“I think Jim Wert needs a T-shirt that reads, ‘I’m Esther’s little brother. For such a time as this,’” quipped Joe Novenson, pastor of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confident that Wert is the right man for this time in the PCA, Novenson nominated him to serve as the 43rd General Assembly’s moderator.
“We need institutional memory and visionary cultural engagement right now. One cannot be sacrificed on the altar of the other. It’s an unusual man who can do that. And I think Jim can,” said Novenson.
From his conversion in 1969 in one of the churches that gave rise to the PCA, Wert has deep roots in the denomination. “He’s a historic churchman,” said Novenson. Wert has long served as a ruling elder at Intown Community Church in Atlanta, and his church leadership experience also includes the Metro Atlanta Presbytery, the Overtures Committee of the General Assembly, and consulting for the Strategic Planning process of the PCA from 2002 to 2004.
This broad experience at all three levels of church governance enables Wert to help the denomination think deeply about the past and pray about the future of engaging our culture with the gospel, Novenson said. The combination of historical insight and visionary leadership is just what the PCA needs right now, he believes: “Jim stands able to reach to our past and stretch toward our future with a grasp of our present place in the world like few I know.”
Wert said he’s honored and humbled to serve the denomination. “I have watched a string of moderators and had the privilege of knowing many of them, and have always honored the role and the people in it,” he said. With 15 years of traveling the globe consulting with faith-based, nonprofit organizations, it’s fitting that Wert was eating dinner with a PCA missionary in Bangkok when he received a call from George Robertson asking him to consider nomination as moderator.
Wert’s experience in helping Christian ministries develop strategic clarity and rich organizational health was another reason Novenson cited for his confidence in him. “Jim Wert knows how to move large assemblies of people in a healthy and unified direction,” he said. “His Harvard MBA has served him well. But so has his sense of humor.” Periodic sightings of Jim and his wife, Emily, dressed as J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed characters Sam and Rosie Gamgee from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, are evidence of his humor and winsome personality. Novenson urged Wert to attend at least one GA session in full hobbit garb.
For all his humor, Wert is serious about the Assembly’s inner workings and hopes to help the denomination engage in principled debate in a way that furthers the progress of recent years toward a respectful, dignified atmosphere. Last year, as chairman of the Overtures Committee, Wert said he experienced the fruits of the PCA’s initial wave of strategic planning efforts. “A couple of restructuring recommendations allow for substantial debate, disagreements, compromised language, and positions that accelerate the process and expedite the timelines of assemblies.”
Even though a minority report came out of that Overtures Committee, Wert felt, “We were able to have respectful, measured, even-tempered conversation even in the points of disagreement. We had principled disagreements and brought points to the floor with clarity and a measure of expedition.”
Wert’s prayer for his service as moderator: “Lord, preserve wisdom and humility, and good humor.” No matter what issues arouse spirited debate, he hopes to moderate “a good, constructive Assembly with brothers who love each other. None of us is interested in debating parliamentary procedure; we want to further the work of the church.”