The rector of St. Paul’s School, Bishop Craig Anderson, was named president of the National Council of Churches yesterday at the Washington national Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
The position is the highest unsalaried leadership position in the council, which represents 52 million Christians of 34 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations. His two-year term will start on Jan. 1, and he is eager to guide the organization into the 21st century and continue its efforts to end religious, racist and sexual repression.
“It seems to me that all the signs and conditions are right for a new vision, to step out boldly,” he said.
Anderson, who became the 11th rector of St. Paul’s School in July, has served on the National Council of Churches general assembly for nine years, the last two as president-elect.
He said his latest position won’t steal time away from his work at St. Paul’s.
“My day job is clearly being the director of St. Paul’s School and that’s where I’m going to be spending my time,” he said.
He said his position may also help Concord’s and New Hampshire’s profile by bringing more people from the National Council of Churches to the city and state. For instance, he’s trying to bring the heads of the 34 churches to Concord next year for a meeting of minds.
As president, he will guide the 270-member general assembly, which elected him two years ago, according to National Council of Churches spokeswoman Carol Fouke. He will head up the 30-member executive committee that monitor’s the group’s relief work and legislative action, among other things.
“I have a strong belief in the NCC as a body that needs to be strengthened in an increasingly secular and pluralistic age,” Anderson said. “If we did not have a strong NCC, then we would have to invent one because the world is looking for a Christian witness that transcends parochialism and is not interested simply in institutional survival.” He hopes to continue efforts like the Burned Churches Fund, which raised $8 million to rebuild churches in the wake of a number of national arsons in 1995 and 1996.
Anderson called the Burned Churches Fund “one of the best examples in recent years of the NCC having a clear sense of purpose and not being apologetic about our work identifying and responding to injustice.”
He added, “How do we take a project like the Burned Churches Fund, communicate that it is emblematic of who and what we are, then talk about our other important ministries, like the work we do in advocacy, Bible translation and world relief?”
And he wants the voice of the council to be its own.
“We need to do a better job in the NCC of allowing theology to inform public policy,” he said. “We should not allow the voice of mainline churches to be co-opted by undue influence from those religious bodies aligned with the religious right, nor should the NCC be dominated by special interest or pressure groups.
Also yesterday, for the first time by any member of the National Council of Churches, Anderson “Brought greetings” to some 300 Roman Catholic bishops, who were also meeting in Washington.
He hoped their meeting would signal that “we can work together in the future on issues that have national significance.”
Matthew T. Hall
Concord Monitor Thursday, November 13, 1997