Presbytery Takes Candidates

Under Care for Ministry Preparation

 In the early years, the responsibility for providing trained ministers for the Alaskan field fell upon such men as Sheldon Jackson, S. Hall Young, Earl Jackman and others. But the identification and preparing of candidates for the ministry is really the responsibility of the local church and Presbytery itself. The process in the Presbyterian tradition requires a prospective candidate who feels he or she has been called to the ministry to first approach their individual church session. After receiving approval at that level, the person is introduced to the Presbytery to be “taken under care." Today, a candidate is also required to take a battery of psychological examinations. 

The candidate then enrolls in seminary and completes a three to four year course of study. The next step involves taking and passing a national written “ordination” examination covering church history, Presbyterian polity, Bible content, theology, and a demonstration of working knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages. Once that series of examinations is completed, the candidate is certified as eligible for a “call” and may begin searching for a church or other ministry in which to serve. 

Over the years the process has been modified and refined, but the basics have remained the same. In special cases, some of the requirements can be waived for a person seeking to serve in one particular geographic area. This was often the case for the candidates from the Arctic.

In 1923, the first Alaskan candidates for the Gospel Ministry taken under care by Yukon Presbytery were four Native men from Barrow -- Robert Ikkok, Andrew Akootchook, Percy Ipalook, and Roy Ahmaogak. 

In 1946, the first woman, Miss Virginia Carle, was taken under care of Presbytery. Miss Carle was a student at the Princeton School of Religious Education. 

In 1949, First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage sponsored the first Caucasian male candidate for the ministry -- Ernest V. Anderson, a soldier active in the Anchorage church.

And in September 1980, Ho Sang Chung was the first Korean candidate for ministry taken under care by Presbytery. 

Let us begin with the Barrow men and those Native Alaskan candidates who followed them.

The Native Alaskan Candidates

 Of the four Barrow men taken under care of Presbytery in 1923, we know little of what happened in the life of Robert Ikkok, but Andrew Akootchook made his mark at Barter Island; Percy Ipalook served the church at Wales and the people of the territory in the Alaska Legislature; and Roy Ahmaogak was associated with the Wainwright congregation in one way or another throughout his career.

It was thirty years later in 1953, that Samuel Simmonds was approved for commissioning as a lay preacher. 

The next Native candidate made reference to in Presbytery minutes was Siberian Yup’ik Eskimo Leonard Nawpawkoluk of Gambell. In 1957, Presbytery learned that Nawpawkoluk was recovering from tuberculosis in Seattle. It was decided to keep him “under care”, and also to contact the Rock River Presbyterial to request a scholarship for the young man. 

It wasn’t until May of 1971 that another Eskimo man was brought forth as a ministerial candidate. James Nageak, an Inupiaq from Barrow, was commissioned as a lay preacher on May 1, 1971, to teach and preach in the churches of the Arctic Parish and the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks. James Nageak entered Dubuque Theological Seminary as a first year student in September 1973. 

Rex Okakok, also of Barrow, was examined for the lay ministry October 21, 1973, and commissioned for a three year period November 14, 1973, at First Presbyterian, Fairbanks. In 1976, his he was re-certified for the lay ministry and expressed interest in becoming a formal candidate. He enrolled in seminary but left to pursue another career in 1980 and was removed from the roll of candidates in 1985. Okakok was placed back on the roll in 1986 under “Tract III” for ordination, and was reported in 1987 as still hoping to continue his seminary work but this has not yet occurred.

Also in 1976, Presbytery voted to continue the authorization for lay preachers Nelson Ahvakana in the Ahmaogak Memorial Parish and Winfred Matuklook in Aywaan Bering Sea Larger Parish. Ernest Kignak was added to that list in 1978. Philip Masuleak came later. 

The Native community offered its first woman candidate in February 1980 -- Mary Ann Warden. Warden was ordained July 29, 1990 and called as associate pastor at the Northern Lights United Church in Juneau. She now serves as associate pastor at Utkeagvik Presbyterian in Barrow.

The Rev. Ms. Warden was sponsored by her Session at First Presbyterian Church Fairbanks, studied through TEE Courses and Cook Christian Training School, and entered Dubuque Theological Seminary in 1986. She served as a lay preacher in Fairbanks for a number of years. In 1989, the Presbytery requested that the Synod of Alaska Northwest examine Ms. Warden on her knowledge of Bible content in the Inupiat language. Synod later determined to give Mary Ann’s exegesis examination in English but to grant her as much time as she needed to complete it.

