Kathryn Mary Lohre, director of ecumenical and inter-religious relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was installed as the 26th president of the National Council of Churches.

The installation took place during the Council’s governing board meeting at the ELCA Churchwide Office in Chicago. Lohre will serve her two year term from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2013.

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, was installed as president-elect of the National Council of Churches following his election by the NCC governing board Nov. 9.

Lohre, who has been serving as NCC president-elect, will succeed the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, who will now serve as immediate past president of the council. This is the first time in the history of the NCC that a woman will succeed a woman in the role.

At a luncheon honoring her installation sponsored by Odyssey Networks, Lohre told the story of the National Council of Churches reception for Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee on Oct. 7, the day she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The reception, organized by the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, was originally planned as the last stop on a tour to promote Gbowee’s memoirs and to add Gbowee’s name to the NCC’s Circles of Names campaign, was hastily rearranged so Gbowee could meet with supporters and the media in The Interchurch Center Chapel.

Lohre spoke movingly as she described Gbowee’s visit to the NCC as a historic milestone in the contributions of women of faith to peace and justice movements around the world.

“I was not there,” said Lohre. But because the National Council of Churches represents a wide community of persons of faith, “we were there.”

Lohre was assistant director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard from 2005 to 2011, serving with project director Diana Eck, a member of the NCC governing board and chair of the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission.

Lohre is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. She previously served on the ELCA Bishop’s Global, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relationships Roundtable, the Commission for Women steering committee and as an assistant to the ELCA Youth Gathering (2000).

Lohre is a graduate of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., and earned the Master of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School. In May 2011, the Graduate Theological Foundation, Mishawaka, Ind., conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity to Lohre, “in recognition of her election as president-elect of the National Council of Churches and also in recognition of her contributions to women’s interfaith issues and pluralism.”

At 34, Lohre is the first Lutheran and the second youngest president of the council. The Rev.  M. William Howard, an American Baptist, became president in 1979 at the age of 33.