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NCC installs new officers

Five leaders to guide reorganized ecumenical body

November 26, 2013

CHICAGO

Five nationally known and experienced ecumenical leaders have been installed as officers of the newly reorganized National Council of Churches (NCC).

The number of NCC officers is down from the eight who served at the beginning of the council’s transitional period last year. The governing board itself has been reduced in size to include only the leaders of the NCC member communions, with eight at-large members to enhance strategic partnerships, provide for needed skill sets and uphold the Council’s commitment to diversity.

The “significant organizational and technical changes,” said Transitional General Secretary Peg Birk, were part of “pruning and untangling” the operations to align the Council with its mission, priorities and revenue.

“We transitioned from a large programmatic organization that had grown to over 35 commissions, committees, and working groups, to four Convening Tables with two priorities,” Birk told the Council’s governing board in her final report.

The NCC now has two priorities: addressing the injustices of mass incarceration; and interfaith relations with a focus on peace. It will also continue to respond to urgent issues with the same moral voice it has expressed throughout its history.

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, chair of the NCC Governing Board, said the organizational changes and priorities would bode well for the future.

"With our twin emphases on mass incarceration and interreligious dialogue with a focus on peacemaking and our newly elected general secretary/president who brings proven public leadership,” Medley said, “the member communions of the NCC are poised to make significant contributions to the life of our nation and the world."

James E. Winkler, a United Methodist leader, was elected general secretary/president.

The transitional period saw the council reduce staff by eliminating 11 full-time positions, consolidate its offices in Washington, D.C., and locating three associate general secretaries in satellite offices in New York City.

The approved budget of the council is based on “pledges received and revenue forecast for royalties” and an “appropriate fee structure” for council members and affiliates was developed.

The Council’s refined mission statement reflects its historic commitments to unity, justice and peace: “The NCC is a community of communions called by Christ to visible unity and sent forth in the Spirit to promote God’s justice, peace, and healing in the world.”

All of the newly installed officers are heads of member communions or episcopal districts or commissions. The officers began their two-year terms on Nov. 18.

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, who has been serving as general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA since 2002, is the NCC’s new chair of the Governing Board.

Medley succeeds Kathryn Mary Lohre, who served as chair since Jan. 1, 2012. Prior to the passage of new NCC bylaws, the office of chair had the title of president.

Before he became American Baptist general secretary in 2002, Medley was executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, one of 34 regions within the denomination. Under Medley’s leadership from 1992-2001 the New Jersey region emphasized congregational renewal, new church development and racial reconciliation.

The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, has been installed as chair-elect of the National Council of Churches Governing Board.

Watkins will assume the office of chair at the close of Medley's term.

As general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Watkins is responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity. She was the first female head of communion for a mainline denomination upon her election in 2005.

In addition to her current duties with the Disciples, Watkins was re-elected to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches at the 10th Assembly in November 2013. She also serves on the WCC's Permanent Committee for Consensus and Collaboration and the Sojourners board and has served on President Barak Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to her call as General Minister and President, Watkins pastored congregations in Oklahoma, Indiana and Connecticut.

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, will serve as council secretary.

Black has served UCC general minister and since June 2009. Prior to that, he served as conference minister of the UCC's New York Conference for nine years beginning in 2000.

Geoffrey Black previously served as a minister for church life and leadership with the then-Office for Church Life and Leadership (currently Parish Life and Leadership), a national agency of the United Church of Christ housed at the UCC’s national offices in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bishop W. Darrin Moore of the Western Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, will serve as NCC treasurer.

Bishop Moore’s service to the A.M.E. Zion Church has included vice-cChairman of the Harriet Tubman Board, treasurer of the New York Conference, chairman of the New York Conference board of trustees, presiding elder of the Bahama Islands- Nassau District, chairman of the Budget Committee during the 2008 General Conference, member of the Executive Committee of the Connectional Budget Board, founding chairman of YACM.

Bishop Moore is a member of the Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council and is a member of the board of trustees for Livingstone College.

James E. Winkler, a long-time United Methodist executive, was also installed as general secretary/president of the National Council of Churches, the leading staff position of the council. He will assume his new office on Jan. 1.

Winkler will succeed Peg Birk, who has served as transitional general secretary of the council since July 2012. Birk was named to lead the council through a transitional period of reorganization following the resignation of General Secretary Michael Kinnamon in 2011 for health reasons.

Winkler was formerly a member of the NCC’s Justice and Advocacy Commission, and currently serves as chair of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, and on the boards of Bread for the World and the Claremont School of Theology.

Winkler has served as general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church since November 2000.

  1. While I recognize the need for the restructuring of the NCC, I have two major regrets: 1) I regret that there is no Presbyterian Church (USA) representation in the leadership of the Council. 2) I deeply regret the absence of any structure that performs the function of the previous Division of Overseas Ministries, for which I served as Director 1984-1988. DOM provided a link for USA churches with National Christian Councils around the world without a donor-recipient relationship. The NCCUSA must not become simply an agency focusing on national issues; it must lead US churches in envisioning their global mission.

    by James Cogswell

    December 5, 2013

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