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Chemberlin, Watkins among church leaders
named to White House faith-based panel

Washington, April 6, 2009 The President Elect of the National Council of Churches and the head of one of the NCC's 35 member communions were named today to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches and President Elect of the National Council of Churches USA, and the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), are among the appointees named today by President Obama.

Chemberlin, Watkins and other appointees will serve one-year terms on the panel.

Named earlier to the panel are other church leaders related to NCC member communions: Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

According to a White House statement, the Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships "will be a resource for nonprofit and community organizations, both secular and faith-based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer."

Chemberlin, a Moravian clergywoman was elected President Elect of the National Council of Churches in November 2007. She is automatically slated to become NCC President on January 1, 2010, succeeding Archbishop Vicken Aykazian. She will be the first Minnesotan to serve as national president.  

Chemberlin has led the Minnesota Council for 13 years.  According to Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, the Minnesota Council of Churches is one of the most vibrant and effective state councils of churches in the United States.

Watkins, who preached at the National Prayer Service in the National Cathedral the day after President Obama's inauguration, is general pastor of the 700,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity.

As General Minister and President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the  church's various structures. She strives to help the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remain faithful to God's calling and to do its work effectively and efficiently. She is serving a six-year term that extends through the 2011 General Assembly.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said the 45 million Christians represented by the NCC's member communions "are well served" by the President's appointees to the panel.

"Peg and Sharon have been exemplars of the notion that we are strongest as a nation and as people of faith when we join hands and work together for the common good," Kinnamon said. "Bill Shaw and Vashti McKenzie have also spoken courageously and prophetically about the need to come together to achieve common goals. We commend President Obama for seeing the importance of harnessing the moral and political power of faith-based and neighborhood groups. The slogan, 'Yes, We Can,' only has meaning when we say it together."

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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