Jim Winkler is leaving the National Council of Churches after two terms as top executive

January 26, 2022 | Religion News Service

The National Council of Churches announced on Wednesday (January 26th) that Jim Winkler, its secretary general and president since 2013, is stepping down.

Winkler told readers of the Protestant Ecumenical E-newsletter about his departure on Friday, writing in the “Final Column” that I “have completed two terms as president and secretary general and am now moving on to the next chapter of my life.”

He did not state the reason for his departure. Winkler also did not respond to a request to comment on his move.

“Jim’s last day is January 31,” Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, chairwoman of the NCC committee, said in an email to the Religion News Service.

Prior to his work for the NCC, Winkler served on the General Board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church for nearly three decades, where he became Secretary General in 2000. He is a member of a prominent Illinois Methodist family. His father, the late Reverend Gene Winkler, served for many years as a senior pastor of the historic First UMC / Chicago Temple. His grandfather and uncle were also Methodist pastors, and his brother Rev. Chris Winkler is currently serving at the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.

Back in November, Winkler seemed to be planning to remain in his third term as leader of the 72-year-old organization. At an event announcing the release of an updated new revised standard version of the Bible this spring in collaboration with the Bible Literature Society, he told the audience, “I look forward to seeing you next year, if not sooner.”

A statement from the NCC on Wednesday said: “The interim president / secretary general will be appointed soon, followed by a formal search for an elected leader.”

Winkler arrived at the NCC shortly after he began shrinking to his current form – which Winkler described in a newsletter column as “a small staff of less than 10 people and a budget of about $ 2 million a year.”

Two years earlier, the organization’s annual report showed that its costs of about $ 5.6 million were more than $ 1 million more than revenue. In 2013, the group moved its headquarters from its historic “God’s Box” office at New York’s Interchurch Center to an apartment in the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., which also houses the offices of the Church and Society Main Board. The leaders at the time hoped that this move would enable an organization that does not have the money to save $ 500,000 in the end.

Officially founded in 1950, the NCC has its roots in the Federal Council of Churches that began in 1908. Long considered the key voice of mainstream Protestant Christianity, its leaders sometimes had regular access to the White House. In recent years, he has expanded his reach beyond his 37 Christian denominations to engage leaders of non-Christian faiths, working against “anti-Muslim animus” and supporting Sikhs who have suffered other attacks.

In his farewell message on Friday, Winkler noted that the NCC has established new interfaith dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu communities.

In recent years, she has also made the fight against racism a key aspect of her work. In 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the NCC held one of its greatest events ever, gathering thousands to march from the King’s Memorial to the US Capitol at a rally to act now to end the racism initiative.

At the time, Winkler said the NCC had gone through its financial “near-death experience” and was ready to “fearlessly” take on racism and the legacy of slavery, which he called “the most difficult issue in the entire history of North and South America.” ”

The NCC has since developed a list of resources to support Congressional Reparations Bill, HR 40, including scholarly articles, Bible verses on justice, and “counter-arguments to objections”. Winkler spoke in favor of reparations during the virtual gathering of Christian unity of the NCC 2020.

“Compensation for slavery is biblical,” he said, quoting a verse from Deuteronomy that says, “And when you send a male slave free from you, you will not send him away empty-handed.”

Winkler was also among the religious leaders who joined the August march on the US Capitol demanding the adoption of Biden’s White House Infrastructure Act, arguing that he would support fairer and fairer conditions in the country. Last week, he spoke at a second march focused on suffrage and a federal minimum wage of $ 15 an hour. His activism for Church and Society and the NCC resulted in more than one misdemeanor arrest for civil unrest during the protest.

NCC member denominations represent about 35 million Christians in Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, Evangelical, and historical black denominations and “churches of peace,” including the Church of the Brethren.

Adelle M. Banks reports on national issues for the Religion News Service.

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