Loretta Kenton was the second Inupiaq woman to seek formal training for the gospel ministry. Kenton was serving as a certified lay pastor for Anaktuvuk Pass in 1982. She enrolled in Dubuque Theological Seminary in 1986. She had discontinued her studies in 1987 and was removed from the list of formal candidates for the ministry in 1991 due to health concerns. 

In October of 1984, the Presbytery’s candidates committee reported that it was working on a draft paper outlining a course toward ordination for non-traditional candidates.

During this period, Nelson Ahvakana received recognition as an “extraordinary candidate” and educational requirements regarding college and seminary were waived, as well as taking the standard examinations. Ahvakana’s subsequent ordination was approved, pending the one-year requirement to be under care of Presbytery.

The call of Winfred Matuklook as commissioned lay preacher for the Aywaan Bering Sea Larger Parish was renewed in 1984, as well.

A special Arctic Academy was established in Barrow in the 1990s for the training of persons for the ministry. At the January 12, 1993 special meeting of Presbytery, it was reported that Martha Aiken, Nelson Ahvakana and Susan Campbell had completed their work on the New Testament Survey. 

Melvin Gamble, a Tlingit Indian active in the First Presbyterian Church of Wasilla, was accepted as a candidate inquirer at the October 1996 Presbytery meeting.

The Women Candidates

Presbyterianism was brought to Alaska in 1884 by Ms. Amanda McFarland, at the invitation of the Rev. Sheldon Jackson. “Women in ministry” should hardly be an issue with the Presbyterians -- and at this point in time, it is not. It is still helpful to review the matter in historical perspective.

For instance, at the 1901 meeting of the Yukon Presbytery held at Eagle, a resolution was adopted to petition the Board of Home Missions to grant Mrs. Frances Louisa Campbell, wife of the Rev. E.O. Campbell on St. Lawrence Island, a commission as one of the missionaries of the Board at a salary of $400 per year. Louisa was the first of many women missionaries (Ann Bannon, Emma Stauffer, Anna Martin, Alice Green, Agnes Brady, Elizabeth Morgan, and Janice Stamper) to serve the people of the two communities on St. Lawrence Island, Gambell and Savoonga. A ministerial couple, the Revs. Jason and Heidi Gamble, are currently serving Savoonga (1998).

For a denomination whose first missionary to Alaska was a woman -- Mrs. McFarland -- any conflict whatsoever over the appropriateness of women in ministry seems unseemly. However, if you remember, the Yukon Presbytery went on record as opposing the ordination of women as elders in 1921. To their credit, they must have reversed themselves some time later because Agnes Sherwood of Anchorage attended the 1939 meeting of Presbytery as a duly elected elder delegate.

It was a decade before the United Presbyterian Church in the USA voted to officially ordain women as ministers, but in 1946 the Presbytery of the Yukon’s Committee on Examination of Candidates reported that Miss Virginia Carle, then a student at the Princeton School f Religious Education, had submitted to written examination for admission to the care of Presbytery. The Presbytery endorsed her and approval was given for a loan. 

Shirley Tonseth followed Miss Carle in 1951. The record does not indicate if either of the women finished their education or if they actually entered the field of religious education. 

In what appeared to be a show of support for women, the Presbytery of Yukon voted to affirm ‘Overture B’ in 1956, the provision which would allow women to be ordained as ministers. However, the first woman to be ordained in this Presbytery was Alice Green, in 1972. 

Betty Lou Townley expressed interest in becoming a candidate for the ministry in 1976, but the list of Yukon Presbytery ministers in the spring of that year still included only one woman, former Sunday School missionary Alice Green. 

The Korean Presbyterian churches at Anchorage and Fairbanks, established in the 1970s, were somewhat known for being reluctant to ordain women as elders and/or ministers, yet on July 25, 1978, Presbytery recognized Mrs. Yu Sil Kang as a lay preacher. 

The 1982 list of ordained ministers in the Presbytery still included only one woman, Alice Green, but Loretta Kenton was listed as a certified lay pastor for Anaktuvuk Pass. 

Mrs. Mabel Rasmussen of Fairbanks helped establish Hospitality House in that community in the 1950s. Later, she found her calling in prison ministry. Mrs. Rasmussen was well-loved and respected by the prisoners, the correctional administration, as well as the Presbytery. When the chaplaincy program determined that all its volunteers would need be ordained ministers, an exception was sought for Mrs. Rasmussen. At the Presbytery level, the ministerial relations committee in February of 1982 reported that they were working on a way to get her commissioned as a Commissioned Lay Preacher. She was commissioned to serve out of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks but the state wanted full ordination. In March of 1986 the requirement for psychological examination was waived and Mable was enrolled as an “extraordinary candidate” for the Gospel Ministry. In August of 1986, the remainder of the examination requirements was waived and the way was cleared for her ordination later that year. The Rev. Ms. Rasmussen, age 90, continues to serve as prison chaplain today.

