NCC Honors Kalustian With ‘Award of Excellence’


James Kalustian

James Kalustian

MINNEAPOLIS — Deacon James Kalustian was one of the four “Award of Excellence” winners at this year’s National Council of Churches general assembly.

A member of the Armenian Church’s Supreme Spiritual Council and the Eastern Diocese’s Diocesan Council, as well as serving as a deacon at Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge, Mass., Kalustian was presented with the award during a dinner ceremony in Minneapolis, Minn., where the NCC held its annual gathering November 11-13.

According to the National Council of Churches, the “Award of Excellence” recognizes individuals who have advanced the ecumenical movement, met human needs, advocated for peace and justice, or provided a strong “prophetic voice” in the Christian community. Kalustian has the distinction of being the first Armenian to be so awarded.

Kalustian is active in the spiritual, cultural and philanthropic life of the Armenian Church, which he has represented at regional, national and international ecumenical meetings. Alongside his service on the highest governing bodies of the worldwide Armenian Church and its Eastern Diocese, he is the president of Boston’s Armenian Heritage Foundation.

Other 2009 “Award of Excellence” recipients were Joan Leof, who coordinates an anti-racism project of the United Church of Christ; and Rev. Katherine Austin Mahle, a longtime leader of Minnesota’s ecumenical community. The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches also received the award as an organization that has battled poverty in its home state for five decades.

“Once a year we give these awards to people who have contributed to their church and to the ecumenical movement,” explained Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and the current president of the NCC, who will complete his two-year term at the end of this year. “I think it’s a great honor to have an Armenian chosen as an award winner, and I believe that Jim Kalustian, who is very much involved in the Armenian Church and dedicated to his faith, was completely deserving of this award.”

“I was obviously flattered to be honored by the NCC,” said Kalustian about receiving notice that he had been selected to win the award. “However, the significance of the recognition is more important to me as a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church than as an individual.”

For the Very Rev. Aren Jebejian, pastor of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Chicago, the highlight of the NCC assembly was seeing Kalustian receive the award. “Jim is the first Armenian in the history of the NCC to receive an award and be recognized,” he said. Jebejian has been a delegate to the NCC for the past 10 years.

Kalustian urges fellow Armenian Christians to engage in the ecumenical movement. “We, as Armenian-American Christians, need to make our voices heard and thereby have an impact through the ecumenical movement on important social and political issues. Not just those that are important to the Armenian Church — such as the integrity of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem, recognition of the Genocide and the plight of the Armenian Church in Georgia, but also issues of broader social and religious consequence, such as human rights in Somalia and Rwanda, and the plight of Christians in general in the Holy Land.”