Historian and theologian tapped to lead Presbyterian Historical Society

March 4, 2015


The Reverend Beth Hessel has been named the new executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) and director for church records and history for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Beth Hessel brings a wonderful combination of a historian and a theologian,” said the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). “She has an engaging enthusiasm that helps people hear what God has done in our past and what God is calling us to in our future.”

Hessel will be responsible for all operations and programs of the Presbyterian Historical Society, which is based in Philadelphia and tasked with collecting, preserving, interpreting, and sharing the story of American Presbyterianism with mid councils, congregations, and individuals. PHS functions within the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly, led by the Stated Clerk.

A member of Grace Presbytery, Hessel has served in pastoral positions in Texas, Virginia, Kansas, and California. She is currently a doctoral candidate in history at Texas Christian University.

“One of my primary goals as the executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society is to increase the awareness—from the General Assembly level to local congregations—of the richness of our history that is preserved at PHS,” she said.

“Having worked in the archives of PHS as part of my doctoral dissertation research on religious issues in the World War II Japanese American incarceration camps and the Protestant missionaries who fought for justice for Japanese Americans, I know firsthand the value of the ecumenical and denominational history PHS works to preserve and share.”

“Having handled and read my grandparents’ missionary personnel files from their years of service in the Philippines, which are stored at the Society, I feel as if a part of my own heartbeat resides at PHS,” Hessel said.

“The Presbyterian Historical Society brims with vivid stories of our faith family that shout to be discovered and shared; these are stories that connect each of us with one another and with the cloud of witnesses that preceded us in the faith journey.”

Hessel holds a master of divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, a master of arts in U.S. women’s history from State University of New York at Binghamton, and a bachelor of arts degree in U.S. history from the University of California, Davis. She also is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, and has been published widely.

Hessel will begin her new role on June 1.

역사학자 겸 신학자가 장로교 역사 학회를 이끌도록 임명되다

  1. I am searching for information about Stella (Lilliendahl) McDowell whose husband, Robert Murray McDowell, died Sept. 27, 1890 in Slatington, Lehigh County, PA. I assume that Rev. P.Y. Schelly performed the services. Stella is not listed in his obituary in the local newspaper. I would appreciate any information you could provide me. Thanks

    by Tim Snyder

    December 1, 2016

  2. Congratulations Beth, what a great opportunity for you to use all your skills and knowledge, I am so very happy for you. But I do suppose you are going to move to Philadelphia and I will surely miss you.

    by Charlotte Ray

    March 23, 2015

  3. We are delighted she will be leading the PHS! Gratitude to Gradye Parsons and all the members of the search committee for their good work.

    by Louis Weeks

    March 5, 2015

  4. I could not be happier for both PHS and Beth. She will be a wonderful colleague to both the PHS staff and the GA staff--and to the churches and individuals for whom PHS is both a fount of information and a source of guidance as we seek to preserve our own records.

    by Judy Austin

    March 4, 2015

  5. congratulations, Beth. Knowing something about your family's history, I'm so excited to hear that you are going to the Historical Society.

    by Peggy Thomas

    March 4, 2015

  6. Congratulations PC(USA)! You made a great hire.

    by Todd Kerstetter

    March 4, 2015

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