There was a revolving door last month when governing board members of the National Council of Churches (NCC) met in New York. The board elected new leaders for the 1979–1981 triennium, including president M. William Howard. (See box.) But at the same time, it watched the hasty exit of council official Lucius Walker—fired as head of the Division of Church and Society.
The NCC executive committee voted to dismiss Walker on grounds of “fiscal mismanagement”; Walker’s division was $228,000 in the hole at the time of the firing and council financial reserves had to be drawn upon heavily to cover the deficit.
Committee action against Walker took place in a closed-door, three-hour session prior to the governing board meetings, but it touched off a minor controversy and promoted tighter NCC control of agencies’ finances.
Walker had been warned nine months earlier to straighten his financial house; ten division staff members were abruptly dismissed two months ago in a budgetary cutback. At that time Walker, 48, blamed his problems on “belt tightening” by the denominations that fund his programs.
Walker’s explanation had expanded by convention time; he stayed around for the three-day conference and held court with reporters. A black American Baptist pastor with experience in the civil rights movement, Walker said the council had underfunded his division and was guilty of a marked “shift to the right.” Sympathizers said the council was abandoning its concern for racial and justice programs when it dismissed Walker.
Outgoing NCC president William P. Thompson flatly denied those charges in a press conference. “His [Walker’s] problem was in raising adequate funds,” ...1
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