Former White House aide enjoys 'different' church role
8/28/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By Erik Alsgaard*WASHINGTON
(UMNS) - By age 40, Mike McCurry already held his dream job: spokesman
for the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Four years later,
in 1998, McCurry had left the White House to do, as he says, "something
That something turned out to be, in part, serving as
church school superintendent for his home congregation, St. Paul's
United Methodist Church in Kensington, Md.
"I had always been
active at St. Paul's, even throughout my time at the White House,"
McCurry says. "Shortly after I left the White House, Chet Kirk, who was
then the senior pastor, came to me and said, 'We'd like you to take a
job that we've not been able to fill here at St. Paul's for a long
McCurry had led a very public professional life for
years, facing lights, cameras and reporters on a daily basis and
enduring the media vortex of the Monica Lewinsky-President Clinton
scandal. Today, life is different.
"A lot of my career was
devoted to public service," he says, "but I've become more convinced
that in the small, quiet places of the faith community, you can have a
bigger impact" on people's lives.
"I feel more satisfaction and
sense that I am impacting more lives running a Sunday school program in
Kensington, Md., than I felt was accomplished as president of the United
States' press secretary," he says.
He will experience politics
of another sort when the 2004 General Conference meets in Pittsburgh. He
is one of nine lay people elected to represent the Baltimore-Washington
Annual Conference at the church's top lawmaking assembly.
me, it's going to be fascinating to learn a lot," says McCurry, who will
be a first-time delegate. "I know there are a lot of issues that are
very important and that we'll have to wrestle with, but I'm going to try
and keep my eye on the ball, which is a broader set of issues, I
As a lifelong United Methodist, McCurry is aware of issues facing the assembly.
he says, "we can get all caught up in issues related to Bishop (Joseph)
Sprague (Chicago Area) or to homosexual ordination or the things that
have traditionally captivated General Conference, or we can get on with
this very serious business of how we go out there and reach new people
with the Gospel."
McCurry also has words of wisdom as a veteran of the political process.
goes without saying that I've been in places where I see how political
conflict can gum up the system, and I know how desperately important it
is to break through those political conflicts and try and reach
consensus. I think we need to be a sort-of consensus-driven church and
magnanimous in our openness to each other, so that we can get on with
the business of making disciples, because that's what we need to be
concentrated on, I think."
For McCurry, politics and faith can
mix well. On his journey of faith, he has recognized that "a
high-spirited group of people who are driven by faith in God can do an
awful lot of good work that many would consider political, even though
it's not partisan political."
Now a consultant for corporations
and nonprofits that vary from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to
Anheuser-Busch, McCurry works on improving communication with what he
calls a "skeptical public in the age of nonstop information."
has served on the board of governors at Wesley Theological Seminary in
Washington since 2000, and is involved in a startup Internet company,
Grassroots Enterprises Inc.
"They (Wesley Seminary) are trying to
develop some capacity for distance learning and for networking their
partner churches through a thing called the Wesley Seminary Network,"
McCurry says. He has co-chaired that project with fellow United
Methodist Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission and Colin Powell's son, he says.
While at the White
House, McCurry grew increasingly concerned about the amount of
information bombarding Americans on a daily basis, and how people would -
or would not - be able to sort out what matters most.
21st century, groups are going to have to think more clearly about how
to communicate effectively and, in the church, they're going to have to
think about how to evangelize in a virtual way," he says. The
denomination's mass-communications campaign, "Igniting Ministry," is
good, he says, but "if you rely on â€¦ primarily television, you miss
many opportunities to connect with people."
true of young people, whose primary communications mode is "skipping
back and forth between instant messaging and cell phones and e-mails,"
he says. "I think that's where we have to locate the church's outreach
efforts - right there where people are encountering information."
says the United Methodist Church has been reluctant to communicate its
message to the world. "We somehow or another have not expressed
ourselves well when it comes to making disciples, and I really am
excited about seeing in the church the idea that we, too, can be just as
evangelical as more fundamentalist denominations."
faith and career are intertwined. "The expression of my faith is almost
seamlessly interwoven with my professional experiences. It's all kind of
come together nicely for me."
# # #
*Alsgaard is managing
editor of the UMConnection newspaper and co-director of communications
for the Baltimore-Washington Conference. This story originally appeared
in that paper.
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