National Council of Churches names Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie as its President and General Secretary

The first African American woman to hold both offices, McKenzie has been the NCC’s interim leader since April 2022

by the National Council of the Churches in Christ in the USA | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie (Photo courtesy of the NCC)

The Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is pleased to announce that Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie has been elected to serve as President and General Secretary of the ecumenical organization. She is the first African American woman to serve as both President and General Secretary of the organization. The Governing Board made the announcement during its annual spring meeting, held in Washington, D.C., May 15–16.

McKenzie has served in the position as interim since April 1, 2022, and immersed herself in the work of the organization without delay. During her year as interim, she led an extensive review of NCC’s foundational documents, initiated Voter Empowerment 2022: A Church-Based Action Plan campaign, testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of low wage earners and poor children, and served as keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast.

She has also represented NCC internationally at the World Council of Churches’ Regional Ecumenical Officers annual meeting at the Ecumenical Center in Bossey, Switzerland as well as attended the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Germany.

McKenzie has reinstituted the NCC’s Health and Wellness Taskforce to dive deeper into health and health care priorities that impact persons of all races, ethnicities, and socio-economic and geographic status. As part of the taskforce relaunch, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was the keynote speaker at the recent Governing Board Health and Wellness Taskforce Luncheon.

She also has initiated a new Policy Roundtable to create space for NCC’s communions and partners to speak to and with each other and hear from policy experts on critical issues that strengthen its impact on public policy.

Thirty-seven member communions, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), belong to the NCC.

“The National Council of Churches is excited that Bishop McKenzie has agreed to serve in this pivotal leadership role. She brings the necessary insight, expertise, and ecumenical commitment to the Council to lead us into the future,” said Board Chair Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, who is also the Ecumenical Officer of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

“The entire Board is excited about Bishop McKenzie’s vision and leadership. We are grateful for her willingness to use the full vessel of her ministerial gifts to lead the NCC,” added Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and NCC Governing Board Vice Chair.

“I am honored to serve the National Council of Churches and I look forward to building upon the strong foundation laid by the men and women who have led the way in ecumenism and advocacy work for more than seven decades,” McKenzie said in a statement. “I look forward to engaging every communion within this great collaborative to serve the 100,000 congregations and the more than 30 million members that fall under its ecumenical umbrella.”

 McKenzie served as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was the first female elected to episcopal office in the AME Church’s two centuries of operation. She is the first female to serve as President of the Council of Bishops and President of the General Board and has served as presiding bishop in Southern Africa — Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Lesotho — and in the United States in Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.

She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard University School of Divinity, and has an earned doctorate from United Theological Seminary.

She was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to serve on the inaugural White House Commission of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This group worked on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, regardless of religious or political beliefs. In 2014, she was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Religious Life in the World by Huffington Post.

She is the author of six books, including “Not Without a Struggle,” “Journey to the Well” and “The Big Deal: Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God.”

Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA brings together 37 member communions and more than 30 million Christians in a common commitment to God’s love and promise of unity. Learn more about the NCC here.

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