PORTLAND, Ore. — The largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. has elected its first African-American top executive.

The Rev. Herbert Nelson won an overwhelming majority of votes Friday during the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland, Oregon.

Nelson previously directed the church’s public policy office in Washington. He’s a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and holds a doctorate from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Like other denominations, the Louisville, Kentucky-based Presbyterian church has been shrinking. It now has 1.6 million members and is overwhelmingly white.


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