Paul Settle, one of the PCA’s most influential founders, has died.

Settle, who resided in Greenville, South Carolina, was called home to be with the Lord on March 19, a few days shy of his 83rd birthday.

In a trivia contest about PCA history, if asked, “Who was the first member of the PCA?,” many veterans of the denomination would agree it was Paul Gunter Settle. He was among 29 leaders that gathered in 1971 to address a decidedly liberal shift in Presbyterian denominations, eager to bring about a return to biblical authority, the confessional standards of the Church, and a renewed emphasis on missions and evangelism.

Pictured here, Rev. Settle upon his election to serve as Moderator of the Eighth General Assembly of the PCA (1980), with the Rev. Jim Baird escorting him to the platform.

Then, while serving as executive secretary of Presbyterian Churchmen United, he was one of four men selected to approach 16 conservative presbyteries about forming a new Presbyterian denomination. In this role, according to his good friend, Dr. Paul Kooistra, “I regarded him as the first PCA person.” Settle was the person hired to talk with people about becoming part of the PCA when it became obvious there would be a new denomination. He was the perfect person for the job – there was no question about his commitment to the Scriptures, to orthodoxy, and our Confession of Faith.

“Paul had fought the battles in the old denomination, but had done so with an interesting combination of godly graciousness, firmness, and integrity that people could respect and trust.”

Another longtime friend, Dr. Kennedy Smartt, affirmed that appraisal. “As representative of the Continuing Presbyterian Church, which became the PCA, Paul became a pastor to pastors, men who were considering leading their congregations in this new direction. He had a very warm, encouraging type of personality, a unique ability to relate to people and set them at ease.”

One of his most noteworthy contributions came after the PCA was formed in 1973, when he became the first coordinator of Christian education for the denomination. In that role he set a high standard for an emphasis on teaching that is still upheld today.

He also served as Moderator for the eighth PCA General Assembly in Savannah, Ga., in 1980. At that pivotal gathering, Settle deftly exercised one of his best-known traits, an engaging and disarming sense of humor.

“Paul’s wit and humor, plus his unusual ability to recall the names of almost every commissioner made everyone feel comfortable,” stated Smartt. “This was the assembly, it seemed to me, when the PCA began to grow up, and I think Paul had a lot to do with that. We were able to laugh a little at ourselves, but we also were beginning to think of ourselves with more dignity than we had before.”

“He truly was a godly man, one of strong conviction that stood for the truth and loved people. He had a vision for a denomination that was both orthodox and could yet still afford a great measure of freedom for its member congregations,” Kooistra observed. “He didn’t move people by telling them what they should believe. He demonstrated for them that you should live what you believe.”

Settle attended West Virginia University before enrolling at Bob Jones University and graduating in 1956. He earned a Master of Divinity degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1959 and was ordained by the Kanawha Presbytery in 1959.

He served in pastoral roles at numerous churches during his lengthy ministerial career, including pastor, Pliny Presbyterian, Pliny, W.Va. (1959-62); associate pastor, Trinity Presbyterian, Montgomery, Ala. (1962-66); associate pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1966-69); pastor, Northside Presbyterian, Burlington, N.C. (1969-71); and pastor, Second Presbyterian, Greenville, S.C. (1976-91); associate pastor, Park Cities Presbyterian, Dallas, Texas (1993-2003); pastor at large, North Texas Presbytery (2003-06); stated supply, Christ Presbyterian, Flower Mound, Texas (2004-05), and retired in 2006.

Settle also served in a variety of other denominational roles, including executive director of Continuing Presbyterian Church (1973); coordinator of Christian Education and Publications (1974-76); chairman of the board of trustees at Ridge Haven Conference Center (1976-79) and on staff at the center (1991-93). In addition, he chaired and served on numerous committees and subcommittees from 1977 to 1994.

He served on the boards of trustees for The Presbyterian Journal (1979-85); Westminster Theological Seminary (1975-85, 1991-2006); The Presbyterian Guardian (1978-79); World magazine (1979); Hope Urban Ministries (1987-91); and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1989-90).

