As the National Council of Churches prepares to step into a new future next week under new leadership, two United Church of Christ executives are expressing an ecumenical commitment of support for the council as it moves forward at a critical time in its ministry.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president, and the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, the UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations, were both part of the search committee and believe they have found a person who can embrace the challenge of leading the NCC. The committee, co-chaired by Black and the Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will present James E. Winkler for the role of NCC general secretary to the governing board during the NCC board meeting Nov. 18-19 in Chicago. Winkler is currently the general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
"The United Church of Christ played an integral part in the search process for the general secretary," said Thompson, who is also a member of the NCC governing board. "Jim Winkler is a dynamic leader for the NCC at this time. He brings knowledge of the church, the ecumenical community and, most of all, the NCC at a critical time in the life of the council. His administrative acumen and leadership skills are what we need."
During the Chicago meeting, a new governing board will gather to elect individuals to the NCC’s convening tables, committees and its think tank, in addition to approving Winkler’s nomination. Winkler has led the United Methodist international public policy and social justice agency in Washington since November 2000. If elected to the NCC’s top post, Winkler would begin his tenure Jan. 1, 2014.
"In calling a new general secretary and president, the NCC was seeking a leader who could guide the development of the NCC to be a smaller, but very effective organization, advocating for justice and peace," said Black. "At the same time, it is expected that the general secretary and president will be a good administrator and a capable fund-raiser."
Black said the NCC has a storied history, and though it has recently taken major steps in redefining its mission and adapting its structure to serve its member churches, he’s optimistic about the UCC’s relationship with the council.
"The NCC faces the challenge of living into its new vision as a leaner, less programmatic body," Black said. "Of course, it is also challenged to raise funds and rebuild its financial base so that it can sustain its mission over the long term. I believe the NCC has a promising future, given the financial and human resources available to it from its member churches and other partners."
The UCC hosted NCC leaders in February as a display of solitude during the council’s restructuring. Given the role the UCC national offices played then as a host, and more recently in serving on the search committee, that solidarity will carry forward.
"The UCC will continue to support the NCC in this new stage," Thompson said. "We are appointing UCC members and staff to populate the convening tables in this new configuration, and will serve in the new governance model."