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NCC President Michael E. Livingston
Living the visible unity of the church
The President of the National Council of Churches USA (serving from Jan.1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2007), has been a pastor, educator and church administrator for most of his adult life. What’s more, there is hardly an aspect of the ecumenical movement – local, national, international – that he hasn’t served.
“Early in my ministry I’ve been a pastor,” says the Rev. Michael E. Livingston. “I’ve held many other positions, but I’ve never left the ministry of the Gospel.”
Livingston was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) on July 27, 1975 and he has been a member of the New Brunswick, N.J., Presbytery since 1985. He was pastor of Presbyterian churches in Los Angeles and New York until 1985 when he returned to his alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, as director of admissions and later as campus pastor and director of the chapel.
His present position is Executive Director of the International Council of Community Churches, headquartered in Frankfort, Il., which describes itself as a “fellowship of ecumenically-minded, freedom-loving churches cooperating in fulfilling the mission of the Church in the world.”
The ecumenically-minded Livingston is well matched with the ICCC, which was born in 1950 as the result of a merger of two fellowships in the Community Church Movement that at the time was the largest interracial merger of U.S. religious bodies in history.
Like many members of Baby Boom generation, Livingston entered college with a desire to serve people in a just cause. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1971 before switching his emphasis to theology at the Princeton seminary. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1974 and returned to school for a masters in theology in Pastoral Care and Counseling that was awarded in 1991.
Shortly after seminary, Livingston immersed himself in a world that required a sociologist’s insights and a pastor’s heart. After three years as assistant pastor of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, he was called as pastor of Hollis Presbyterian Church in Queens, New York.
He quickly became active in the inter-racial interfaith, community-based Queens Citizens Organization where he served as Executive Vice President. He was also chair of the Patient Care Committee at Queens Hospital Center and was a member of the hospital’s community advisory board. He was also active in the Hollis Local Development Corporation and its campaign to revitalize its commercial zone.
While he was in Princeton, Livingston was Treasurer and a long time board member of the Princeton Regional Scholarship Foundation and the Family Guidance Center of Mercer County, which provides counseling services, substance abuse recovery programs, a Children’s Day School and an HIV Life Skills Program.
Livingston has served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a member of the Task Force for Women and as chair of the Committee on Ministry. In the Presbyterian Synod of the Northeast he has chaired the Vocation Committee and has been a member of the Women’s Concerns Team and the Racial-Ethnic Task Force on Recruitment. At the national level, he has served on the denomination’s Vocation Agency and on the Consulting Committee on Racial Ethnic Ministries.
Michael Livingston has served as Executive Director of the ICCC since 1999. The Council’s stated mission is “Advancing love of God and humanity; diversity and inclusiveness; ecumenical and interfaith life and work,” and it has a four-part vision:
To affirm individual freedom of conscience; To protect and promote congregational self-determination; To proclaim that the love of God, which unites, can overcome any division; and To be an integral partner in the worldwide ecumenical movement.
The Council’s vision and Livingston’s own proclivities have assured that his ecumenical activities will take up a major portion of his life. He has been President-Elect of the NCC from 2004 until the end of 2005 and he has been a member of the NCC’s Governing Board and General Assembly since 1999. In 2003 he was a member of the NCC’s Peace Delegation to Paris that attempted to delay or prevent the war in Iraq.
His other ecumenical responsibilities have included the U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches, the editorial board of Liberation and Unity, the National Workshop on Christian Unity, and the Presbyterian General Assembly Special Committee on Churches of Christ Uniting, which he chaired. For fourteen years he served as the editor of Liberation and Unity, a Lenten guide for meditation and study jointly sponsored by the COCU and the AME, AMEZ, and CME churches.
Livingston is also a writer and editor with numerous publications, articles and book chapters to his credit.
Those who watch Livingston preside over meetings know he has a quick mind, a sense of humor and a disarming manner for dealing with group tensions. Those attributes will serve him well in his new office. He will serve as President of the National Council of Churches until the end of December, 2007.
Photo of Michael Livingston by Kathleen Cameron
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