Dianne O’Connell came under care of Presbytery on July 19, 1985. She had previously received the endorsement of her home church Immanuel Presbyterian in Anchorage and had completed her first year as a fulltime, traditional student at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She completed her course of study and her yearlong internship at First American Baptist Church in Anchorage and the Church of the Covenant in Wasilla, passed all her ordination examinations, and was graduated from SFTS with a Masters of Divinity degree in the spring of 1987. Ms. O’Connell was ordained November 15, 1987 at Immanuel Presbyterian and accepted a position as tent-making associate pastor with that congregation. This made the Rev. Ms. O’Connell the first woman candidate from Alaska to complete a traditional seminary course of study and return home to be ordained to the Gospel Ministry.

The logjam for women in the ordained ministry broke in the late 1980s: 

• The Rev. Myrlene Hamilton was called in January of 1986 to serve as co-pastor with her husband Ed at the new Presbyterian church at Eagle River. Myrlene was the first fully trained and ordained woman employed by the Yukon Presbytery.

• The Rev. Ms. Agnes Brady was installed as pastor at the Gambell Presbyterian Church, St. Lawrence Island, on October 21, 1987, making her the second fully trained, ordained woman receiving a call in the Presbytery.

• The Rev. O’Connell fits in here with her ordination on November 15, 1987, and concurrent installation at Immanuel. She is the first “homegrown” and fully-trained ordained woman minister to serve in the Yukon Presbytery.

• The Rev. Willa Roghair was installed as co-pastor at Utkeagvik Presbyterian Church at Barrow on November 18, 1987.

• The Rev. Jay OlsonKetchum of the Uniting Church of Canada was called as pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on September 15, 1991; and was installed November 3, 1991.

• Ms. Patricia Berg was called as stated supply for the Olgonik Presbyterian Church at Wainwright on November 13, 1988. She was ordained sometime later.

• The Rev. Ms. Janice Stamper was called to the Savoonga Presbyterian Church, St. Lawrence Island, on October 1, 1989 and was installed November 4, 1989.

• The Rev. Leisa Carrick was enrolled as a Member-at-Large of Presbytery in October 1991. Her husband was the pastor at the United Protestant Church in Palmer.

• The Rev. Ellen Morgan was called to the Gambell church on October 1, 1991, and installed December 5, 1991.

• Anna Williamson was approved as intern at Kuukpik Presbyterian Church at Nuiqsut on July 1, 1993 and was ordained December 7, 1994.

• Deborah DeBoer approved as intern for the Presbyterian Church at Atqasuk and at Utkeagvik August 1993. Elder Flossie Itta conducted services when the church was without a minister.

• Heidi Worthen Gamble ordained and installed as co-pastor with her husband at Savoonga on July 20, 1997.

• The Rev. Judith McQuiston was installed as pastor at the Chapel in the Mountains at Anaktuvuk on October 5, 1997. She previously had served as interim co-pastor at the Utkeagvik church.

• The Rev. Mary Ann Warden was installed as associate pastor at Utkeagvik in the spring of 1998. Ordained in 1990, she had previously served the Northern Lights Church at Juneau. 

The candidate identification and preparation process continued. On March 11, 1988, Mark and Wendy Olson of the University Community Church of College were enrolled as Inquirers and were taken under care of Presbytery in 1989. In August of 1992, the Olsons took a one-year assignment in Ghana. Presbytery assisted them with a $1,500 grant. The couple eventually accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Wrangell in 1993.

On March 10, 1989, Soon Ae Carpenter, wife of the Rev. Bob Carpenter, Delta Junction Presbyterian Church, enrolled as an inquirer. Ms. Carpenter was enrolled as a candidate in March of 1990 and has since been ordained.

Joanne Mercer of Ft. Wainwright was introduced as an inquirer in March of 1990. She was certified for a call in October of 1993 as having met the all the requirements of the Committee on Preparation for the Ministry for candidacy with the exception of theological education. Although she did not have the standard theological preparation, she did have a degree in Christian Education and years of experience in the mission field.

In March of 1992, Iola Allender of First Presbyterian, Anchorage, enrolled as an inquirer. She was enrolled as a formal candidate in 1993, was graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1997, and accepted a call to a yoked parish within the Presbytery of South Dakota during the summer of 1998.

In 1994 Kristen Hanley of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Anchorage was enrolled as a candidate. In 1995, Samantha Burg was enrolled as an inquirer. And in 1996, Heidi Greider of First Presbyterian Anchorage was added to the list of inquirers.

