SALT LAKE CITY, MAY 30 -- Delegates to the annual convention of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today elected Price H. Gwynn III of Charlotte, N.C., 67, a layman, to lead the 2.9 million-member denomination for the next year.
Gwynn captured almost 53 percent of the vote on the second ballot at the denomination's 202nd General Assembly. He immediately took office as moderator, replacing the Rev. Joan SalmonCampbell of Philadelphia.
Gwynn became the eighth moderator since factions of the church reunited in 1983, healing a Civil War-era split over slavery. He was one of six men seeking the position.
During his nomination speech, Gwynn said Presbyterians were more concerned about a perceived malaise in leadership than whether homosexuals should be ordained, an issue that the 10-day assembly may address.
"The question I'm asked is, do we have our act together up here. . . . Can we put aside our differences to get our act together in the world?" Gwynn told the assembly.
Gwynn said he has no plans for radical changes. He said he could not support ordination of homosexuals, who he said are sinners deserving of God's love but not of the ministry. He added he supports "responsible choice" in dealing with abortion.
The first meeting of the Protestant denomination in predominantly Mormon Utah began Tuesday night with a worship service.
The denomination was planning to take action on its first statement of faith since the 1983 merger. The proposed statement mixes traditional Christian beliefs with more modern concerns for the environment and sexual equality. Resolutions on the environment, U.S.-Cuban relations and Northern Ireland also were on the agenda.
No official dialogue is planned between the Presbyterians and the Mormon church, although private meetings are scheduled between Mormon leaders and the Presbyterian Inter-Faith Office. The conference is to consider a paper on healthy relations between Mormons and Presbyterians in Utah.
While 70 percent of Utah's 1.7 million people are Mormons, the next largest denomination is Roman Catholic, with an estimated 5 percent, or 80,000 members. The Presbyterians have 5,000 members, or about six-tenths of 1 percent.
Church officials acknowledged that it is unusual to hold the annual assembly where there are so few Presbyterians but said the meetings here are in response to local Presbyterians seeking recognition in Utah.