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Sudan, Interfaith Work,
February 27, 2002, NEW YORK CITY - A resolution on Sudan, developments in interfaith relations work, election of a new Associate General Secretary for Faith and Order and an update on finances were on the agenda of the National Council of Churches winter Executive Board meeting, held here Feb. 25-26.
SUDAN: A comprehensive "Resolution on Sudan" approved by the NCC Executive Board makes a series of recommendations to the U.S. government and churches aimed at facilitating an end to the Sudans 20-year-long civil war. The Board of Directors of Church World Service, a global humanitarian ministry of the NCCs 36 member communions, approved the resolution last October.
The 152-line resolution and 20-page annex "give us a much more detailed and comprehensive policy base" for ecumenical public policy advocacy on the Sudan, noted the Rev. Canon Patrick Mauney of The Episcopal Church, presenting the resolution. Mauney chairs the CWS Board of Directors and represents CWS on the NCC Executive Board. "We take action as the United States government takes a more active role in seeking peace for the Sudan."
The NCC and CWS already are preparing study materials on the Sudan for churches use in 2002-2003, and CWSs 2,000 fund-raising CROP WALKS in 2002-2003 will include an educational focus on the Sudan.
The resolution will be available at www.ncccusa.org, or by mail from the NCC/CWS Communication Department, Room 880, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115.
INTERFAITH RELATIONS: The NCCs work to foster better interfaith understanding was highlighted during the Executive Board meeting. The Board welcomed the commitment by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ to assure staffing for that work through September 2003, and celebrated publication by the NCCs Friendship Press of the second edition of "God is One: The Way of Islam."
The Rev. Dr. Jay T. Rock, NCC Interfaith Relations Director, reported that in June, the NCC and Hartford (Conn.) Seminary will offer a one-week intensive course on Islam for Christian clergy and lay leaders. He also noted plans for a pilot test during the next 12 months of "Faithful Living Workshops," a model for multi-religious conversation, in five cities: Lexington, Ky.; Seattle, Wash.; St. Paul, Minn.; Los Angeles, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.
Interfaith Relations priorities, Dr. Rock said, are relationship-building - primarily with Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist communities and with Native American traditionalists; engaging young adults, and equipping members of congregations for interfaith dialogue.
The Executive Board heard two guest speakers - Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America, Plainfield, Ind., and former Congressman Paul Findley (R-Ill.), author of "Silent No More," an account of his own journey of encounter with scores of Muslim men and women and his growing understanding of the Muslim world.
Dr. Syeed called on his listeners to help "create a society where all religions are given a role to contribute to the spiritual richness of this new society" and to overcome the legacy of a millennium that has been "full of demonization" between Christians and Muslims.
Findley said his book is a "plea for interfaith understanding," noting, "I was 52 years old before I knowingly had a conversation with a Muslim." Affirmed NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar, "For Americans who have absorbed the stereotypes of Muslims that are pervasive in our culture, the experience of getting to know even a single Muslim neighbor or co-worker can be the breakthrough that replaces false images with a realistic picture."
FAITH AND ORDER: Dr. Ann K. Riggs (left), a Quaker who for the past five years has served the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops in their ecumenical work, has been named Director of Faith and Order for the National Council of Churches.
Her election by a search committee was confirmed by the NCCs Executive Board, meeting here Feb. 25-26. Effective immediately, Dr. Riggs, of Crownsville, Md., will be based in the Councils Washington, D.C., office. NCC headquarters is in New York City.
"Dr. Riggs brings a remarkable package of qualifications with her," commented Dr. Paul Meyendorff of the Orthodox Church in America, Co-Chair of the NCC Faith and Order Commission. The commissions representatives from a broad range of NCC member and non-member communions work together on church-uniting and church-dividing issues of belief and practice.
Since 1997, Dr. Riggs has represented her communion, the Friends General Conference of the Religious Society of Friends, on the Commission, co-chairing its 2000-2003 study on "Authority in the Church."
As Assistant to the Director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs since 1996, she served a key role in administration, budgeting and planning and provided background expertise for bishops, secretariat staff and others to undergird their participation in the ecumenical movement.
She carried particular responsibility for nurturing U.S. Catholic Church relations with the historically Black Protestant churches, the Peace Churches and the World Council of Churches U.S. Conference.
Dr. Riggs is a recognized expert in the role of visual art and architecture within the ecumenical movement - a melding of her interests in art and theology. She earned her B.A. in art (1972) from Smith College, Northampton, Mass., going on to earn an M.A. in art history (1982) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. From 1980-81, she was intern and guest curator at the Worcester (Mass.) Art Museum and, from 1981-84, research associate and curator at the Worcester Historical Museum.
Increasingly, she found herself intrigued by theological concerns, which led her to earn an M.Div. (1992) and Th.M. (1995) at Duke Divinity School. There, she studied baptism and eucharist with Geoffrey Wainwright.
Dr. Riggs earned her Ph.D. in 2001 from the School of Religious Studies, Catholic University of America. Focusing on hermeneutics, theology and spirituality, her dissertation was "Visual Arts and Architecture in Ecumenical Statements of the Holy See and the World Council of Churches, 1982-1997: Issues of Theological Anthropology."
The NCCs new Associate General Secretary for Faith and Order is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America, American Academy of Religion and North American Academy of Ecumenists, and is a founder and associate editor of the journal "Quaker Theology."
Dr. Riggs is co-author (with Jeffrey Gros and Eamon McManus) of "Introduction to Ecumenism" (1998, Paulist Press), a textbook used in both Roman Catholic and Protestant seminaries. She is co-editor (with Fernando Enns and Scott Holland) of "Peace-Theology and Culture in a Globalized World from the Perspective of the Historic Peace Churches," forthcoming in 2003. The volume comprises papers from a June 2001 consultation, in Switzerland, of international historic peace churches at the beginning of the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence.
Dr. Riggs in January 2002 served as an adjunct professor in the Wesley Theological Seminarys D.Min. in Ecumenism Program, and has held several teaching assistantships at Wesley, Duke and Catholic universities.
At the National Council of Churches, Sister Paul Teresa Hennessee, S.A., has served as interim Faith and Order director since July 2001, following the departure of the Rev. Dr. William Rusch to staff the projected Second Conference on Faith and Order in North America.
The NCC Faith and Order Commission is an active participant in planning for that conference, anticipated for 2005. In 2000-2003, the commission has studies underway on "Authority in the Church," "Authority of the Church in the World" and "Full Communion," and has just begun planning for 2004-2007.
The commission also is integrally involved in discussions of a possible new, broader expression of Christian unity in the United States. NCC member communions, along with the Roman Catholic Church, The Salvation Army and several Evangelical and Pentecostal bodies, held a first meeting in September and plan to meet again in April.
NCC FINANCES: The Rev. Philip H. Young, NCC Finance and Administration Committee Chair, reported on steps taken since the Boards last meeting in November 2001 to ensure that revenues and expenditures balance at the end of the NCCs July 1, 2001,-June 30, 2002, fiscal year.
These have included more than $1 million in savings through program budget and staff reductions (from 54 to 36, mostly in the administrative support positions) and consolidation of office space, putting 2001-2002 projected revenues/expenditures at $5.7 million.
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