Settle was a member of the visiting faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary (1968-69); Briarwood Continuing Seminary (1972); Covenant Theological Seminary (1977, 1984); Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1988-90); ICU, Moscow (1996), and Westminster Theological Seminary, Dallas (1993-96).

His published and media works included “Adult Sunday School Lessons,” Presbyterian Journal (1969); The Covenant Life Curriculum” Christian Observer (1970-72); Studies in the Catechism; Memory Work Notebook; A Time to Die; To God All Praise and Glory; Grace Triumphant radio ministry; Changeless Truths in a Changing World; “The Pastor as Theologian,” Men, Message, and Ministry; and was a contributor to A Journal of Pastoral Practice and Catechism for Young Children.

One of Settle’s passions was encouraging young men to pursue ministry as pastors or missionaries. Numerous men from the various congregations where he served chose to follow that path, inspired by his example and challenged by his vision for the world.

Dedication to excellence in Christian education and fostering a spirit of cooperation with the PCA lie at the heart of his legacy, according to Kooistra. “He stood for the truth with much integrity, much love, and much grace. It’s because of men like Paul Settle that the PCA has survived and thrived to be what it is today.”

Settle was the son of Paul Cochran and Ruth Gunter Settle. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Georgia Brown Settle; and is survived by their children, Paul David, and Jo Lynne Settle, as well as by his wife Mary. He also has two grandchildren – Shelby Emerson (Matthew) and Carly Spouse, and he also recently welcomed his first great-grandchild, Norah Emerson.

ByFaith will provide more information about services as they become available.

41 Responses to PCA Founder Paul Settle Has Died

  1. Brad Bradley says:

    Paul was a great asset to the newly formed Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas when he joined us as Associate Pastor. Since most of us were new to the PCA he was very instrumental in assisting us in the assimilation and assuming a more active role in the denomination. He will be greatly missed.

  2. I got to know Paul Settle in the early days of RUF (80’s) and he was a blessing to me in every way. Always personable, warm, friendly and yet theologically confessional, I was confident enough in his counsel to meet with him personally and to glean from his wisdom. He always acknowledged me (and my wife, Cathy) whenever I ran into him and made me feel like the most important person in world. His pastoral wisdom, passion for Christ and Scripture, as well as for the Reformed faith, the well-being of the PCA and the spiritual lives of others could hardly be exceeded. What a wonderful, godly man (and a great wife as well). He will be missed!

  3. Paul and Georgia were so supportive of Peter and me when we were commissioned as missionaries to France at the first PCA General Assembly in Birmingham, AL in 1973. They took interest in our work in France from 1974-1991 and again, later, in 2003, when Peter started truthXchange. Peter and I are so grateful for his kindness, his prayers, his encouragement and his affection in Christ. We look forward to seeing him in the glory of Christ’s new kingdom.

  4. Cathy Little says:

    A grand gentleman of the faith. He walked a Godly journey of faith before those whom he served and ministered at PCPC. What an encouraging and warm example of the fruits of God’s transforming work in our lives.

  5. Jake Yohannan says:

    Paul Settle was a prince among men. He was a pastor’s Pastor who could say anything g he needed to say to you, in love. He was ‘old school’ in his pastoring of people, in the best sense. His combination of knowledge, gentleness, wisdom, concern and Godliness was amazing to watch and learn from. I will never forget his impact on me and other young pastors and thank God today for His life!

  6. Jeanie Cox says:

    Paul was such a great communicator and lover of children! He led a devotional at a PCPC staff meeting on the fact that most of our theology is summed up in the simple prayer, “God is Great, God is Good, and we thank Him for our food. By His hands we all are fed. Thank you, God, for daily bread.” Every time we recognize God for His all sovereign, resurrection power; every time we acknowledge His goodness in how He applies that awesome power, we preach the Gospel to ourselves and all those with whom we share His provision. We break bread and celebrate His body broken for our sins and the life He gives us at each meal. His devo opens every children’s lesson I have taught for the last 20 years and most every prayer. Forever Gratful, Paul!

