The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert NelsonThe Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington, DC

  1. What is the most exciting book you have read in the last year? What did you find so interesting or compelling?

    James Calvin Davis, In Defense of Civility. Davis outlines the need to understand public engagement on political issues from a perspective of the framers of the Constitution of the United States. He then approaches ten tough issues before our society that have moral and ethical implications through a politically balanced lens. His work represents an effort to demonstrate a model for approaching issue-based discussions.

  2. What in your view is the greatest challenge facing people of faith today?

    We are facing an intense struggle between models of Church/institutional success versus faithful discipleship. Pastoral and lay identity is often defined by a success model of growing congregations which embraces the command to baptized persons into the faith. However, we are lacking in our effort to encourage “making disciples” who are willing to speak truth to power in love. In short, the prophetic voice of the Church must find new meaning in this present hour.  

  3. Of all the figures in the Bible, with whom would you wish to spend a day?


  4. Before your move to the Office of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), you led a church in North Carolina and grew the Memphis church, Liberation Community Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). What parts of parish ministry do you miss the most?

    I miss the weekly engagement with parishioners and on-going relationships with their lives. It is good to watch the development of children as they grow from infancy to adulthood and know the role that I played as a Pastor in their development.

  5. What is your source of inspiration for the very challenging work you do? When you become discouraged, how do you recover your passion and commitment?

    I seek strength through prayer, family and recognizing that my work belongs to the Lord. On a practical level, I listen to jazz, spend time in the gym and enjoy travel with family.      

  6. What question do you wish we would ask you?

    What was the impact of serving a congregation in Memphis for 12 years.? Our work in ministry evangelized and embraced the poor. I was transformed by the love offered in a congregational context that lacked financial resources, but possessed a tremendous courage and love for its people and the communities that it served. Liberation Community Presbyterian Church provided me with both a training ground and communal nurture through our justice work together. Much of the work I do each day in Washington, DC and around the country has a direct correlation to the ministry that I was blessed to share at Liberation Community.