African-American human rights activist is new WCC co-president

( [email protected] ) Jun 26, 2004 05:45 PM EDT

Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, the executive minister of the Justice and Witness ministries of the United Church of Christ in the USA, has been elected as World Council of Churches (WCC) president from North America, joining seven co-presidents from other regions. Powell Jackson replaces Rev. Kathryn Bannister of the United Methodist Church.

According to the Council's rules, WCC presidents are traditionally chosen for their widely recognized ecumenical experience and standing; as ex officio members of the Central Committee, their role is to promote ecumenism and interpret the work of the Council, particularly in their respective regions.

“Especially in 2004, as the WCC focuses the Decade to Overcome Violence on the US, I look forward to finding new ways of connecting justice advocacy with ecumenical partners in my work as the WCC president from North America,” said Jackson. “This is a wonderful honour, an exciting challenge and an opportunity to share the ecumenical vision of the WCC in our world today.”

Following Bannister’s resignation from the WCC co-presidency for personal reasons, the Board of the US Conference for the WCC recommended Powell Jackson for the position; the Executive Committee endorsed the nomination at its meeting last February, and the Central Committee elected Powell Jackson via a postal vote.

A member of the WCC Central Committee since 1998, Powell Jackson is the spokesperson for this year’s WCC Decade to Overcome Violence focus on the US. An activist on behalf of civil, women’s and human rights around the world for more than a quarter of a century, she serves as one of the five officers of the United Church of Christ, and is mandated to work on a wide range of justice issues confronting the church and the world.

Powell Jackson was formerly executive director of her 1.3 million member denomination's Commission for Racial Justice and, prior to that, executive associate to the church's president. She served for three years as the director of the Bishop Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund, and was also on the staff of New York governor Hugh Carey, and on the communications staff of the National Urban League.

Born and raised in Washington DC, Powell Jackson lived for nearly 20 years in New York City. She relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1990 along with the national offices of the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, holds master’s degrees from the Columbia University School of Journalism and Union Theological Seminary, and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Defiance College in 1994. She is married to Dr Franklyn Jackson, a retired school administrator.

The other WCC presidents, elected in 1998 at the WCC's eighth assembly in Harare, are: Dr Agnes Abuom (Anglican Church of Kenya), Bishop Jabez Bryce (Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia), Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Ephesus (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople [Turkey]), Dr Moon Kyu Kang (Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea), Bishop Federico J. Pagura (Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina), Bishop Eberhardt Renz (Evangelical Church in Germany), and Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East).