The United Church of Christ played the part of host this week to the National Council of Churches, a partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the U.S, in a display of the church's ongoing commitment and support for the role of the NCC as its transitions into the future.
The NCC's Executive Council members gathered at the UCC's Church House in Cleveland for the first time in history. During the meeting, NCC president Kathryn Lohre and transitional secretary Peg Birk laid out some of trails to the roadmap as the council restructures through a period of transition. The UCC's ecumenical officer, the Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, said that hosting the NCC provides the UCC with an opportunity to "move into the new life of the council," both in the present and future.
Lohre said the NCC used the two days of meetings in Cleveland to try to "gain some clarity about the new structure and how the historic work of the council carries forward, and also clarity on how we support the vision for the new council."
There are four points on which the vision will rely: theological study and dialogue; inter-religious relationships and dialogue; joint action and advocacy for justice and peace; and education, formation and leadership development.
"I think our staff will learn how to [continue its relationship on the four points] and continue that ongoing work with the NCC," Thompson said. "And the same goes for congregations who've supported the work of the NCC."
Lohre and Birk took time Monday morning to meet with UCC staff and explain some of the processes of the transition, and took questions from those in attendance on a variety of topics. UCC officers, staff and guests asked questions and offered comments on topics ranging from the NCC's commitment to its position as a faith leader, to its continued work for justice issues.
The NCC's executive council saw the need for changes, citing the organization had become siloed in its structure. But the changes weren't dictated purely by the state of the organization's finances. In the coming months, Lohre said the council will examine feedback from evaluations and reports, and will make further recommendations to the governing board that will provide more clarity on what the NCC will look like and how it will function in the future. The council will also announce more updates to its employees; participants, leaders and members of committees and groups; and the public at large on where the organization is headed.
The NCC is moving forward to consolidate its operations in Washington, D.C. and will close its New York City offices at the Interchurch Center, which has been the organization's headquarters since its founding in 1950. The NCC, which already had an office on Capitol Hill, will remain in New York via satellite offices with three staff members. UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black and Thompson, both members of the NCC Executive Council, have extended an invitation for the NCC's governing board meeting in the future.
"I would also express gratitude on behalf of the council for the creative commitment in council meetings and in a time of transition," Lohre said. "We look forward to the other side knowing there is a string partnership of the council and the UCC."