Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2007 > October 2007 > News - October 2007
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 action.

And 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 said.

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 

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

Bishop William B. Oden

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.

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 broken relationships.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon 

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.

"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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

NCC nominates Kinnamon as chief executive

NCC's reorganization cuts 14 staff positions

NCC responds to 'Jena 6'


National Council of Churches

Commission on Christian Unity

Eden Theological Seminary

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text