ll begin in her new role on March 1, 2021.

Ashley, a pastor and former staff member for both the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, is currently executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys.

“We will find multiple ways to introduce and welcome her to presbytery leaders, the synod’s various networks and working groups as well as the community at large,” said the Rev. Nancy Talbot, the synod’s acting leader and Stated Clerk, in a news release.

The seventh child of Dorothy and Freddie Gaulman, Ashley was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to a military family. She spent her formative years in Columbia, South Carolina, and Philadelphia. She’s been married 33 years to her partner in life and ministry, the Rev. Murphy Ashley, Jr. They have a son and two grandchildren.

For the past 21 years, Ashley has served as a local pastor and on the national staff of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In her various roles, she provided training, consultation, coaching and resources to support committees on ministry, call seekers and calling organizations.

Her experience includes serving as the denomination’s associate for Leadership Development, with direct responsibility for equipping adaptive pastors. As the associate for Gender and Racial Justice, she facilitated ministries and programs at all church levels that helped the PC(USA) on its journey to becoming an inclusive, diverse and racially just denomination. Her work included advocating for the full inclusion of all people to serve the church and preparing church organizations to welcome the gifts of diverse leaders.

Her pastoral service includes serving as senior pastor and solo pastor of congregations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Illinois.

She’s an executive board member for the PC(USA)’s Transitional Ministry Education Consortium and has served as faculty for transitional ministry education for conference centers and mid councils, training transitional pastors and new executive leaders. Ashley is experienced working in cross-cultural ministry settings and is an experienced consultant, diversity trainer, policy developer and conflict mediator and serves the city of Wilmar, Minnesota, on the Zoning Appeals Board.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at Georgia State University, a Master of Divinity in the psychology of religion and pastoral care from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and a doctorate with a concentration in leadership development and congregational transformation from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.


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