A woman was the first Presbyterian missionary in Alaska; women have continued to serve the church throughout the intervening 120 years; and women will continue to serve the church into the 21st century. 

The Korean Candidates

 Mrs. Yu Sil Kang was recognized by Presbytery as a lay preacher on July 25, 1978.

Ho Sang Chung was taken under care by Presbytery in September of 1980. He was listed among the candidates in 1983 but was removed in 1985 because Presbytery had not heard from him nor did they know of his current whereabouts.


 Yoon Gi Jang was endorsed by the session of the First Korean of Anchorage as a candidate and presented to Presbytery in March of 1985. Jang was declared an “extraordinary candidate” in March of 1986 because of language difficulties related to ordination examinations. Jang was presented for ordination in October 1986. The requirement that he verbally give a sermon was waived in that he had provided a written sermon in Korean, accompanied by an English translation.

The record of Jang’s examination before Presbytery is instructive. He read his Statement of Faith and answered questions:

The Rev. Myrlene Hamilton asked for clarification regarding his statement that the Holy Spirit completely wrote the 66 books of the Bible. Mr. Jang responded that he believed this and that there was no error contained in the Bible.

The Rev. Neil Munro asked Mr. Jang if he supported the ordination of women. Mr. Jang responded that his mother supports the ordination of women and that he supports his mother.

The Rev. Tim Doty asked Mr. Jang his interpretation of the Sacraments. Mr. Jang indicated that in communion, the bread does not change to the flesh of Jesus Christ and that baptism is a sign of washing away our sins. 

The Rev. Kernie Kostrub asked Mr. Jang to give two or three distinctives of the Korean church and what he would like to bring to this Presbytery. Mr. Jang responded that the church in Korea is growing quite fast and that the church in America is not growing as fast. He wishes to support mission work more strongly. He also stated that, in Korea, he had heard that only old men and women remain in the church in America. After coming here, he has discovered that this was not true. He also heard that the American church believed that there was some error in the Bible.

The Rev. Richard Madden relinquished the chair in order to ask Mr. Jang if he (Mr. Jang) who believed there were no errors in the Bible could work together with him (Rev. Madden) who did believe the Bible contained some errors. Mr. Jang responded, “Oh, yes.”

The Rev. Edward Hamilton moved to close examination and proceed with the vote on the motion. The motion to ordain Yoon Gi Jang was adopted unanimously and he was given a standing ovation. He was ordained and installed November 2, 1986, at First Korean Presbyterian Church, Anchorage.


 Pan Yong Kim of First Korean Presbyterian of Anchorage and Soon Ae Carpenter of the Delta Junction Korean Presbyterian congregation enrolled as inquirers on March 10, 1989. In 1991, Kim was enrolled at Princeton Seminary and was certified as ready for a call August 31, 1992.

 Sam Soh was received as an inquirer from the Presbytery of North Puget Sound on September 3, 1991. Soh was received as a candidate for the ministry later that year. He was approved as certified for a call in October 1993. 

Ted Shin of First Korean Presbyterian, Anchorage, enrolled as an inquirer in March of 1992. It was reported in 1994 that Shin would graduate that spring and would be looking for a position in music.

Do Won Lee was a candidate in October 1993 when Presbytery voted to accelerate his candidacy so that it could be completed by May 15, 1994. In March of 1994, it was reported that Lee was expected to complete his exams and be ready for a call soon. 

The Caucasian Candidates

Ernest V. Anderson, a soldier active in the Anchorage Church, was taken under care of Presbytery pending session endorsement August 4, 1949.

In 1951, candidates under the care of Presbytery included Duane Huntley, Shirley Tonseth, Ray Reese, William Ware, Joe Smith, Victor Urban, and Bruce Saxon. Corporal Sylvester David Mazen would be taken under care pending recommendation by First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks.

Victor Urban was the only one of these candidates who completed training, was ordained, and eventually was to serve congregations in Alaska.

In 1952, Edwin Fox of Fairbanks was taken under care.

In 1953, Jim Caulkins was approved for care; George Lauer, applied for consideration as a candidate; Neil Munro was sent a letter on the proper procedure for licensure and ordination; William Siemens, was approved for commissioning as a lay preacher; and Munro was approved as a worker in the Yukon Presbytery and was assigned to the chaplains’ team in Anchorage. Munro, of course, later served the Presbyterian Church in Sitka for many years and the Yukon Presbytery itself as executive presbyter.

In 1955, Dick Barney of First Church, Fairbanks, was taken under care.

