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NCC sponsored 'Circles of Names' campaign
will support women's ministries and gender justice

New York, November 25, 2009 -- Mindful of the historic contributions of women leaders in its member communions and concerned about recent cutbacks in gender justice and women's ministries, the National Council of Churches is taking steps to nurture the work.

During the National Council of Churches/Church World Service General Assembly Claire Randall Luncheon in Minneapolis earlier this month, the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, NCC Women’s Ministries Program Director, announced the launch of the “Circles of Names” Campaign to enable donors to support ongoing and future work by honoring women who have made a difference in the church and in individual lives.

“In light of recent cuts to denominational budgets and staff in the areas of women’s ministries and gender justice work,” Tiemeyer said, “now more than ever we need to make visible the broad support for this work in our communions.”   

To encourage and assist the leadership circles in advancing the “Circles of Names” campaign, Honorary Chair of the “Wise Women’s Leadership Circle” Anne Hale Johnson provided a substantial challenge gift to the campaign.  “Her generosity has assisted in rapidly moving us toward our goal of $100,000 and 1,000 names in just 51 days,” Tiemeyer said. “Over the years Anne Hale Johnson, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA,) has provided encouragement and support to many women leaders both in the church and in wider society.”

The “Circles of Names” campaign asks participants to submit the name of a woman who is or has been influential in their faith life, and to contribute $100 in that woman’s honor.

“We have designed the campaign in such a way as to make it possible for most people to participate,” explained Rev. Deborah DeWinter, Director of Donor Relations for the National Council of Churches.  Ten people can all agree on one woman to name and each donate $10.  While pledges and names are due by December 31, 2009, donors have until December 31, 2010 to submit their payments. The names will be displayed on the Circles of Names Web site, www.circlesofnames.org.

"The exciting thing about this campaign is that it is a women's ministry that supports woman's ministries," said DeWinter "Its very structure is symbolic of the management style of women of faith throughout history -- circles of interconnectedness that have enabled women to approach challenges and tasks together."

”Our foremothers in faith met in sewing circles, Bible study circles, mission circles, hospitality circles,” DeWinter added. “We are confident that women of faith will understand this to be a Kairos moment for the future of Women’s Ministries and gender justice work, and see this “Circles of Names” campaign to a successful conclusion.”

"There are probably 100,000 women who should be listed as part of the Circles of Names to honor their past, our work today and into the future—and just about as many creative ways to ensure more than the requested 1,000 are listed," said Jerri C. Rodewald, Co-Chair, Presbyterian Church (USA) Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns and a member of the Wise Women Circle.

In these difficult financial times, not every donor will be able to contribute $100, but women's ministry has always been about partnership, Rodewald said.

"In our 'Safe Circle,' a group of women that gathers within the Presbytery of Riverside, each member has donated 20 dollars and we have been able to name two women for the Circles of Names," she said. "Since, we’re now over $200, we’re re-circulating the request with the hope that with just a few more dollars, we’ll be able to name a third person." 

The campaign, which will run until Dec. 31, 2009, aims to raise $100,000 to build a foundation of support for Women’s Ministries through these $100 donations. 

All funds raised in the “Circles of Names” Campaign will be deposited into the Claire Randall Sustaining Fund which is designated for the support and growth of current programming and staff of NCC Women’s ministries and gender justice work.

A Steering Circle, Staff Circle, and “Wise Women” circle have already committed to naming women and urging their friends and family to do the same.  A circle of 10 high-profile men, the “Joseph Circle,” is also taking the lead in finding the names of the women who are and have been important in our faith lives.  Full lists of these circles can be found online at www.circlesofnames.org/leadership.  Donations can be given before the end of the year 2009, or pledged to be given in 2010.  They can also be made in quarterly donations throughout 2010.

Speaking on behalf of the Joseph Circle, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, said "gender justice is at the heart of the Council, it is central to the mission and ministry of the General Secretary's office, and it is integral among my personal commitments as well. The body of Christ cannot be whole without the full participation of all its members, at every level of leadership to which women and men of all ages have been called."

"The Circles of Names Campaign is an opportunity to again make these circles of support visible to all of us – the whole body of Christ – to see," said Tiemeyer. "For all of us regardless of gender it is critical to remember and to name leaders in the ecumenical movement, in our member communions, in our faith communities and organizations, and in our personal faith lives. The woman who ministered to Jesus – who broke open the jar and poured the ointment before his death – she is remembered.  Yet oddly we do not know her name.  Jesus says she will be 'remembered wherever the good news is proclaimed.'  The good news for all of us – regardless of gender – is that God's love is for us all and God’s love promises us all new life each day."


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org
Luncheon photo by Kathleen Cameron

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