Dr. George Robertson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia, has been elected moderator of the 44th General Assembly.
Robertson has deep roots in the PCA. He earned his baccalaureate from Covenant College, his Master in Divinity and Master in Theology degrees from Covenant Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Historical and Theological Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Robertson formerly served as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis and lecturer/adjunct professor of practical theology at Covenant Seminary. He now serves as adjunct professor of worship and preaching at Erskine Theological Seminary.
Paul Kooistra, former Mission to the World coordinator and moderator of the 36th Assembly, nominated Robertson. In his comments, Kooistra pointed out that First Presbyterian Church was wounded when Robertson arrived. During his tenure, however, the church has seen growth and renewal, and the church’s rejuvenation, Kooistra told the Assembly, has “spilled out into the entire downtown community.”
This year, as the Assembly deals with 44 race-related overtures, it’s significant that in the past decade, Robertson has built bridges to Augusta’s African-American community. And it seems apt that the moderator of this Assembly has been instrumental in the formation of the Augusta Shalom Group, a gathering composed of judges, city commissioners, the sheriff, the mayor, and several pastors. Most of the group’s members, Kooistra pointed out, are African-Americans.
In so many ways, Kooistra said, Robertson embodies Jeremiah 29:7, always seeking the peace and prosperity of Augusta. He’s worked to ease the cycle of poverty, tended to the needs of the poor, and been involved in public justice. He’s also been instrumental in the creation of tutoring programs, art classes, and the creation of City Hope Alliance, a corporation for Christian community development.
A Sign of Hope
Robertson views his election as a sign of hope for the PCA. When it comes to race relations, he says, “I’m the chief of sinners.” Robertson explains that he grew up in Alabama and “swam” in the subculture of segregation and racism, and did so “uncritically.” He notes, too, that he’s pastored churches with long histories, whose pasts include too many shameful moments. Even the church he now serves, he says, was built with a slave balcony.
Though Augusta is racially divided, Robertson didn’t come with a racial agenda. But over time, he explains, “it became clear that we needed to repent, that we needed to pray that God would break down barriers in our city.” To that end, we also prayed that He would make our church multiethnic by 2020. God is answering those prayers. In recent years — in a church with a slave balcony — 30 to 50 percent of the new-member classes have been ethnic minorities.”
Reflecting on his election, Robertson says that there are other men who deserve the honor more, and who can run the meeting better.
“But with me,” Robertson explains, “the Lord did a miracle. He converted me and set me free from racist attitudes. He also led our church to repent.
“And I know,” he adds, “if He did that for a 212-year-old church, He can do it for a 44-year-old denomination.”