NCC pays tribute to former NCC President Elenie Huszagh

Washington, July 12, 2014 – Elenie Huszagh, a long-time Chicago attorney and prominent lay member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, died July 11.

Huszagh was president of the National Council of Churches from 2002 to 2003. She was the first Orthodox layperson and the first Orthodox woman to serve in the office, and only one of six laypersons to serve as president in the Council’s history.

The office she held has been renamed chair of the NCC Governing Board.

“Elenie stands tall in the gallery of National Council leaders,” said Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the NCC. “She represented the Council during crucial events in world history, including the war in Iraq that began in March 2003. The Council and many other religious groups worked hard to head off the war, and Elenie’s shrewd legal mind and no-nonsense analysis of the situation served us well.”

Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Greek Orthodox Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Chicago, permanent proxy on the board for H.E. Archbishop Demetrios and a long time friend of Elenie Huszagh, said she was “a fine Orthodox Christian, a leader, innovator, and a role model for many. She offered great service to the Greek Orthodox Church in The United States. She was a dear friend and respected colleague.”

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the council’s associate general secretary of Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations said Huszagh’s “deep faith and ecumenical spirit was a uniting factor among the many traditions that compose the council.”

John Paterakis, a prominent Greek Orthodox layman and past vice chair of Church World Service, expressed his personal appreciation for Huszagh’s leadership.

“My service on the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA coincided with Elenie's term of office as President,” Paterakis said. “She was a tremendous support to me in so many ways, as well as a good friend and confidant. May her soul dwell with the blessed, and may her memory be eternal!”

The Rev. John L. McCullough, president and chief executive officer of Church World Service, said “Elenie is beloved, and her memory will be celebrated in the ongoing history of the NCC and CWS. Her considerable leadership, wise counsel, and personal determination enabled the ecumenical movement to prosper. It has been a blessing to share her journey of faith and Christian service.”

Two former presidents of the National Council of Churches also commented on Huszagh’s passing.

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America, the Council’s first Orthodox president from 1990 to 1991, said, “Elenie's contributions to the Orthodox Christian community and to the ecumenical community came from a living faith, a lively intelligence, and a talent to articulate her faith and her knowledge. May Christ who is life and resurrection welcome Elenie as a member of the ‘cloud of witnesses.’”

Kathryn Lohre, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, NCC president from 2012 to 2013, said, “Though I never had the blessed opportunity to meet her I had learned early on that she had left behind very big shoes to fill. I lift up her family, your community, and the ecumenical family in my prayers as we mourn this loss. May God rest her soul."

First appointed as a delegate to the NCC's top governing body in 1979, Huszagh served the Council in many capacities, including recording secretary and president elect.

She served her church in many capacities, giving leadership in the Archdiocesan Council and the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congresses. From 1994 to 1996 she served as a senior adviser to the late Archbishop Iakovos.

Among her many commitments at the diocesan level, she was legal counsel for both the Chicago and the San Francisco Dioceses. In 1996, she was awarded the Medal of St. Paul, the highest honor that the Archdiocese bestows upon a layperson.

Huszagh was a fierce defender of the National Council of Churches.

When she took office as president, she declared, “How often the NCC has been vilified, castigated for being ahead of its time. I think of issues such as relations with mainland China, with the Russian Orthodox Church during the Cold War, with North and South Koreans working for the reunification of Korea ... the list goes on ... situations where we were ‘prophetically correct.’”

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Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell), [email protected]