  7. TE J. Andrew White says:

    The whole PCA is grateful to our Heavenly Father for the blessings from the ministry and devotion of Paul Settle for His Savior. As President of the Board of Ridge Haven, I want to express the gratitude of the Board and staff for the foundational work and support of Paul Settle for our ministries to the churches of the PCA and evangelical community. Thank you, Lord, for this servant of Christ.
    J. Andrew White
    Ridge Haven Board, President.

  8. Thomas Kunkel says:

    Paul was hugely influential in my formation as a believer. I would not be serving on the mission field today if not for his very patient guidance.

    Oh, and if you never saw one of his crazy lip-syncs, you definitely haven’t lived to the fullest!

  9. Mr. Settle was my pastor growing up at Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville where he served from 1976-1991. He taught SPC how to love our bible, stand with conviction, and serve one another as Christ loved the church. He was an exemplary Christian educator, and a remarkable preacher. His endless labors for the new denomination (PCA) were herculean. His graciousness without compromising principle was I always thought a glue that helped the new church hold together. In his younger days he was an outstanding basketball player and grew up in Charleston, West Virginia playing High School ball with Hot Rod Huntly and Jerry West. A fond memory I have of him of was playing 2 on 2 basketball with him against my two older brothers (John & Ligon)

  10. Tony Sisk says:

    I asked Paul one time if he got tired of all of the administration of his job at PCPC. He said that the word administration came from the words “to minister”. He was a humble man.

    Tony Sisk

  11. Mike McMahon says:

    Paul was a gift of God to Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas. A man of godly wisdom, heavenly humor and abundant grace, he was invaluable and loved by all. He was instrumental in our church and in the lives of so many people. Paul was a man who always had time for you – a true shepherd of people.

  12. Phillip Shroyer says:

    Lived and pastored with a true pastors heart.

  13. Brandon Eggar says:

    What a joy to have known, been ministered to, and mentored by my pastor and friend, Paul Settle. If it wasn’t for his gentle guidance (oh, how patient he was with me!) I wouldn’t have come into the PCA nor would I currently be ministering in the PCA. I’ll be forever grateful for his support at such a formative time in my life as an intern at PCPC and as a student at Westminster Dallas. His entire life was lived by the words (words he loved to quote)…”If the Lord wills.”

  14. Bert Mueller says:

    I loved Paul! He performed the marriage ceremony for Amanda and me almost 13 years ago. What an amazing man of God he was! He’ll be missed. I can’t wait to see him again in Glory.

  15. Paul was instrumental as a mentor to me as I first entered the PCA. He was a gentle man of wit, and a man devoted to prayer. He was a great encouragement to all who knew him while he, and Georgia, opened their home to both myself and others with grace and warmth. Thank you, Paul.

  16. Lewis and Melissa Young says:

    Paul Settle grew Lewis and myself in the reformed faith like no other. He would preach and God’s Word would come out of his mouth – he had memorized so much scripture. He was a wonderful teacher and we have loved him over the years – 2nd Pres., Ridge Haven, Texas, back to Greenville and as our son’s “condo” mate before he married Mary. Unassuming and careful – a total lack of pride and willing to take a back seat. A supporter of all who loved our Lord and His Word. Lewis and I have had quite an amazing example of Christ-likeness to follow and affect our lives. He married 2 wonderful women and we have loved David and Jo over the years. He is with HIs Savior and we are the ones who miss him. To God be the glory!!

  17. Michelle Jeffress says:

    Well done good and faithful servant.

  18. Mark Trigsted says:

    Paul was a dear man that I was able to serve with in Presbytery and worship in the local church. He was a constant source of love and encouragement to everyone he came in contact with… when Paul would pray a pastoral prayer in worship they could be 10 min long but bring you to the bow of heaven in tears! I will miss him dearly!

