National Council of Churches honors Marge Christie for leadership in women's ministry

June 15, 2011

Episcopal lay leader Marge Christie was one of three women honored June 14 at a National Council of Churches "Circles of Names" gathering in New York highlighting women's leadership in faith communities and raising funds for the council's Women's Ministries program.

"There are many who can honor Marge solely for her life's work in the Episcopal Church," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a letter read by her canon, the Rev. Chuck Robertson. She noted Christie's 40 years as a deputy to convention in the Diocese of Newark, 12 terms as deputy or alternate deputy to General Convention, her efforts to achieve women's ordination in the Episcopal Church and her work in founding Anglican Women's Empowerment as well as her ecumenical efforts.

"Marge names herself a full-time volunteer. In that sense, she has given untold hours of unpaid overtime," the presiding bishop's letter said. "Marge has lived fully into her baptismal covenant."

United Methodist Deaconess Joanne Reich recounted how Christie approached her after she attended her first NCC Justice for Women Working Group meeting and told her: "I think it would be wonderful if you would like to step into some leadership capacities with me on this journey."

She ended up co-chairing the group with Christie, Reich said in a recorded message to the gathering at the Interchurch Center on Riverside Drive. "Marge is a wonderful mentor, a wonderful friend and a wonderful woman of faith."

The NCC Women's Ministries' Circles of Names Campaign aims to raise $100,000 by June 30 in $100 pledges from 1,000 people naming women who inspired them in their faith lives. Funds raised will go to the Claire Randall Sustaining Fund to support women's ministries and gender-justice work. Randall served as the first female general secretary of the NCC from 1974 to 1984.

Other "circles" award ceremonies are being held around the country. Another Episcopal woman honored at Cleveland's gathering – the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral there – called Christie "her strongest mentor," Jefferts Schori wrote, noting that Christie always "had her eye on the next generation of women in the vineyard."

At January's diocesan convention, she added, Christie withdrew her name during the election for General Convention deputies to let her granddaughter, Caroline, be elected, "thereby carrying on the torch of leadership."

Christie will serve as an alternate to the convention in Indianapolis in 2012.

"I'm a very blessed person," Christie told the gathering. "It is such an honor for me to receive this commendation on years of service that have been, in reality, an honor and a reward for me in and of themselves."

Also honored June 14 were Louis McCullough Dauway, who has served multiple roles in the United Methodist Church as well as the NCC and World Council of Churches, and Presbyterian Peggy Shriver, former NCC executive secretary.

The NCC website (http://http://circlesofnames.org//) lists nearly 700 women already named through the campaign, from historical figures such as Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman to current ones such as author Karen Armstrong. Among Episcopalians on the list so far are the current House of Deputies president, Bonnie Anderson, and one of her predecessors, Pamela Chinnis; Jefferts Schori; the Rev. Dorothy Austin, Harvard University chaplain; retired Washington Bishop Suffragan Jane Dixon; retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris; Executive Council member Martha Gardner; Canon Margaret Larom, former Episcopal Church Advocacy Center director; and Margaret Rose, co-director of the Episcopal Church's Mission Center.