The National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) will confer its President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership to Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) central committee.
The honour, to be bestowed on 14 October at this year’s NCC’s Christian Unity Gathering (CUG), recognizes Abuom’s leadership in the WCC. It is, says NCC President Jim Winkler, “a way to reward, promote, and encourage faithful, risk-taking leadership among faith leaders.”
“We can think of no better recipient than Dr Abuom,” Winkler said. “We are grateful for her Christian witness and her magnificent leadership as moderator of the WCC central committee.”
A perennial voice against US racism, the National Council of Churches in 2018 launched a new, congregationally oriented programme, “A.C.T. Now to End Racism,” to “Awaken, Confront, Transform” racism in the US. Abuom marched in its inaugural procession and addressed its rally in Washington, D.C, in April 2018.
Abuom was unanimously elected moderator in 2013 at the WCC’s 10th Assembly, held in Busan, Republic of Korea, having previously served, on behalf of the Anglican Church of Kenya, as an executive committee member and as Africa president (1999-2006).
She has been involved in the ecumenical movement for more than 40 years.
The first woman and the first African to serve as WCC moderator, Abuom has been visible and audible in the US in the role, leading a Solidarity Visit in 2016 by the churches to the USA, visiting four sites of racially tinged violence. She has consistently championed women’s rights, encouraging leadership by women and drawing attention to what she calls the epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence in today’s world. Recently, she has also sounded the alarm over the deterioration of democratic institutions, assailed by populist nationalism and xenophobia.
A Kenyan native, Abuom holds a doctorate in religion and development and heads a consulting firm. Her career has pioneered in advising religious organizations, NGOs and governments on their management systems, development projects and peace-making, often working with both Christian and Muslim partners and particularly in East Africa.
Apart from her work with the WCC, she has been associated with the All Africa Conference of Churches, National Council of Churches of Kenya and WCC member churches in Africa, as well as Religions for Peace.
In 2017 she was awarded the Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism by the Archbishop of Canterbury "for her exceptional contribution to the Ecumenical Movement.”
Writing recently of the situation in the US, Abuom has said, “As a leader in the worldwide fellowship of Christian churches, and as one who constantly works in conflict zones, I know that racism affects every region and age. And I know that its close cousins—religious and gender violence—can engender delusions about others, so that misunderstandings are spun into myths and hardened into prejudice and hatred. I know that they can then become enflamed by demagogic rhetoric and systematized into patterns of segregation, unjust policies enforced by law and jurisprudence. They can distort and even threaten the survival of democracy itself….”
Continuing, she wrote, “In this perennial, titanic struggle of truth and justice against falsity and oppression, Christians have a redemptive role to play. In our private lives and our communities, we can offer healing and comfort to those traumatized by abuse or violence. We can seek out and extend friendship and fellowship to all, especially those who are sidelined by racial, economic, and gender inequality. In our public discourse, in our preaching, and in our activism and advocacy, we can remind everyone of America’s historic commitment to the biblically rooted vision of justice.”