Heath Rada serves as church moderator
Heath Rada, a man with a broad smile, a sparkle in his eyes and compassion in his heart became the 221st moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in June 2014. The past year, he has visited 24 states and 11 countries, and on Sunday, July 5, he will preach in Anderson Auditorium in Montreat. The public is invited.
“A moderator is a mediator and an ambassador,” Rada said. “I visit places only by invitation. “Sometimes it is a happy occasion like a celebration of a church’s 350th birthday. At other times, I am invited to help bring peace and understanding to groups within the church that disagree.”
The position of moderator for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a volunteer one, with travel expenses paid. Rada, a layman and not a minister, is frequently in the pulpit. He is articulate, with a calming voice, and is willing to listen to all sides of an issue. He brought decades of leadership experience to the moderator’s position.
Rada is a native of Richmond, Virginia and a retired CEO of the Great Richmond Chapter of the American Red Cross, where he coordinated the organization’s work in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He also held the positions of interim CEO of Red Cross chapters in San Diego, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Fort Worth.
Prior to all that, Rada served for 12 years as president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (PSCE). The school merged with Union Presbyterian Seminary. He was the first layperson to head one of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s theological schools.
He received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Andrews University in May 2015, a school that he was forced to leave because of his family’s financial situation. St. Andrews president Paul Baldasare bestowed the honorary doctorate on Rada and noted his dedication to a professional life of service.
During Rada’s first year as moderator, he has visited the Middle East and Africa, including South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Palestine and Jordan.
“I was there to offer words of hope, and to bring back the message of ‘don’t forget us,’” he said.
He also meets with churches that are angry about decisions the Presbyterian Church is making, especially about same-sex marriages. He mediates among people in a church to work out the problems and keep dialogues open.
“I didn’t go to Ferguson, (Missouri),” he said. “I was asked to not go at the time. I was told that a visit from me would be viewed as patronizing. I saw it as a challenge and not an attack on me personally. I also volunteered to go to Charleston (South Carolina) as a response to the shootings (at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church) that recently occurred there. I was told it was not the right time for me to come.”
He visited the White House to watch President Obama sign the latest addition to the Civil Rights Bill. His wife of 49 years, Peggy, often travels with him.
“I wanted to travel with him with a planned and mission-focused itinerary that would allow me to see an entirely different face of the church,” she said. “Life with Heath has brought opportunities to travel and learn.” The couple has two daughters and and two grandchildren.
In their early 70s, the Radas are an energetic couple who have enjoyed almost half a century together. Rada’s term as moderator ends on the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary — June 12, 2016.
At the end of his term as moderator, Rada hopes people he has spoken to will feel a sense of reconciliation and love that he helped bring about.
Hear him live
Heath Rada will preach in Anderson Auditorium in Montreat at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, July 5. Everyone is invited.