|United Methodists support NCC changes, nominee|
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 23, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
United Methodist ecumenical leaders are supporting the recent
reorganization of the National Council of Churches as a necessary
they are uniformly enthusiastic about the nomination of the Rev.
Michael Kinnamon, an ordained minister of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ), as the council's new chief executive. The
election for general secretary will take place during the Nov. 6-8 NCC
General Assembly in Woodbridge, N.J.
The reorganization, which resulted in the elimination of at least 14
staff positions, was approved in late September by the council's
governing board. Although the ecumenical agency is financially stable
because of its reserve funds, it had a $1 million-plus deficit during
the fiscal year that ended last June and had projected a deficit for the
current budget year.
Bishop William B. Oden, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist
Council of Bishops and a governing board member, believes the "sizeable
staff reduction" was necessary in order to bring the council's budget
back in line. "There's really been concern about the NCC living with a
deficit," he explained.
"The governing board felt it had no choice but to bring the budget in line with the anticipated income," the bishop added.
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive, United Methodist Commission
on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, noted that although the
staff cuts were significant, the reorganization reflects the strategic
plan of the governing board, of which he also is a member. "It's really
going to be something they (the council) will have to live out," he
Living within its means
Bishop Melvin Talbert, a former United Methodist ecumenical officer
and past NCC president, pointed out that ecumenical agencies often "live
on the edge economically" and added that the NCC "has had to learn the
hard lesson of living within its means. As long as the supporting
churches continue to struggle with their economics, the national council
will face that struggle."
While he does not consider the economic struggle to be a sign of a
loss of effectiveness or lack of relevance, the staff cuts do signal a
change. "You can't expect the remaining people in the national council
to do all the work that was traditionally expected of it," Talbert said.
"Priorities will have to be set. Some things will continue and some
things will not."
Clare Chapman, a United Methodist currently serving as the NCC's acting
chief executive, said at the time the reorganization was announced that
new staff structure should not be viewed as a sign of insolvency.
Despite the recent deficit, the council still has multimillion-dollar
reserves. But the governing board made a commitment "to operate on
available revenues" and not draw from reserves, she explained.
United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove, another former ecumenical
officer, recalled the council's budget crisis in 1999 and agreed with
that commitment. "While I regret the need for the cuts, I think it was
entirely appropriate to make them so we preserve the hard-won financial
solvency of the National Council of Churches," he said.
The United Methodist Church is continuing to financially support the
NCC, according to Pickens and Oden. During a conference phone call of
the denomination's Interdenominational Cooperation Fund committee in
early October, committee members agreed to give $100,000 immediately to
the council and send another $50,000 at the end of the year as part of
its budgeted commitment.
"We wanted to make clear our ongoing support of the council," said
Pickens, who added that the committee will request the same funding for
the NCC during the 2009-2012 quadrennium as during the current four-year
period. That amounts to $450,000 annually to the NCC from the
Interdenominational Cooperation Fund.
Chapman said the council is eager to speak more broadly with United
Methodist ecumenical leadership on issues of mutual concern. "We're
grateful to have the funds now," she added. "We've asked for a formal
dialogue and we hope that will happen in the next month or so."
More support from members
Officials in the United Methodist Church also want more equal budgetary
support among the NCC's member communions. United Methodists joined the
governing board several years ago, according to Oden, in passing a
resolution that set a goal of no single denomination contributing more
than 25 percent of the total funding provided by NCC members.
Bishop William B. Oden
Although the resolution is not a rule, "The United Methodist church
is really eager to move toward that goal because we're funding more than
25 percent (from member communions) at this point," he said.
Under the reorganization, now effective Jan. 1, five new staff positions
are being created in addition to the general secretary and development
director. Those positions are chief operating officer, three program
positions and a media specialist. A position for database manager still
exists but is not currently staffed.
If affirmed at the General Assembly, Kinnamon will become the
Council's ninth general secretary since its beginnings in 1950. He
succeeds the Rev. Bob Edgar, a United Methodist pastor who left the
council in August to become president and CEO of Common Cause.
Kinnamon, a professor at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis since
2000, is a member of the NCC governing board and chairman of its
Justice and Advocacy Commission. He led the Consultation on Church
Union, which became Churches Uniting in Christ, from 1999 to 2002, was a
professor and dean at Lexington, Ky., Theological Seminary and served
as executive secretary of the World Council of Churches' Commission on
Faith and Order from 1980 to 1983.
An exceptional leader
Oden called Kinnamon a friend and "an exceptional leader in
ecumenical concerns. I fully expect him to be confirmed and to lead the
council to a new level of effectiveness."
Pickens said he was impressed with Kinnamon's experience within the
ecumenical movement and expects him to be "very intentional" about
reaching out to the member communions and restoring any strained or
Both Talbert and Grove also expressed their enthusiasm over the
nomination. Talbert, who has worked with Kinnamon over the years, noted
his "strong passion toward justice" and said he has earned the trust of
African-American church leaders.
The Rev. Michael Kinnamon
"Michael is a fine man," he added. "He's a gentle spirit and I think he'll have good relationships with the churches."
Chapman said she is excited about Kinnamon's nomination. "He's been a
dynamic leader," she added. "I think he will bring many, many skills to
the job and will be a wonderful addition to the staff."
The Rev. Bruce Robbins, former chief executive of the Commission on
Christian Unity, noted that Kinnamon is very familiar with the United
Methodist Church and served as a director on the commission for four
years. "I can't think of anyone better…who understands the nature and
relationships of churches in this country," he said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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