In 1956, Vic Urban, George Lauer, Richard Barney and James Calkins are under care. Richard Brown of Hillcrest is received as a candidate. And Samuel Simmonds is re-commissioned for an additional three years. Richard Brown transfers to the Dubuque, Iowa, presbytery in 1957.

Fred Abney of Immanuel Presbyterian Church was introduced as a candidate for the ministry in March of 1970. He is later dismissed to the Presbytery of Boise, Synod of Pacific, as a candidate in good standing, in August of 1973.

Curtis Edward Karns was listed as a candidate for the ministry in 1983. Karns was ordained July 20, 1984 and accepted a call to the Wrangell Presbyterian Church. He later received a call from the New Hope Church at North Pole. 

Ian MacInnes-Green was presented for preliminary examination after being approved by the session of Immanuel Presbyterian Church as a candidate for ministry in March of 1981. Ian MacInnes-Green’s candidacy was transferred to Winnebago Presbytery in 1986.

In addition to Karns and MacInnes-Green, Douglas Dye of First Presbyterian Church, Anchorage, was listed as a candidate under care in 1983.

Britton Johnston of Immanuel Presbyterian Church was received as a candidate for the ministry in 1987. Britt Johnston had completed his first year at McCormick Seminary. He was approved for examination and ordination by the Santa Fe Presbytery in September 1991. 

Peter Dembrowski of First Church Anchorage, Daniel C. Ketchum of Jewel Lake Parish, Anchorage, and Mark and Wendy Olson of the University Community Church, Fairbanks, were enrolled as inquirers in March of 1988.

On March 7, 1991, Daniel Ketchum was introduced at Presbytery as having passed all of his exams. He would complete his studies that spring at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Mr. Ketchum married the Rev. Jay OlsonKetchum and served as an active elder at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

On July 10, 1991, Peter Dembrowski was approved for examination and ordination by the Presbytery of Sacramento.

Matt Loudon of the University Community Presbyterian Church, Fairbanks, was accepted as an inquirer in June of 1993. Loudon completed his internship at First Presbyterian Church, Wasilla, but later decided not to complete his training. 

Committee on Ministry Preparation

Enters 100th Year with Seven Candidates

As the Presbytery of Yukon completes its 100th year, the Committee for Preparation for Ministry has seven candidates under care, plus one who accepted a call to the ministry during the summer of 1998. Some have been in the process a long time, others not. They include men, women, older and younger, Native and Caucasian. They are:

Joe O'Bryan, University Community Presbyterian Church, Fairbanks, was enrolled by Yukon Presbytery in July 1995 as an Inquirer for Ministry of the Word and Sacrament. The Committee awarded him a $230.00 scholarship during 1998 to attend a conference on Presbytery Policy, July 12-17.

The Rev. Jason Gamble of Savoonga notified the Committee that Regi Wongittilin of Savoonga had expressed interest in becoming an Inquirer for the ministry. Appropriate materials were forwarded to him for consideration.

Bob Lantz, Trinity, Anchorage, received sponsorship of the Trinity session in 1997 and was enrolled as an Inquirer in the spring of 1998. He began his studies at Dubuque Theological Seminary in September 1998 with the assistance of a $1,500 scholarship from the Committee.

Roula Alkhouri Stuart, wife of the new minister at the Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church, Barrow, has been enrolled as an inquirer under the care of the Presbytery of Louisville. Yukon Stated Clerk Mary Jane Landstrom has requested that her records be transferred to the Presbytery of Yukon.

Tim Gologergen, Nome, and Isaac Akootchook, Kaktovik, both longtime Certified Lay Pastors, will be examined in 1999 by the Presbytery as candidates for the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament under the extra-ordinary clause of the Presbyterian Book of Order.

The Committee for Preparation for Ministry established a mentor system to assist the two extra-ordinary candidates in preparation for their examination and possible ordination during the spring meeting of Presbytery at Barrow in 1999. Two groups of peers will be established to hear the candidates' oral examinations in their respective languages.

The Revs. Gene Straatmeyer and Leisa Carrick are assisting Tim Gologergen and the Revs. Bob Carpenter and Mary Ann Warden are assisting Isaac Akootchook for this examination.

Heidi Greider, First Presbyterian, Anchorage, finished seminary seven years ago, came under care of First Presbyterian Church, Anchorage, two years ago, and took her ordination examinations during the fall of 1997. In that she does not plan to seek a call for a couple years, the Committee reported, she will appear before Presbytery during the fall 1999 meeting.

Iola Allender, First Presbyterian, Anchorage. Iola Allender was graduated from Princeton Seminary and accepted a call to serve in a yoked parish in the Presbytery of South Dakota during the summer of 1998. It was reported that Iola's records were in order and had been forwarded to her.

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