National Council of the Churches of Christ selects first African American woman to head ecumenical organization
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has announced that it has selected Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie as its new president and general secretary, marking the first time that an African American woman has led the ecumenical organization.
The NCC Governing Board made the decision during their annual spring meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 15-16, according to an announcement NCC posted on Facebook Wednesday.
McKenzie had served in the leadership position in an interim capacity since April 1 of last year, replacing Jim Winkle of the United Methodist Church, who resigned in January 2022.
In a statement released Tuesday, McKenzie said she was “honored to serve the National Council of Churches” and looked 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.”
“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,” she stated.
In 2000, McKenzie became the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and later became the first woman to serve as president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops.
McKenzie has been known for her efforts to strengthen female leaders, explaining to The Christian Post in a November 2019 interview that she has often hosted events centered on providing “empowerment opportunities” for women.
“Our goal is to help women to take a look at where they have been, understand the lessons learned, all the mistakes, all the successes, and then try to recalibrate, if necessary, where you need to go into the coming year,” said McKenzie, who believes it's important to "dream big, go home, and get it done."
In February, McKenzie was one of the speakers at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, focusing her message on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
In the parable, Jesus spoke of a traveler who was beaten and left for dead. While a Jewish priest and then a Levite avoid helping the wounded traveler, a Samaritan stops and gives assistance.
“Could it be that he saw the man's humanity? When he saw the man's humanity, he saw his own. Maybe we need to see our own humanity and see the humanity of others,” said McKenzie at the breakfast.
“Maybe the one sitting next to you right now. Could it be that Jesus knew it would be hard to demonstrate this kind of love until we identified ourselves as neighbor? It helps us to go from passive listening to active engagement.”