McCullough re-elected to head global humanitarian agency

January 6, 2012

Rev. John L. McCullough

Rev. John L. McCullough

NEW YORK – Church World Service begins 2012 with the Rev. John L. McCullough re-elected to lead the global humanitarian agency as executive director and CEO for four more years.

Over the last four years, McCullough, who has led the agency since 2000, initiated a sweeping vision that challenges CWS to “dramatically expand its capacity and its impact in the fight to end hunger and poverty.”

The new vision, called CWS 2020, empowers CWS – already a significant presence among hunger fighting agencies – to intensely focus on hunger and nutrition in its work with grassroots organizations in the United States and several regions of the world.

In recent years the agency has operated in an environment McCullough describes as “volatile”, where major disasters, threatened budget cuts, huge numbers of displaced people, a collapsed economy and rising food prices throughout the world pulled the agency in many directions.

“We responded where we were needed during those times of widespread crisis, which included the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami in Japan, the drought in the Horn of Africa, flooding in Pakistan, severe storms in the U.S. and massive displacement of people. Now we intensify our focus on hunger and nutrition so that we will have an even greater impact in our work with the most vulnerable.”

With hunger as its key focus, CWS – which celebrated 65 years of service in 2011 – partners with grassroots organizations in vulnerable communities throughout the world to address both the immediate and the underlying causes of hunger.  The agency’s global development programs, ranging from systems to improve access to safe water to agricultural co-ops to insure adequate supplies of nutritious food in vulnerable communities, are designed so that local communities are able to manage and sustain them independently.

McCullough also has led CWS’s advocacy efforts around issues ranging from immigration reform and climate change to proposed U.S. budget cuts for domestic programs and foreign aid.

As lawmakers continue to wrangle over the budget, McCullough says he has wrestled with the question of whether the global community is on the verge of a new feudalism:

“When so few control so much and so many have so little, how can we not acknowledge the enormity of the gap and feel our own impoverishment. Are we more than just witnesses to the emergence of a new social, political, and economic order – an intentional triangulation resulting in the scaling back of the middle class, and a dramatic expansion and dependency of the poor? Could we, years from now, be accused of being complicit in the emerging of a new social pyramid?”

There is no justification, McCullough adds, for 400 million hungry children in the world and millions more left undernourished. I find no satisfactory explanation for why urban refugees now form the largest migration in cities on every continent – already some 36 million desperate for jobs, security, and stability. And I am more than perturbed that we allow people, especially women and the girl child to be disregarded, disempowered, abused, and used.”

McCullough believes the CWS 2020 exercise in self-examination and reflection by the agency’s 37 member denominations, its staff and its global partners has helped the CWS emerge as an stronger entity, reaffirmed in its commitment to eradicate hunger and poverty.

“The world has changed from what it was when CWS began working 65 years ago and our work has evolved in response to the world we live in,” says McCullough. “We now have a bigger job than ever in terms of the challenges facing the hungry and the poor in the U.S. and abroad.  CWS stands confident and poised to respond in the best tradition of the church, which sees need and stays the course until that need is met.”

CWS is a global relief, development and refugee assistance agency supported by 37 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations in the United States and by private donations.  The agency sponsors more than 1500 CWS CROP Hunger Walks each year in communities across the U.S., which raise millions of dollars to support domestic and global hunger-fighting programs.