National Council of Churches
remembers Bob Edgar
April 23, 2013 – National Council of Churches leaders and staff expressed
shock and sadness today at the sudden death of the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, who
served as NCC general secretary from 2000 to 2007.
NCC President Kathryn Lohre expressed the council’s condolences to Edgar’s
family and many friends.
“He is universally remembered as a man of tireless commitment and boundless
energy,” Lohre said. “We are finding it difficult to grasp the sudden loss
of this fine church leader.”
Edgar, a former six-term member of Congress and Claremont School of Theology
president, left the Council in 2007 to take the reins of leadership of
Common Cause, the citizen’s advocacy group.
“He was a superb communicator of the moral perspective the churches could
bring to critical issues in our society,” said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC
associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations.
Kireopoulos worked closely with Edgar and traveled widely with him,
including to areas of Indonesia flooded by the devastating tsunami of 2004.
“He liked to summarize the urgent ministries of the Council in a single
sentence: ‘Peace, Poverty, Planet Earth,” Kireopoulos said.
Cassandra Carmichael, who Edgar brought to the NCC’s Washington office to
direct the eco-justice program, remembered Edgar as a tireless proponent of
“There was no greater advocate for persons living in poverty or facing
discrimination of any kind,” Carmichael said. “He was fully committed to
eliminating the causes of climate change, and he thought of this planet as
God’s magnificent creation.”
The Edgar years at the NCC were filled with challenges that included the
terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the War in Iraq, the acceleration of
global warming, tsunamis and earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, and crushing
worldwide poverty and human rights abuses.
The first challenge Edgar faced as general secretary was the international
debate over a Cuban child, Elian Gonzalez, to decide whether the boy should
be permitted to live with relatives in Miami, or with his father and
grandmothers in Cuba. Citing humanitarian reasons, Edgar said Elian should
be returned to the custody of his father in Cuba. The NCC and the Cuban
Council of Churches proposed to serve as intermediaries to facilitate the
boy's return home.
In addition, Edgar's first days on the job in 2000 were consumed by a
crippling financial crisis in the NCC that challenged all the skills he had
honed as a community organizer, member of Congress, and seminary president.
He brought to his job a prodigious appetite for hard work, an informal
style, and a lifelong commitment to the goals of peace, justice and the
relief of human suffering. If he felt the stress of the job, he rarely
showed it and he often deflected it with a lighthearted joke and
occasionally – as his colleagues recalled fondly today– a painful pun.
At the end of his eight-year tenure, the financial emergency had ebbed but
the conditions that caused it – including the financial exigency of many of
the NCC's contributing communions – were still in place.
Perhaps his most useful bequest to his NCC successors, colleagues recalled,
was a buoyant Christian faith that is contagious enough to infect others
with a joyous optimism for whatever the future holds.
When Edgar departed the NCC in 2007, the Council posted this retrospective
of his career: http://www.ncccusa.org/bobedgar/
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of
the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for
shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's
37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican,
Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace
churches -- include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local
congregations in communities across the nation.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell),