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The Reverend Dr. Robert Edgar is general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the leading U.S. organization in the movement for Christian unity. Thirty-five Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historically African-American and peace communions, to which approximately 45 million congregants belong, work together in the Council to promote unity and to serve churches and people worldwide.
Dr. Edgar took office January 1, 2000, at a time of great opportunity, as the 50-year-old Council began to reshape its life and mission. Under his leadership, the Council is focusing its energies on major initiatives in the areas of overcoming poverty, protecting the environment, fostering interfaith understanding, and building international peace.
An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Edgar came to the Council from Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California, where he was president from 1990-2000. During that decade, he brought a school on the brink of collapse back to institutional health, confirming his reputation as an optimist, a futurist, and a coalition builder who enjoys meeting a challenge.
Dr. Edgar is well known for his service as a six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was the first Democrat in more than 120 years to be elected from the heavily Republican Seventh District of Pennsylvania. His election and service demonstrated the bipartisan, ecumenical quality that has marked his whole life and ministry.
Serving in Congress from 1974 to 1987, he led efforts to improve public transportation, authored the community Right to Know provisions of Super Fund legislation, co-authored the new GI bill for the all-volunteer service, fought wasteful water projects and supported environmental goals. Among other appointments, he served as chair of the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future (1982-86) and as a member of the Select Committee on Assassinations (1976-78) that investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy. In 1987, true to his belief in term limits, he voluntarily stepped down from office.
His wide-ranging career has also included pastorates at United Methodist congregations and stints as a teacher, college chaplain, community organizer, and director of a “think tank” on national security issues.
Dr. Edgar received a bachelor of arts degree from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa., and a master of divinity degree from the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, N.J. He holds four honorary doctoral degrees.