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National Council of Churches head to speak at Bethel College

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- A year after the deadly earthquake and tsunami in southeast Asia and months after two hurricanes ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States, a church official will speak at Bethel College on natural and "un-natural" disasters. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, will give the second Peace Lecture of 2005-06, sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR). Edgar will speak on "Lessons from the Gulf: How can we prevent un-natural disasters?" on Monday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium on the Bethel College campus. His presentation is free and open to the public.

Edgar took office as NCC general secretary on Jan. 1, 2000, when the NCC was marking its 50th year. Under his leadership, the NCC has refocused its energies on two major initiatives: a 10-year domestic Mobilization to Overcome Poverty and an exploration of an expanded ecumenical vision for the new millennium, a discussion that includes Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the NCC’s 36 Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant communions. Environmental protection, interfaith understanding and international peace have also become strong emphases of the NCC since Edgar took office.

Before coming to the NCC, Edgar was president of Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology, 1990-2000. He took the helm of a school on the brink of collapse and helped restore it to institutional health. Edgar is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has held pastorates in Methodist congregations as well as served as a teacher, college chaplain, community organizer and director of a think tank on national security issues.

Edgar served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1974-87. He was the first Democrat in more than 120 years to represent the heavily Republican 7th District in Pennsylvania. During his tenure, he led efforts to improve public transportation, supported environmental goals (including fighting wasteful water projects and authoring the community right to know provisions of the Superfund legislation) and was a member of the Select Committee on Assassinations investigating the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a believer in term limits, Edgar voluntarily stepped down from his Congressional seat in 1987.

Edgar is a graduate of Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and the Theological School of Drew University in Madison, N.J. He holds four honorary doctorates. He serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Coalition for Health Care, Common Cause and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. He is also on the board of directors of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, an independent, nonprofit organization that is a principal resource for Congress on environmental and energy issues.

Edgar’s participation in the KIPCOR Peace Lecture series is made possible in part by the Peace with Justice Task Force, Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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