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1998 NCC News Archives


     NEW YORK, Jan. 9 – Passionate, proactive and pragmatic – these are the watchwords of the Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, who on February 1 will take up his new responsibilities as National Council of Churches Deputy General Secretary for National Ministries.

    "I am always asking, 'Now that the conversation is over, what?'," said Dr. Powell, who will give leadership to a diverse array of NCC ministries to the nation including education, advocacy, evangelization and the Bible, all part of the Council's National Ministries Unit.

    "If we are not passionate about our ministry, it will not be as 'contagious' as it ought to be," Dr. Powell said. "We must be proactive. The church can no longer sit passively by and react to crisis situations that develop.

    "And we must be pragmatic, always asking, 'How do we build ministries, change lives, alter conditions, change relationships, create new sustainable communities?' We must be about touching people where they are. We must be an embodiment of Jesus' pronouncement of the Age of Jubilee.

    "That's the direction I would like to see the National Ministries Unit go," he said. "I see the National Ministries Unit as being a ministry to the churches, not to supplant but to help them minister in the best possible way."

    Dr. Powell will come to the NCC from the Washington Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, St. Louis, which he has served as pastor since 1997. Prior to that time, he served several churches in North Carolina. He holds both a divinity degree and a law degree and has received many honors, including the Malcolm X Award for Outstanding Leadership while a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has been active locally in community development, interfaith and ecumenical bodies. He also participates actively in the NCC and the World Council of Churches.

    It is through his service on the WCC Black Church Liaison Committee that many ecumenical leaders came to know Dr. Powell, among them the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, NCC General Secretary. "We are blessed to have Dr. Powell as a Deputy General Secretary for the NCC," Dr. Campbell commented. "He brings to us the energy and commitment of a new generation of ecumenical leaders with experience in the WCC, in the local congregation, with the historic Black churches and now at the NCC."

    "The field is ripe for ecumenicity," Dr. Powell said. "This is the ecumenical age. I see the collaborative efforts people are calling for and how the government, the private sector and others are turning to the churches for answers."

    For example, he said, government is turning to faith-based initiatives to address needs created by welfare reform – including child care, job creation, and job training.

    His varied background along with his ecumenical commitment impressed many who helped bring Dr. Powell on board to the NCC. "We are really looking forward to his work," said the Rev. Dr. Elenora Giddings-Ivory, Director of the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Chair of the NMU Committee. "We feel that he has the background coming out of a local church and being both an attorney and a clergyperson to do the varied work of the National Ministries Unit, which includes women's justice, racial justice and evangelization."

    "He brings the disciplined mind of a trained lawyer and the soul of a preacher" is how Dr. Campbell describes Dr. Powell. NCC leaders also expressed their confidence that Dr. Powell will reach out to build coalitions.

    Coalition-building is among Dr. Powell's passions and gifts. He has served as a catalyst in a model project in St. Louis that has brought together investment bankers such as Coast Partners, architects, engineers, lawyers, and contractors with the St. Louis-based AMEZ Development Corporation to build affordable single-family homes.

    The Land Reutilization Authority has an inventory of vacant properties in blighted areas, he explained, which the coalition targets "for total development, including green spaces and malls. There already are schools and churches."

    People needing the homes are identified through ACORN, and a financial services agency works with them to get mortgages. Two houses are up, and two more are rising, Dr. Powell said.

    Dr. Powell succeeds the Rev. Dr. Mac Charles Jones, who died suddenly March 6, 1997, after serving only four days as the NCC's Deputy General Secretary for National Ministries. Since then, NMU staff have shared the interim leadership of the unit.

    "It is because of Mac that I am taking this job," Dr. Powell said, explaining that he and Mac would often talk together while attending WCC meetings and that Mac actually talked with him when Mac was considering taking the NCC position as head of NMU. "In many ways, Mac prepared me to succeed him, without either of us knowing it at the time," Dr. Powell reflected. Dr. Powell said he also hopes to provide "some degree of continuity with Mac's vision," since he has a good idea of Mac's vision as a result of their friendship.

    "The church has to be a proponent for justice perpetually and to be prophetic, in terms of pointing the way," Dr. Powell asserted.. "We can't just deal with the 'is-ness' or 'was-ness' but also the 'ought-ness.' Not just what is or was but what ought to be."


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