Church Center for the United Nations
by Sue C. Johnson
New York City's First Avenue from the entrance to U .N .headquarters is a row of
office buildings and embassies. Signs along side streets indicate parking is
only for diplomats. Automatic-teller machines flash choices of three and four
languages in which to transact business.
In the midst of this is a building boldly labeled "Church Center."
United Methodist Office for the United Nations is in this building, which faces
the delegates' entrance to the United Nations. The 12-story Church Center for
the United Nations is owned by the Women's Division. It houses Women's Division
and United Methodist Board of Church and Society U.N. offices. Also in the
building are other denominations' U.N. offices and offices of non-profit
organizations that relate to the United Nations.
the first floor is a chapel named for Sadie Wilson Tillman, a former president
of the Woman's Division. From the serenity of the chapel, one is thrust into
activity created by people from a variety of nations.
in the 1960s, the Church Center was in part inspired by local churchwomen. As
Woman's Division work with the United Nations developed and women of the church
studied the international organization, it became clear a home for such work
would be valuable.
a study of the United Nations, North Carolina Conference
women, led by Rachel Holcomb of Mount Airy, N.C., began advocating for a place
near U .N. headquarters where church representatives could meet. Woman's
Division staff had been working toward the same goal.
General Conference action in 1960 moved the idea forward. In describing the work
of the General Board of Christian Social Concerns, the conference agreed:
addition to the general headquarters, there shall be a New York U.N. office
conducted in cooperation with the Woman's Division of Christian Service of the
Board of Missions. In the operation of this office, the Division of Peace and
World Order shall represent the board and shall carry the board' s
responsibility for staffing and budget."
The southwest corner of First Avenue and 44th Street was chosen; two buildings at the site were demolished and the Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN) built:
Financing for the building came
from the Woman's Division through a non-interest bearing loan. Later the Woman's
Division acquired a mortgage on the building and provided additional funding.
The United Methodist Council on World Service and Finance, with the approval of
General Conference, provided $1 million. In 1983, the Women's Division purchased
When the cornerstone of
the Church Center for the United Nations was laid Sept. 23, 1962, excitement
went far beyond the Methodist community. The keynote address was given by the
president of the U.N. 17th General Assembly, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.
Methodist Bishop Kenneth Copeland presided. Woman's Division, Board of Christian
Social Concerns, and National and World Councils of Churches representatives
participated in the ceremony.
A year later at the
Sept. 22, 1963, dedication, U.N. Secretary General U Thant, U .S. Secretary of
State Dean Rusk, and U .S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson
and religious groups with offices at the Church Center for the United Nations
include the Women's Mission Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
Church Women United, Lutheran World Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, the Presbyterian International Office and the General
Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.
Other CCUN tenants are the National Council of Negro Women, Global Information Network, International Women's Tribune Center, NGO Committee on Disarmament, Amnesty International, and Population Communication Office.
The CCUN provides a place for members of the U.N. community to receive the hospitality.
Sue C. Johnson is Women's Division Staff Assigned to Regions based in Nashville