National Council of Churches to Shut Down 'God Box' Office

The National Council of Churches has announced that it will be shutting down its historic New York office as a means of consolidating its operations.

NCC announced Wednesday that it will leave its office at the Interchurch Center building in Manhattan, N.Y., known by many as the "God Box." Kathryn Lohre, president of NCC, said in a statement that the consolidation was part of the organizational streamlining process the group is undertaking.

"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.

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"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."

Completed in 1960, the Interchurch Center was built with the intention of encouraging greater unity among Christian denominations. The 19-story building cost approximately $20 million to construct. It received the nickname "God Box," presumably due to its religious intentions and the cubic granite exterior frame.

The Interchurch Center's current board of directors includes members of the Reformed Church in America, Church World Service, The United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ Pension Board.

According to Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, NCC's departure from the "God Box" was no surprise due to the organization's much publicized financial woes. "A decision to consolidate into a single office has been expected since a report last year by an NCC Governing Board Task Force on Revisioning and Restructuring," wrote Walton for the IRD blog "Juicy Ecumenism."

"The NCC has faced budget difficulties for many years due to declining revenue from participating denominations, known officially as 'member communions.' One-third of the council's member communions are not contributing financially to its work, while another third are giving only token financial support."

Philip E. Jenks, former media relations specialist for NCC, told The Christian Post in an interview last year that NCC President Lohre had been doing her best to solve the funding issues of the ecumenical organization, which were exacerbated in the 2008 economic downturn.

"President Lohre recently issued a special appeal to member communions to seek additional funding above and beyond regular giving to support transition costs in this period of re-envisioning the NCC," said Jenks.

"She has also been in touch with communion heads and NCC board members to maintain a constant exchange of ideas. She has met with staff members individually and participated fully in a daylong staff planning retreat early in February."

Presently, the NCC leadership is working on where the staff who were at the "God Box" will be situated. By May, it is expected that certain locations will be used as "satellite offices" and that more staff will be cut.

The National Council of Churches did not provide comment to The Christian Post by press time.

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