  19. Dale Smith says:

    A truly remarkable man and exemplary Christian. It was my privilege to have known Paul since 1965 or 1966 back in the days of the Penscola Theological Institute at my home church, McIlwain Memorial; and then to have worked alongside him for many years in various capacities here in the Presbytery of North Texas. Paul was remarkable for his ability to combine a steadfast commitment to the historic Reformed faith with a gracious, warm-hearted kindness…and that from his younger years; something that many of us younger yet knucklehead “TR’s” took far more years to appreciate and cultivate. But he was kind and gracious to even us back when we were so annoying. Many of us were delievered from all that by his example. I loved Paul Settle.

  20. Met Paul at Journal Day in August 1972 at the meeting at which the official announcement was made of the formation of a new denomination. I was Student Supply Pastor at the Perry, GA PCUS church and had the opportunity to get to know Paul and many of the other leaders. Two years later I was ordained into the National Presbyterian Church. The next year at my first call at a church in Savannah, Paul and his entire staff (of 3) came to conduct one of their very first weekend Christian Education workshops. The next year I was elected to the PCA CE Committee. Paul the was Coordinator and he instilled my love and need for CE in the church’s ministry. My wife always asks me, ‘Don, why can’t you be Pleasantly Reformed – like Paul Settle.

  21. Grover Timms says:

    I can only echo what so many have already said. Pastor Settle gave of his time to encourage and help me as a young pastor when I first came to Fulton PCA. Thankful for his example and ministry in our denomination.

  22. Bob and Rebecca Hamby says:

    Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the countless ways that Paul has blessed our lives both as our pastor and our friend. Paul truly was a faithful shepherd who loved the flock entrusted to his care. He ignited our desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of The Lord Jesus Christ. Sola Deo gloria! One of his favorite hymns has now come to fruition:
    “For this dear saint who from his labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed. Thy name, O Jesus be forever blest, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

  23. Bette Green Goldmann says:

    Paul and Georgia were with me when my first husband John Rheinfrank died. Georgia spent the night with me that night. My brother , Chuck Green, thought as this article says, Paul was a pastor’s pastor. He admired him greatly.
    What a wonderful man. He was loved and will be missed.
    Bette Green Goldmann.

  24. Bob and Rebecca Hamby says:

    Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the countless ways that Paul has blessed our lives both as our pastor and our friend. Paul truly was a faithful shepherd who loved the flock entrusted to his care. He ignited our desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of The Lord Jesus Christ. Sola Deo gloria! One of his favorite hymns has now come to fruition:
    “For this dear saint who from his labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed. Thy name, O Jesus be forever blest, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

  25. William (Bill) H. Smith, Reformed Episcopal Church says:

    Though the remarkable characteristics of the man and his ministry have been stated repeatedly both in the report of Paul’s death and the many comments that follow, I felt I would be remiss if I did not add that I, too, always had the highest appreciation and respect for Paul Settle. He was a man about whom the overused statement, “He was a good man,” was manifestly true and wholly appropriate. Faithful. Kind. Committed. Smart. Diligent. Hard-working. Gentle. Quick-witted. Approachable. Sincere. Funny. A man of the theological right whose sympathies and friendships were liberal and broad. Humble – always. A godly man who godliness was genuine and deep, yet never sour or overbearing. For him, faith is now sight. For us, he is missed.

  26. Michael Wade says:

    I used to go to the early service at Second Pres to hear Paul Settle before going to my own church. I always appreciated Pastor Settle’s preaching and the time he took to talk with this young BJU grad.

  27. brannin pitre says:

    I will always think of Paul as the most gracious and pastoral mentor. I am so very proud to be one of the many who sat under his teaching and discipleship. His passion for Scripture and his knowledge of the confession was contagious – and he prayed the King James like no other. 🙂 O God, give us more men like Paul to faithfully lead your people.

  28. George Hanson says:

    I had the pleasure of knowing Paul since the early 90’s. A gracious man that was a true role model for younger men to follow. He led our Deacon training back in 2003 at PCPC in Dallas and took me through one of my first formal studies of the Westminster Confession of Faith. What an honor to have been in that class. You will be missed Paul.

