|NCC sets Middle East peace as a top priority|
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 27, 2008 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
A focus on the Middle East will be among the social priorities for the National Council of Churches over the next few years.
But the council also will look at strengthening the relationships among
its 35 member communions, including The United Methodist Church, and
re-energizing the ecumenical movement as a whole.
Those were among the topics discussed as the NCC Governing Board
organized itself for the 2008-2011 quadrennium during its Feb. 25-26
meeting in New York.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, installed in November as the council’s new
president, spoke about the possibility of an official visit to Middle
Eastern countries to meet with civic and religious leaders “as well as
to show our solidarity with the Christian minorities.”
Bishop E. Earl McCloud Jr., ecumenical officer for the African Methodist
Episcopal Zion Church, suggested that the council’s efforts on Middle
East peace might be better spent working with U.S. officials in
It was agreed that both types of advocacy are needed as well as
coordination with other faith-based groups to foster peace between
Israelis and Palestinians. The governing board affirmed the Middle East
crisis as a focus during Aykazian’s tenure over the next two years and
authorized the executive committee to explore options for action.
The NCC’s reduced program staff – the result of last fall’s
reorganization plan and prompted by financial reasons – was addressed by
both Aykazian, who leads the Washington Diocese of the Armenian Church
of America (Eastern), and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the council’s new
It was announced last September that 14 program staff positions would be
eliminated, but some of the current staff members applied and were
hired for the seven new positions created under the reorganization.
The Rev. Michael Kinnamon
In the council’s new configuration, the efforts of the chief executive
and staff alone will not be enough to accomplish goals outlined in its
strategic plan. “We, the board, have to contribute our time and our
talent to this work,” Aykazian said.
Kinnamon pointed to a tension that exists within the ecumenical movement
as to whether it is a forum where conflicting viewpoints meet in
dialogue or a renewal movement. He believes both descriptions are true.
“A crucial part of this (NCC) community is the convictions we hold
together … and the witness that we make together,” he said.
Commitments outlined in the NCC’s strategic plan, he added, include
strengthening relationships among member communions, integrating
programmatic work, giving energy to U.S. ecumenical life, sharing
resources, nurturing young adults for ecumenical leadership and being
“truly prophetic in our social witness.”
Bishop William B. Oden, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist
Council of Bishops, pointed to the need for support by all of the NCC
member communions. “If we’re to give legs and heart to the goals that
have been stated, there is going to have to be a re-energizing of all
our commitments,” he said.
Oden told United Methodist News Service that he was optimistic about what he considers to be a “fresh start” for the NCC.
“The reorganization was very painful, but we’ve become a leaner
organization. As such, we’ll depend more on board members and less on
staff, and that’s healthy,” he said.
Bishop William B. Oden
The council’s stable financial situation “will raise the confidence level among the member communions,” Oden added.
The NCC hopes to begin a physical transformation of its New York
headquarters as well. Clare Chapman, a United Methodist and the
council’s chief operating officer, noted that the NCC was the largest
tenant of the Interfaith Center, located at Riverside Drive and West
120th Street, when it was built in the 1950s. Although the NCC’s space
has been much reduced since then, the remaining offices never have been
In order to keep its lease, a renovation is necessary, according to
Chapman. The previous governing board had approved a capital campaign
for the renovations, now estimated at $800,000, and the funding raised
is near the 50 percent level required to start.
“The reorganization was very painful, but
we’ve become a leaner organization. As such, we’ll depend more on board
members and less on staff, and that’s healthy.”United
Methodists pledged $125,000 for the renovation, paid over a four-year
period, and total payment should be finished this year, she said.
– Bishop William B. Oden
Besides Oden, the ecumenical officer, United Methodists on the 2008-2011
NCC Governing Board are Bishop Albert “Fritz” Mutti, interim chief
executive, United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Interreligious Concerns; Diana Eck, Harvard University; Raul Alegria,
Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church; and Deborah
Bass, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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