|NCC assembly celebrates new leadership|
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon are installed as leaders of the National Council of Churches during a service at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Cameron.
By United Methodist News Service*
Nov. 13, 2007
Emerging from cuts in budget and staff, the National Council of Churches celebrated the future and installed new leadership during its annual general assembly.
United Methodists were among more than 200 delegates from 35 Christian communions who met Nov. 6-8 in New York and New Jersey to participate in the assembly, which also included Church World Service, the ecumenical relief and development agency.
Although the two bodies are separate entities, they are officially connected through the general assembly and complement each other’s work, according to Clare Chapman, a United Methodist serving as the council’s acting chief executive.
In late September, the NCC’s governing board approved a reorganization that eliminated at least 14 staff positions to address budget deficits. A new chief executive to replace the Rev. Bob Edgar, who left in August, also was recommended by a nominating committee.
NCC officials say the organization is financially stable because of its reserve funds. Chapman told United Methodist News Service that the assembly's "positive" atmosphere demonstrated the council "remains a sign of the unity of the church that Christ is calling us to."
The new NCC president — Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, diocesan legate and ecumenical officer, Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America — was installed at St. Vartan’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Aykazian will serve a two-year term and succeeds the Rev. Michael Livingston, executive director, International Council of Community Churches.
He is the third Orthodox president and the first from the Oriental Orthodox tradition. The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, a Moravian clergywoman and executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, was elected as the NCC’s president-elect.
Also installed was the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, who will begin a four-year term as the council’s chief executive on Jan. 1. A member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from St. Louis, he was elected during the assembly.
The new leadership of both Aykazian and Kinnamon was celebrated, according to Chapman, who noted that the archbishop’s installation "as the first Oriental Orthodox president is a very important one in the history of the council. He’s a very committed ecumenist in his own right."
Chapman said the "strong participation" of all staff during the assembly, despite staff cutbacks taking effect by the end of the year, showed them to be "tremendous professionals and committed ecumenists."
NCC delegates urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation recognizing the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
The approved statement said it is "unacceptable that the United States has yet to officially recognize the Genocide of 1915, which in fact decimated a majority of the Armenian population then living in Asia Minor."
The General Assembly reaffirmed commitments to peace in the Middle East, noting that the situation has deteriorated since the hopeful days of the 1980 Camp David Peace Accords.
Its updated policy encourages a responsible discourse in the Middle East; a focus on issues of particular importance related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; concern for the alarming diminution of the Christian community of the Middle East; and appreciation for interfaith sensitivities among Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as people of other faiths.
Delegates received "A Social Creed for the 21st Century," an update of the Social Creed of 1908 developed by the NCC's predecessor organization, the Federal Council of Churches. The creed was approved by the council’s governing board in September.
"Just as the churches responded to the harshness of early 20th century industrialization," declares the creed's background statement, "we offer a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms."
In other business, the assembly:
- Was led in Bible study by the Rev. Elizabeth Tapia, a United Methodist from the Philippines currently serving as Director of Christianities in Global Context at Drew University and Theological School, and the Rev. Randall Bailey, a Baptist and professor at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta;
- Launched a memorial fund in the name of Claire Randall, the NCC’s first female general secretary, which will be used for women’s ministries;
- Heard a report from the NCC's Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, which has made more than a dozen visits to the disaster area since the 2005 hurricanes struck and which continues to evaluate federal, state and local agencies on recovery efforts.
Three United Methodists — DeMay Grunden, Gena Anderson and Kevin Nelson — were part of the council’s Young Stewards Program, which provided volunteers at the assembly.
The program is an opportunity for young adults interested in the ecumenical movement to network, learn about different communions, worship in an ecumenical setting, interact with national church leaders and become more involved in ecumenism.
*The National Council of Churches provided information for this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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National Council of Churches
National Council of Churches General Assembly