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Pam Byers | Profile

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Biography

Pam McLucas Byers was a founder and the first executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.  Pam was born in July 1947 to Patricia Knapp McLucas and John Luther McLucas. She was the oldest of four children, including Susan, a social activist who is a moving force in the campaign to end female genital mutilation in Mali; John, a professor of Italian and former chair of the foreign languages department at Towson University; and Rod (deceased), a theater director and acting teacher in New York. John is an elder at First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. Pam’s father had a distinguished career in government and technology, serving as Undersecretary of NATO, president of Mitre Corporation, Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, F.A.A. Administrator, and president of Comsat General. Her mother was a local volunteer activist, and later a social worker.  Pam grew up in State College, Pennsylvania; Arlington, Virginia; and Paris, France.

Pam’s Presbyterian life began at age five in the Cherub Choir at the Presbyterian church in State College, Pennsylvania.  She met her future husband Jeff Byers in State College in 6th grade dancing class. (In State College, Betty Jane Ditmar taught fox trot and waltz to sixth graders, jitterbug to seventh graders, and various Latin dances to eightth graders.)  Pam and Jeff went to junior high together, then Pam’s family left State College. However, the two kept in touch through high school and college.

In 1966, Pam began studies at Wellesley College where she was an English major, but enjoyed discovering her religion in a new light in the college’s academic Bible classes.  She graduated in 1969 with High Honors, and was also a Durant Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in English (1975) from Rutgers University, where she also served as president of the graduate student association, negotiating with and lobbying the university and the state legislature on behalf of Rutgers graduate students.

Pam and Jeff married shortly after she graduated from Wellesley and he from Oberlin. They lived for a few years in New Brunswick, New Jersey, then in New York City until 1990, when they relocated to San Francisco, California. They had one child, Katie, who was born in 1980.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Smith College, taught math to high school students for a dozen years, then became a computer programmer at Sentry, a tech start-up which creates error tracking software for web developers.

Pam had a successful career in the book publishing industry as a marketer and then a publisher, holding various positions at John Wiley & Sons, Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, and Harper San Francisco. She was the founding publisher of KQED Books, part of KQED Public Television and Radio in San Francisco.

Pam served as a ruling elder at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, where she sang in the choir and performed countless other services.  She was one of a small group of Presbyterian activists led by Old First pastor Tim Hart-Andersen who founded Covenant Network. The first co-chairs were Pastors Bob Bole and John Buchanan. The organization was created in response to the General Assembly’s decision to limit the ordination of LGBTQ people as leaders of the church, both as ministers and also as elders and deacons.   She served as the founding executive director from September 1997 until her retirement in June 2011—the same month as the long-sought removal of G-6.0106b from the Book of Order, opening the door to the ordination and installation of openly lesbian or gay Presbyterians as deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders.

The Covenant Network (CovNet) was by no means the first organization in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to work for full inclusion of LGBTQ people, but it was formed to be an ally that could help bridge various divides. As executive director, Pam spent many hours attending conferences and being in dialogue with the opponents of inclusion, and many more hours reaching out with her colleagues to a broad spectrum of Presbyterians to promote a vision of a church “as just and as generous as God’s Grace.” And though it took more than a dozen years, and the effort of many people, in the end the offending rule was overturned. CovNet continues to work to make that new path of full inclusion a reality in the church.

She spoke of her years with the Covenant Network as one of the highlights of her life. While she served as executive director there she returned to studying, attending San Francisco Theological Seminary one course at a time, eventually earning a Master’s degree in Theology. The seminary recognized her as its 2014 distinguished alumna and invited her to speak at graduation.

This excerpt from a prayer Pam offered at her beloved congregation captures one of the consistent themes of her life and ministry: Thank you, Empowering God, that the women did not stay silent, but told the good news of your new life. Thank you that you entrust us with that same never-ending story. Teach us, encourage us, and use us to offer it to all we know.  Pam believed strongly in the power—and the duty—of women to claim their full potential as agents in the creation of a world of abundance, inclusion, and justice for every person. And her awareness of how far women had to go to achieve full citizenship in this world made her keenly aware of humanity’s failure to extend that full citizenship to all who have been considered lesser or “other,” whether because of their family history, or the color of their skin, or their sexuality, or their nationality, or their poverty, or their religious belief.

Pam died on October 27, 2014, after a brief battle with recurring breast cancer.   

(This biographical statement provided by Jeff Byers.)

Biography Date: July 2019

Tags

San Francisco | California | Presbyterian Church (USA) | Covenant Network of Presbyterians | Ally | Activist (church change)

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