JACKSON, Miss. -- Bishop Thomas J. Hoyt Jr. was inaugurated as the new president of the National Council of Churches during its 2003 annual General Assembly, Nov.4- 6. Hoyt and the four other new members of the executive committee, slated to begin their two-year terms beginning 2004, were celebrated at the close of the General Assembly at the Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, Miss.
Prior to his new position, Hoyt served the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church as the bishop over Mississippi and Louisiana. Bishop Hoyt takes up his responsibility as president at a time when the NCC is engaged in a multi-year Poverty Mobilization, and has said he will encourage the churches to put “feet” under this effort. As one of the many components of the Mobilization, the NCC has challenged federal priorities in which military spending far outstrips spending for constructive social purposes.
A leading opponent of the Iraq War, the Council has warned that the war would be hardest on people already in poverty, whose limited access to quality health care, education and other necessities of life would drop to even lower levels. The Mobilization lifts up best practices in the struggle against poverty, works to change common wisdom about the inevitability of poverty, and includes partnerships with many anti-poverty organizations for collaboration in education, advocacy and service.
Hoyt also supports the Council’s high-profile environmental efforts, which take seriously the responsibility that lies with people of faith to be stewards of God’s creation. And he lifts up the value of the Council’s program for better interfaith relations, particularly its work toward better Christian-Muslim understanding. “The stereotypes that too many Americans hold about Muslims have become even more troublesome after September 11,” he says, and need to be countered with education and dialogue.
Hoyt, in emphasizing increased interreligious communication and understanding, also serves as the vice-chair on the National Board of Directors of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), an organization formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which works for understanding and respect among all races, religions and cultures.
At the close of the inauguration service, Hoyt reiterated his promise to "speak truth and righteousness in this land.
"We have great opportunities to do wonderful things for the people of God,” Hoyt continued.
The other members installed during the assembly include: The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, United Methodist Church as the General Secretary; Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. as the Vice President at Large; The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Lee, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as the Second Vice President at Large, Ms Clare J. Chapman, United Methodist Church, as the Vice President for Administration and Finance; Betty Voskuil, Reformed Church in America, as the Vice President for Church World Service; and Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Orthodox Church, as the Secretary.