PHS Welcomes New Batch of More Light Records | Presbyterian Historical Society

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PHS Welcomes New Batch of More Light Records

April 25, 2024

On Tuesday, March 29, in the late afternoon, a very exciting shipment arrived at the PHS building on Lombard Street: 64 boxes of records from More Light Presbyterians (MLP).

Several of our staff assisted Records Archivist David Staniunas in getting the five-dozen boxes of archival materials into the building. At the request of More Light Presbyterians leadership and with the enthusiastic support of the records’ original donor, Jim Anderson, the records made their way to the Presbyterian Historical Society from Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives.

Two summers ago, in August 2022, PHS staff took a trip to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to visit the Alexander Library’s Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers. They surveyed the MLP records stored there, viewing around 10 cubic ft. of the 54 cubic ft. collection. This trip ultimately resulted in the digitization of eight U-matic videotapes from the collection, which were featured in our Spring 2023 edition of Presbyterian Heritage. Digitization revealed footage of the 1978 UPCUSA General Assembly, where Sandra (Sandy) Brawders, a Princeton Theological Seminary student at the time, came out on the General Assembly floor and spoke during plenary for an open policy on ordination. You can view that tape, and the other digitized materials, on Pearl.

You may be wondering: what kinds of items live in this most recent batch of records? Records Archivist David Staniunas, who has already begun working with the new material, offers us a bit of insight in that regard.

GA News and Jim’s press badge, 1993.

“Organizational files, correspondence, photos, and videotapes of successive coordinators of More Light Presbyterians—namely David Sindt, Chris Glaser, Michael Adee, and Jim Anderson.

The collection was transferred to Rutgers in several groups from 1993 to 2003 during Anderson’s tenure as communications lead, and during his time teaching in the Rutgers School of Communications Information and Library Science (SCILS),” Staniunas explains.

“At the time, the university was regarded as a neutral site, not an active party to the struggle within the PC(USA) for ordination and marriage equality, and the reconstruction of an inclusive denomination; we thank Rutgers SCUA for their careful stewardship. The records include responses to congregations which passed measures explicitly excluding gay and lesbian and trans people from worship.”

The collection primarily documents the struggles of ministers who witnessed the malice toward LGBTQIA+ members of the church during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. And it shows, in photographs and video recordings, the joy and steadfast hope of these marginalized congregants—LGBTQIA Presbyterians gathering together in love, protesting on behalf of one another and getting arrested at demonstrations, teaching others the value of inclusion and preaching God’s pure love for all.

Soulforce protest outside GA in Long Beach, 2000.

“The collection will be an enduring resource,” Staniunas concluded, “for anyone seeking to understand the lives, work, and witness of this 50-year-old organization, its people, and its effects on the church and society.”

Plus, the transfer from Rutgers is well-timed, since 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of More Light’s founding. PHS is excited to house such an impactful collection of records, and to continue celebrating MLP’s anniversary throughout the year.