The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches will be led by a woman and American Indian for the first time in its 107-year history, the group announced Monday.
Noya Woodrich, the council’s senior vice president and executive director of the Division of Indian Work, has been appointed president and CEO to succeed the Rev. Gary Reierson, who’s held the position nearly 23 years.
Woodrich is scheduled to take over on July 3, leading the influential Minnesota faith group which has 700 member congregations, 25,000 volunteers and is considered the largest council of churches in North America.
“I am very excited and honored to be selected to continue to grow with the organization that I have spent my career at, one with a strong foundation and history of accomplishments,” Woodrich said in a released statement. “I am looking forward to the challenge of continuing to build on our legacy of service to this community.”
Woodrich, an Athabascan Indian, started out as a volunteer at the Division of Indian Work in 1991 and took over as leader of the division in 2001. Since then, the division’s budget has grown from $1 million to almost $4 million, the council reports.
The council’s board looked at more than 300 candidates to replace Reierson before determining Woodrich was the “best candidate,” according to Simon Foster, chair-elect of the council’s board.
“Her qualities of leadership and authenticity as well as her strong track record and reputation in the community ended up making it a unanimous choice for the search committee,” Foster said in the released statement.
Woodrich is on the adjunct and community faculties of Augsburg College and Metro State University and serves on a number of community committees and boards, including vice chairperson for the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors and on the executive committee for Youth Violence Prevention for Minneapolis.
Reierson announced this past summer he was stepping down from his leadership position with the council to spend more time with his family. He plans to keep teaching at St. John’s University School of Theology Seminary, and will continue serving on a number of boards.
Reierson’s credited with building the council into the biggest organization of its kind in North America. With an $8 million budget, the council helps close to 350,000 people a year through its many programs that assist the needy.