I share this press release about my coming departure from the National Council of Churches with a sense of deep gratitude for the opportunity I have had to work with you to end poverty. I see my new work at Interfaith Worker Justice as an extension of this work and hope that you will be, or already are, an ally of IWJ in the ministry of good work and fair pay for the people of God.
Shantha Ready Alonso, who has worked with the Poverty Initiative for two years as an advocacy and outreach specialist will carry our work forward as Interim Poverty Initiative Coordinator starting at the beginning of September. You can click here to read her bio and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace and Peace,
Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
The NCC Poverty Initiative’s role in raising the awareness and will of Christians to act to reduce poverty is more crucial than ever. Please consider how God might be calling you and your church to join together with the NCC in the work to end poverty. May our voices grow louder and stronger as we amplify God’s call for justice and righteousness.
LIVINGSTON TO LEAVE NCC STAFF TO WORK FOR INTERFAITH WORKER JUSTICE
Washington, August 14, 2012 – The Rev. Michael Livingston, a former president of the National Council of Churches and now leader of the Council’s Poverty Initiative, has resigned that position effective August 31.
Livingston said he will be joining the staff of Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago based group that mobilizes persons of faith to support economic justice and worker rights at the local, state and national levels.
“Words are insufficient to the task of conveying my deep appreciation for the opportunity to labor among the people of God in the several forms of ministry through which it has been my joy and honor to serve,” Livingston said in a letter to NCC President Kathryn Lohre and NCC Transitional General Secretary Peg Birk.
“Michael has been an invaluable addition to the public witness work that we have done on behalf of vulnerable populations,” said Cassandra Carmichael, Director of the NCC Washington Office. “I know that his passion and expertise will be a continued blessing for those living in poverty as he transitions to his new role with Interfaith Worker Justice.”
“I have been especially blessed by the work of our Poverty Initiative and the effort to lift the concerns of the most vulnerable among us in the halls of power and in the hearts of the people of our member communions,” Livingston said. “I pray this work will continue and be strengthened as a priority of the Council.”
As director of the Poverty Initiative, Livingston worked on many fronts to keep the issue of poverty before the public.
In July 2011, he was one of a dozen leaders from the faith community who were arrested for kneeling to pray in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol to call attention to Congressional efforts to slash the budgets of essential poverty programs.
“Congress is paralyzed by toxic partisan politics while people suffer,” Livingston said at the time. “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad. Our faith won’t allow us to passively watch this travesty unfold. We’ve written letters, talked with and prayed for our elected officials, and prayed together daily in interreligious community. Today, we ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to say to congress ‘Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty.’”
Last March Livingston joined farm workers in a Lenten fast in Florida to put pressure on the Publix corporation to join the Fair Food Campaign to raise the wages of the workers and to dramatically improve deplorable working conditions in the fields.
“I do not regard this fast as a hardship on my part,” Livingston said in a message to NCC communions and congregations. “By God’s grace I can offer the luxury of my time to brothers and sisters whose humanity I value as much as my own. I count it a privilege, as the season of Lent begins, to, as Paul asks of us in Romans 12:1: ‘present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.'”
Livingston, who also served as executive director of the International Council of Community Churches, served the NCC as a board member, officer and staff for nearly twelve years.
As NCC President from 2006 to 2007, Livingston traveled to the Middle East and other world trouble spots to represent the council’s witness for peace and justice. Last May, he represented the National Council of Churches on an interfaith delegation to Vietnam to study the residual effects of the defoliant Agent Orange used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
Livingston served as President-Elect of the NCC from 2004 until the end of 2005 and he has been a member of the NCC’s Governing Board and General Assembly since 1999. In 2003 he was a member of the NCC’s Peace Delegation to Paris that attempted to delay or prevent the war in Iraq.
Livingston was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) on July 27, 1975 and he has been a member of the New Brunswick, N.J., Presbytery since 1985. He was pastor of Presbyterian churches in Los Angeles and New York until 1985 when he returned to his alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, as director of admissions and later as campus pastor and director of the chapel.
He served from 1999 to 2010 as executive director of the International Council of Community Churches, headquartered in Frankfort, Ill. The ICCC describes itself as a “fellowship of ecumenically-minded, freedom-loving churches cooperating in fulfilling the mission of the Church in the world.”
Like many members of Baby Boom generation, Livingston entered college with a desire to serve people in a just cause. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1971 before switching his emphasis to theology at the Princeton seminary. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1974 and a masters in theology in Pastoral Care and Counseling that was awarded in 1991.
His other ecumenical responsibilities have included the U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches, the editorial board of Liberation and Unity, the National Workshop on Christian Unity, and the Presbyterian General Assembly Special Committee on Churches of Christ Uniting, which he chaired. For fourteen years he served as the editor of Liberation and Unity, a Lenten guide for meditation and study jointly sponsored by the COCU and the AME, AMEZ, and CME churches.
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.