NEW YORK The National Council of Churches (NCC) governing board, meeting here in The Interchurch Center Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 17-18), has approved a plan for re-envisioning and restructuring the NCC that includes a “new organizational structure and an implementation strategy to bring it to fruition.”

The board adopted Tuesday morning the recommendation of the Task Force on Re-envisioning and Restructuring, which presented its final report to the governing board.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was represented on the task force by former General Assembly moderator the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow and by the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, executive of Tres Rios Presbytery. PC(USA) representatives on the governing board are Casal, General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, ecumenical officer Robina Winbush and the Rev. Jerry Van Marter of the Presbyterian News Service, who serves as chair of the NCC’s Communication Commission.

The 17-member task force, which has been working over the past six months, also drafted a vision statement for the council calling for a “shared commitment to a transformed and transforming NCC through which the churches and other partners seek visible unity in Christ and work for justice and peace.”

NCC President Kathryn Lohre, who with Jordan Blevins of the Church of the Brethren was co-chair of the task force, said the board broadly affirmed the work of the task force, recognizing the urgency of the moment and putting its confidence in the staff, led by Transitional General Secretary Peg Birk, to begin the challenging work of implementation.

“This is an exciting moment for the NCC as we look toward the future to which God is calling us," Lohre said. “The dedicated work of this task force has been a welcome sign that commitment to Christian unity remains undiminished among our 37 member communions.”

Lohre said, “The Task Force responded to the governing board’s mandate to be bold in its work, and we are all hopeful that this new vision and structure ― which emphasizes the important role of the NCC as convener and co-convener ― will bring the NCC to the leading edge of ecumenism in the 21st century. We look forward to engaging more fully with partners, including those in local and regional contexts, and to weaving a national narrative that serves to revitalize the ecumenical movement in the U.S.”

Peg Birk, the NCC’s transitional general secretary, who served on the task force, also expressed confidence for the future.

“The implementation of the task force's proposal and strategy will be challenging yet rejuvenating work,” Birk said. “The governing board’s action signaled that the Council is moving beyond the work of transition and into the work of transformation. I look forward to providing creative, focused, and courageous leadership to this collaborative process."

The new organization will based on the interaction of three foci: theological study and dialogue, inter-religious relations and dialogue, and joint advocacy and action for justice and peace. Ministries of education, formation, and leadership development will serve to integrate these foci and bolster the special role of the NCC within the ecumenical landscape for communicating the faith through education and scripture.

“Today the ecumenical vision is alive and well at the local, regional, and national levels, in no small part because of the historic vision and witness of NCC,” the task force said its report. “We see with clear eyes a renewed opportunity to bear witness to our unity in Christ by weaving a national narrative of the movement in all of its expressions and contexts 'so that the world may believe.'”

The members of the task force were Kathryn M. Lohre and Mr. Jordan Blevins, co-chairs; Ms. Peg Birk, Casal, Martha Gardner, Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt. Jr., the Rev. Dr. Raymon Hunt, the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Ms. Arpi Kouzouian, Dr. Peter Makari, the Rev. Roy Medley, Reyes-Chow, the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Dr. Tony Vrame, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Bishop John F. White, and Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader. 

The final report of the task force can be downloaded here.