(Photo: UMNS / Kathy L. Gilber, File)
A United Methodist Church leader has been elected to the post of General Secretary/President for the National Council of Churches.
James E. Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, was elected earlier this week by the NCC Governing Board.
Winkler will succeed Peg Birk, who has served as Transitional General Secretary of the Council since July 2012. In a statement, NCC President Kathryn Lohre commended Birk's service.
"With Peg Birk's superb guidance, the Council has been through an intense period of planning and reorganization to focus our mission priorities and maintain our fiscal health during a challenging time," said Lohre. "We are confident that Jim Winkler's gifts and experience are just what the Council needs to stay on the right path and expand its horizons."
To be eligible to become NCC General Secretary/President, an application had to be submitted by July 8 and the candidate had to belong to a "member communion" church of the NCC.
As General Secretary/President, Winkler will be the executive leader of the NCC, overseeing issues regarding personnel and resources.
For many years, concerns have arisen regarding the NCC's financial stability. Questions have been raised by denominations affiliated with the NCC who fund the ecumenical organization's programs.
In 1999, the United Methodist Church, a "member communion" of the NCC, temporarily withdrew its funding over concerns about the effectiveness of the ecumenical organization's financial infrastructure.
With the economic downturn of 2008, NCC found itself in an even direr situation regarding its ability to pay its bills, and had to make increased efforts to cut expenses.
In February, these cuts included leaving its historic office at the Interchurch Center in Manhattan, New York, commonly known as the "God Box."
"It is important that we honor this moment with reverence and respect for the Council's history as an iconic presence in the beloved 'God Box'," said Lohre in a statement regarding the move. "This consolidation will free us from the infrastructure of a bygone era, enabling us to witness more boldly to our visible unity in Christ, and work for justice and peace in today's rapidly changing ecclesial, ecumenical and inter-religious world."
Winkler will assume the role of General Secretary/President on New Year's Day, 2014. Winkler told The Christian Post that he could not return comment because of a hectic meetings schedule.