Church activist elected NCC transitional general secretary
Written by Jeff Woodard
May 22, 2012

A nationally recognized change-management consultant and active lay person has been elected transitional general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC).

Peg Birk, president and CEO of Interim Solutions and a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, was elected to the position May 21. A service of installation followed in the national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

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

"The decision of the NCC Governing Board to call Peg Birk to serve as transitional general secretary is a major step forward for the NCC in its effort to envision and live into a new and different future," said the Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president.

"She will work with the leadership and staff of the NCC to re-envision in ways that recall its past as one of the leading ecumenical institutions in the United States," said Black. "The NCC will be responsive to new contexts for Christian witness and mission, and to the changing needs of its member Communions."

 "Peg Birk brings gifts and proven experience to the NCC to lead it through this transitional stage," added Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations.

Birk is expected to serve in the position for 18 months, working with the NCC board and staff "to seek a new vision and clarity of mission for the NCC."

The position has been open since Jan. 1 when the Rev. Michael Kinnamon left the office, citing health concerns. Clare J. Chapman, NCC deputy general secretary, has been serving as interim general secretary.

The unexpected transition in leadership, along with 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 during restructuring.

Birk has led Interim Solutions since 2007. The consulting firm has had notable success working with foundations and nonprofit organizations undergoing management and organizational changes.

Birk expressed "keen interest" in the transitional position, 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 has served as interim president for the Fund for Theological Education and is credited with implementing new leadership practices to deepen the board's 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.

She 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.

Since its founding in 1950, the NCC in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions – from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches – include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations nationwide.

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