CWS and NCC Honor Ecumenical Leaders at General Assembly


INNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Individuals and agencies that have given outstanding service to the ecumenical movement in the United States and around the world were honored tonight at the 2009 General Assembly of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS).

The annual J. Irwin Miller Award was bestowed upon Lois Dauway, interim deputy general secretary for mission and evangelism of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Dauway, who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to racial and gender inclusiveness in the church and larger society, serves the ecumenical community in many capacities, including as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

Saying the ecumenical movement made her “nimble,” Dauway recounted her experience “dodging rocks” while working in the Boston school system and then dodging the “barbs and iniquities” directed at social movements.

The award is in tribute to the memory of J. Irwin Miller, the first layman to serve as president of the NCC.

NCC and CWS celebrated recipients of the honors at a dinner ceremony during their joint General Assembly in Minneapolis.

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Rev. Dr. Lewis S. Mudge, who died in September at the age of 80, was honored posthumously with the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Award, given to a clergy person whose life and work have significantly advanced the cause of unity among churches in the United States and internationally. Mudge edited or authored 12 books, including One Church: Catholic and Reformed (1963), The Crumbling Walls (1970), The Sense of a People (1992), The Church as Moral Community (1998), Rethinking the Beloved Community (2001) and The Gift of Responsibility (2008).

The Eugene Carson Blake Award, given this year for the first time on the centennial of Blake’s birth, commemorates this former president of the National Council of Churches (1954), founder of the Consultation of Church Union (1960) and former general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who exemplified modern ecumenism.

Honoree David A. Leslie has effectively led Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO), a statewide association of more than 100 denominations, congregations and faith-based community ministries, for more than a decade.

Leslie said it was an “honor to be able to serve” the ecumenical movement as a layperson and that the movement leads to “places where we discover our passion and gifts we didn’t know we had.”

Under his leadership EMO has established itself as a respected source for theological dialogue, a reliable provider of community-based services and a vigorous advocate for those in need.

Leslie, said his father, a Presbyterian minister, heard Eugene Carson Blake, whom the award is named for, when he was a young man, and that Blake’s words “inspired him to action.”

There were four honorees for the Assembly’s 2009 Award of Excellence, which recognizes individuals whose life and work demonstrate extraordinary achievement in furthering the ecumenical movement, meeting human needs, advocating for peace and justice, and/or providing a strong prophetic voice in the Christian community.

The first honoree, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, has battled poverty in Minnesota for more than five decades. GMCC operates a successful family of social service programs and recruits support across denominational lines to help struggling Minnesota families remain self-reliant. It is the largest council of churches in the nation and the largest direct-service volunteer organization in the state.

Also receiving the Award of Excellence was Deacon James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, which brings together various church communities. Kalustian is actively involved in the spiritual, cultural and philanthropic life of the Armenian Church in America, which he has represented at regional, national and international ecumenical meetings. Kalustian presently serves on the Supreme Religious Council, the highest governing body of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Award of Excellence recipient Joan Leof, a long-time Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk supporter, has made a concerted effort to engage both the Jewish and Muslim communities of Rochester in the planning and leadership for the Walk. With a tireless commitment to promoting peace and justice locally and globally, Leof, a member of Peace United Church of Christ, serves as a lead coordinator in the congregation’s Sacred Conversation on Race, an anti-racism project of the United Church of Christ.

Rev. Katherine Austin Mahle, a leader in Minnesota’s ecumenical community for more than two decades, also was honored with the Award of Excellence. Mahle, who has been involved with both the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), now serves on the Minnesota Church Foundation. Incoming NCC president, Rev. Peg Chemberlin, says of Mahle, “In the hardest times Kathi has carried forward a hopeful spirit, a spirit that believes ecumenism is one of God’s most important agendas for the church and her witness has strengthened me more often than she will ever know.”

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