  29. Jane Beasley says:

    I had the privilege of being his administrative assistant at PCPC for 6 years. What a joy to work for Paul Settle. Never saw him angry. Never heard a negative comment come from his lips. If there were problems or a misunderstanding, or if I made a mistake he always insisted that somehow it must have been his fault. It was such an honor to know him as my employer, my pastor, and my good friend. I know he is loving seeing Jesus!! Miss you Paul.

  30. Bob Morris says:

    First, Paul was extremely important in the beginning of PCA as stated above in the article and then to Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas. When he taught, you had better listen closely since he knew from doctrine and experience why certain confessions or reasons for teaching in the church were better than alternative methods. Also, he was knowledgeable with the teachings of other church groups. May Paul & Georgia feel the love of the Lord together now.

  31. Barbara Perry Cobb says:

    So thankful to God for allowing me to sit under the teaching and preaching of this godly man when he was pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, NC from 1969-1971. I was a new Christian and Paul and Georgia modeled for me true Christ-like character. There I also experienced Paul’s wonderful sense of humor when he lip-synced Spike Jones (hilarious :)! . From 1971-1973 I was privileged to work for him when he was called to serve as executive secretary of Presbyterian Churchmen United. In 1981 he performed the marriage ceremony for me and my husband, Charles. Later I watched as he patiently and lovingly cared for his ill wife. God has truly used this wonderful man to bless my life!

  32. Emil Henning says:

    At our talent nights in the Second Pres. gym in the 80s, Paul would have us in stitches with his inimitable Spike Jones routines, and I hear he was quite a ballroom dancer before becoming a minister. Our Sunday night worship was dignified, but a little more informal than now. Once as I was playing piano for “There’s Power in the Blood” from the Worship & Service Hymnal, Paul leaned over from the pulpit and said, “Emil, let’s pick it up a little!” His first sermon on the Abrahamic covenant told me Second Pres. was where I needed to be, and his amazing quickness in getting and recalling my unusual name sealed the deal. What a blessing to have had this blessed man as my pastor!

  33. Ellen Narayan says:

    What else can I say, other than he was one of the dearest and loving men I have ever known. He had such a spirit of godliness with su much humility. I am thankful that I had the privilege of growing in my faith under his teaching

  34. Bob Smallman says:

    Humble and always approachable.

  35. Paul Darby says:

    He was my first Reformed pastor, always kind and gracious, with humble dignity. His redemptive-historical exposition drove me to Christ Sunday after Sunday during college, and I listened to his sermons on tape for years afterwards. I am so blessed to have begun my serious walk with Christ under his care. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Paul Settle. Please raise up more men like him.

  36. Phil Prince says:

    I will always consider it a profound privilege to have been a congregant at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville under Paul’s ministry. He was a gentle shepherd and faithful teacher who loved God’s word and cared well for God’s people. How fortunate my family and I are for having had Paul Settle as our pastor for 10 years. He will always be one of my heroes of the faith.

  37. Jack Parker says:

    Paul Settle “did justice, loved mercy and walked humbly with God”. What a kind, gentle man with such amazing knowledge and wisdom from the Word of God. A man of integrity, grace and loving kindness. When I consider what I believe we are taught to live like as Christians, my mind has a picture of Paul and Georgia Settle. What a privilege it was to have served with this man.

  38. Chuck Marvin, '58 says:

    Classmates at BJU; he remained the same guy I knew then, except
    he grew much taller in leadership ability and dedication to biblical

  39. Margaret (Margie) Hannah says:

    I only met him once and called him once to tell him what Joe Novenson had said about him. I was delighted to meet his widow at his memorial service.

  40. Mark Bailey says:

    Paul Settle married my wife and I some 35 years ago at Second Pres. in Greenville, S.C. As we were waiting to step out in to sanctuary for the ceremony, I asked Paul if he had a little prayer for a time like this. He responded “certainly”, he knew exactly what I needed prayer for at the moment. Paul was such a gracious, kind, and calming pastor for many years after that. We have lost a great disciple for the Lord!