Note: Commissioner profiles are appearing regularly in the Synod of the Trinity enews.
Family (spouse, children, grandchildren, pets): My wife is the Rev. Lynn Portz, an associate pastor at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA. We have been married for 38 years. We have known each other since the first grade in Greenville, PA. We were ordained on the same day, June 14, 1983. We were the first clergy couple ordained in the newly reunited church in 1983.
We have two children: Bethany (Portz) Harbaugh and Benjamin Portz. Bethany is a PC(USA) pastor who is married to a good Presbyterian doctor, Dr. Matthew Harbaugh, who practices family medicine in Pittsburgh. They have one son (our grandson), Daniel. Our son, Benjamin, is an 11th-grade American history teacher at Alderdice High School in the Pittsburgh Public schools.
In what capacity do you serve (church name and leadership position, presbytery board, synod committee, etc.)?: I currently serve as the Regional Representative for the Board of Pensions to the Synod of the Trinity (excluding Philadelphia) and the Synod of the Covenant. I have been a pastor for 34 years, serving three different churches (Troy, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Pittsburgh, PA) as well as serving in an executive pastor role in Pittsburgh Presbytery for 8½ years before going to work for the Board of Pensions. I am a commissioner to the Synod of the Trinity from Pittsburgh Presbytery. I serve on the Finance and Budget Committee of the Synod. I currently serve as vice president of the Pittsburgh Presbytery Foundation.
In what other capacity have you served in the past (former churches, committees, etc.)?:
- I have served three churches: Third Presbyterian Church of Troy, N.Y.; Deerhurst Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, N.Y.; and Hampton Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Chair of COM in Presbytery of Western New York and in Pittsburgh Presbytery.
- Acting Executive Presbyter, Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Associate Executive Pastor, Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Missional Coach to churches
- Certified Evangelism Consultant — Synod of the Northeast
- Staffed the Committee on Preparation for Ministry in Pittsburgh Presbytery
- Trained “Grow Ministry” consultant
- Development Committee, Pittsburgh Presbytery Foundation
- Chairperson of Executive Council, Western New York Presbytery
- Commissioner to 210th General Assembly
- Board Member, World Mission Initiative, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
When you’re not serving your church, what can you be found doing?: Reading, tracking investments, traveling with my wife and friends, vacationing at Chautauqua Institution, N.Y., playing with my grandson, Daniel.
Describe yourself in one word: Entrepreneurial (creative — always wanting more!)
What was your childhood dream job?: To be a singer, a performer! In high school and college I was always in singing groups and participated in theatrical productions. I had great fun! I found I could do these things in the church!!
What steered you into this ministry field?: God and prayerful friends who knew me better than myself pointed the way!!
What goals do you have while serving as commissioner?: To keep the Synod focused on those things that matter most by raising up Jesus Christ and strengthening his people for creative, fruitful ministry and witness. I look forward to the day when the PCUSA will put decline behind it and begin once again to grow in spirit, passion and preach a compelling vision that will inspire and ignite the imaginations of future Christians. I wish people could discover what an adventure it is to journey with Jesus Christ through life.
Why do you feel God has called you into this position of commissioner?: I am a person who is able to see the big picture, at least this is what others around me have said. I have spent my life studying and reflecting on organizational theory, organizational health and helping churches structure their resources and staff for the mission God has called them to fulfill. I have been able to play a small part in the Synod’s journey to a new governance model.
Any closing remarks?: When a person answers the call of Jesus Christ to follow, one better be open to being surprised where the journey will lead. I hope others will open themselves to such an adventure!