US National Council of Churches begins 2014 with sweeping changes and a new lease on life

 — Dec. 20, 201320 déc. 2013

After serving as the National Council of Churches’ executive leader for the briefest tenure in the Council’s history, Peg Birk can also look back on the most comprehensive restructuring and redirecting of the NCC since its founding in 1950.

Birk, a nationally known change management expert and Congregational laywoman, took office as Transitional General Secretary of the NCC in July 2012 with the understanding she would serve with the sole purpose of guiding an historic re-envisioning and restructuring of the financially beleaguered Council.

Now, with a new President and General Secretary about to take office and a new organizational structure in place, Birk is returning home to Minneapolis, Minn., on January 1.

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, Chair of the NCC Governing Board, said Birk has been “a tireless and resourceful leader for the Council at a critical point in its history.”

Birk “worked skillfully with board and staff to guide an essential reexamination of the Council’s ministries and resources,” Medley said, “and the NCC is in a far stronger position for mission than it was 18 months ago. We are grateful for her service.”

The NCC’s Past President, Kathryn Lohre, who worked closely with Birk during the transition, said, “The Council is deeply indebted to Peg Birk for leading this 18 month transition with grace, stamina, wisdom, and tenacity,”

“She has successfully implemented a complex plan for re-envisioning and restructuring the NCC under significant pressure for time, resources, and reserves,” Lohre said.

“Through her leadership, the member communions have renewed their shared vision and strengthened their common resolve to give visible witness to our unity and Christ, and to witness for justice and peace.”

Birk succeeded the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon who resigned as general secretary in December 2011 for health reasons. At the time, the Council was reeling from the effects of the “Great Recession” of 2008 that contributed to a major decline in income and other financial woes.

Birk’s first major decision was to implement a “pause” in Council programs to enable a re-examination of NCC’s intricate organization and myriad ministries.

“We pruned and untangled the complex operational systems involving multiple parties and organizations,” Birk said in her final report to the NCC Governing Board last month. “We transitioned from a large programmatic organization that had grown to over 35 commissions, committees, and working groups to four Convening Tables with two priorities.”

Among the more visible signs of reorganization was the consolidation of its administrative offices in Washington.

The transitional period saw the Council reduce staff by eliminating 11 full-time positions, consolidating its offices in Washington, D.C., and locating three associate general secretaries in satellite offices in New York City.

The governing board itself has been reduced in size to include only the leaders of the NCC member communions, with eight at-large members to enhance strategic partnerships, provide for needed skill sets and uphold the Council’s commitment to diversity.

Also, the numbers of NCC officers and board committees were realigned to reflect the distinction between board governance and the life of the Council.

The NCC will now focus on two priorities: addressing the injustices of mass incarceration; and interfaith relations with a focus on peace. It will also continue to respond to urgent issues with the same moral voice it has expressed throughout its history.

James E. Winkler, a United Methodist commission leader, will assume office Jan.1 as President and General Secretary.

The approved budget of the Council is based on “pledges received and revenue forecast for royalties” and an “appropriate fee structure” for Council members and affiliates was developed.

The Council’s refined mission statement reflects its historic commitments to unity, justice and peace: “The NCC is a community of communions called by Christ to visible unity and sent forth in the Spirit to promote God’s justice, peace, and healing in the world.”

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, expressed thanks for Birk’s “faithful, creative, and persistent leadership through this immensely challenging period.

“We could not have asked for a more effective leader,” Jefferts Schori said. “She has done this work with grace and brought us to a radically new chapter. The communions represented in the National Council of Churches begin this chapter with hope for a networked and streamlined ability to engage the missional challenges before us.”

As she settles in back home, Birk said she hopes to return to her change management company, Interim Solutions, and work full-time in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

“While the NCC transformative work was the pinnacle of my Interim Solutions portfolio,” she said, “my hope is to bring the cumulative leadership experiences I have had in several sectors together into a final body of work that will be locally based’.

Peg Birk has led Interim Solutions since 2007. The consulting firm has had notable success working with foundations and non-profit organizations undergoing management and organizational changes.

An attorney and former adjunct faculty member of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., Birk served as interim president for the Fund for Theological Education in 2009-2010.

She is credited with implementing new leadership practices to deepen the board and staff’s ability to clarify and deliver on the group’s mission.

Birk has also served as interim president of the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, where she managed a 38-person staff and operations that included approving grants of about $90 million.

She was senior vice president and general counsel of Federated Insurance Companies in Owatonna, Minn. from 1999 to 2005.

As City Attorney of St. Paul, Minn., from 1997 to 1998, Birk managed a 60-member staff and oversaw all aspects of municipal law. She led a staff of attorneys and support staff and represented the city for labor relations and media inquiries.

She previously served on the McKnight Foundation board of directors, the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation board of directors, the Hamline University board of trustees, the International Alliance of Executive Women, the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable board of directors, and was co-chair of the Center for Religious Inquiry with former Vice President Walter Mondale at St. Mark’s Cathedral.

Birk currently serves on the board of directors as the treasurer of the Beatitudes Society and is a member of the advisory board of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Posted: Dec. 20, 2013 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: ecumenism, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA)
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : ecumenism, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA)

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