President-Elect Obama invites head of Disciples of Christ to preach

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2009 — President-Elect Obama has invited the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins to preach at the National Prayer Service in the National Cathedral on January 21.
    Watkins is General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and an active member of the National Council of Churches Governing Board.
    “The President-Elect has chosen a preacher with exceptional skill and theological insight,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the NCC, also a Disciples minister. “She speaks out of a deep personal faith commitment and with profound respect for the views of others, which is the historic stance of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I’m sure she’ll sound just the right note to bring people of faith together at this crucial moment in history.”
    The National Prayer Service will be attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden, high ranking members of the legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as clergy and laypersons from a wide range of communions and traditions.
    Watkins is the first woman selected to preach at the service.
    As General Minister, Watkins is general pastor of the 700,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity.
    As General President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the church’s various structures. She strives to help the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remain faithful to God’s calling and to do its work effectively and efficiently. She is serving a six-year term that extends through the 2011 General Assembly.
    Dr. Watkins is regarded in the ecumenical world as a “head of communion” and as the chief representative of the church in national and world ecumenical councils. Disciples often speak of the GMP as the Disciples’ primary leader.


    Dr. Watkins has an extensive background of service both in this country and abroad. She is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, and serves on the WCC’s Permanent Committee for Consensus and Collaboration. In 2006, she was a representative at the World Council’s General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
    She served for two years as a missionary in the Congo, working on adult literacy programs early in her professional career. In 2008, she returned to the Congo, renewing her ties with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo there. In 2007, she visited several Middle East countries, focusing specifically on the plight of Iraqi refugees.
    She serves on the National Council of Church’s governing board, based in New York City. Dr. Watkins also is a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington, D.C. based group which seeks to build a movement that puts faith to work for justice.
    She is former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla. where she served for eight years. In the academic world, she held positions as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice-President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the Church’s General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group, which looks, in part, at the traditions and history of the Disciples. She also served as pastor of Boone Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Boone Grove, Ind., and Assistant Minister at Spring Glen Church (United Church of Christ) in Hamden, Conn.
    Dr. Watkins has been engaged in a number of ecumenical discussions, conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study and women in the ministry. She also has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocation, history, theology and practices of worship as well as spiritual dimensions.
    She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s Degree in French and Economics from Butler University. In 2007, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Phillips Theological Seminary.
    She is married to the Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Lowery, Interim Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. They have two children, Bethany and Christopher.

NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, [email protected]

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