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Change management consultant elected NCC transitional general secretary

Peg Birk is active laywoman in the United Church of Christ

June 7, 2012

Peg Birk

Peg Birk, NCC transitional general secretary —Courtesy of NCC News

CHICAGO

A nationally known change management consultant and active Congregational laywoman has been elected transitional general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC).

Peg Birk, president and CEO of Interim Solutions in Minneapolis and a member of Plymouth Congregational Church there, was unanimously elected to the position by the NCC’s governing board in late May.

A service of installation in her new position followed in the national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), where the governing board meeting was held.

Birk was recommended to the board by a 15-person search committee chaired by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELChA.

Hanson said: “Peg Birk brings to the National Council of Churches exceptional experience leading organizations through a process of building upon their strengths while making significant changes in order to more effectively carry out their mission in a rapidly changing context. Her clear witness to her Christian faith, her love for the church, her attentive listening and her confidence in a vibrant future for the National Council of Churches make her an outstanding choice for Transitional General Secretary.”

The position of transitional general secretary is described by the search committee as an 18-month job “to work with the NCC board and staff  to seek a new vision and clarity of mission for the NCC.”

The position of general secretary has been open since Jan. 1 when the Rev. Michael Kinnamon left the office citing health concerns. NCC Deputy General Secretary Clare J. Chapman has been serving as interim general secretary since her election by the governing board on Jan. 20.

The unexpected transition in leadership, accompanied by budget deficits caused by shortfalls in revenue, prompted the governing board to form a Task Force on Re-envisioning and Restructuring, and to seek transitional leadership while the restructuring was taking place.

“Our financial situation is challenging,” the search committee said, “yet it is not the defining or driving factor in this moment of change. Instead, we are actively discerning the future to which God is calling us. This is our core ecumenical commitment, our vocation as churches.”

Birk, a layperson who is a member of a congregation that is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, has led Interim Solutions since 2007. The consulting firm has had notable success working with foundations and non-profit organizations undergoing management and organizational changes.

“Through a thoughtful combination of commitment to progress, understanding of the challenge, and a deep listening experience,” the company tells clients, “Interim Solutions maximizes your transitional time.”

In her contacts with the NCC search committee, Birk expressed “keen interest” in the transitional position they were offering. Citing her experience in change management, funds development, constituent relationships, and staff leadership, Birk said, “I believe that my values, skills and experience … make me well suited for this position.”

An attorney and former adjunct faculty member of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., Birk served as interim president for the Fund for Theological Education in 2009-2010. She is credited with implementing new leadership practices to deepen the board and staff’s ability to clarify and deliver on the group’s mission.

Birk has also served as interim president of the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, where she managed a 38-person staff and operations that included approving grants of about $90 million.

As City Attorney of St. Paul, Minn., from 1997 to 1998, Birk managed a 60-member staff and oversaw all aspects of municipal law. She led a staff of attorneys and support staff and represented the city for labor relations and media inquiries.

Birk serves on the Dean’s advisory council at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the Strozzi Institute Advisory Board and the Beatitudes Society.

NCC President Kathryn M. Lohre, who served on the search committee, welcomed the election of Peg Birk. The election “signals that the National Council of Churches is ready for the kind of transformational change that will enliven us as an instrument of the ecumenical movement in the United States,” Lohre said.

“She is a respected professional in the field of change management, with a calling to interim leadership for transformative change, and a love of the church. This is precisely the kind of leader that the National Council of Churches needs as its Transitional General Secretary. I believe that Peg has been called to serve with us at this time, and I look forward to working alongside her, the Task Force, our leadership, and our exceptional staff in these 18 months,” Lohre added.

The other members of the transitional general secretary search committee were Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, The Armenian Church in America; the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, immediate past president of the NCC; Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; and   Nick Kiger, representing the NCC’s New Fire young adult network and a member of the United Church of Christ.

Also, the Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America; the Rev. A. Roy Medley, American Baptist Churches USA; the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Presbyterian Church (USA); Tony Vrame, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; the Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.; the Rev. Robert Welsh, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Bishop John F. White, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader, United Methodist Church.

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