Tacoma-based Associated Ministries is going through a leadership transition after its board announced that the Rev. Chris Morton is no longer the executive director of the social services organization.
The board announced Morton’s departure Jan. 21. He was in his sixth year leading the faith-based organization.
Following the decision, the board asked Chief Operating Officer Molly Archer to take over as interim director. Board President Chris Gilbert said Monday it could take three to six months to find a permanent replacement.
Gilbert said the decision was mutual, and both the board and Morton acknowledged it was “about us going in two different directions.”
Morton told a reporter Monday evening that he wasn’t prepared to comment at this time.
Gilbert acknowledged the change seems sudden, but said it had been discussed for “quite a while” as Associated Ministries was thinking about its strategic direction.
“Something like this doesn’t happen over night,” he said.
Gilbert said Morton had a positive impact on Associated Ministries, but noted it could improve its focus on congregational partnerships and building on successful community events,such as the annual Hunger Walk.
Gilbert said he believes the change will also benefit Morton.
Morton is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He left the No. 2 job at the Minnesota Council of Churches in 2009 to come to Tacoma and direct Associated Ministries, its budget of $3.7 million and a membership of more than 200 congregations, religious groups and interfaith partners.
He replaced the Rev. David Alger, who retired after nearly 30 years leading the ecumenical organization.
Associated Ministries runs and funds a range of programs including emergency shelter, disaster assistance, training to prevent domestic violence, painting the homes of seniors and people with disabilities, and counseling for people who have lost their homes.
At its meeting this week, the board will appoint a group to help select the new executive director. Gilbert said some local names already have surfaced as potential candidates.
“We’re looking at this as a really exciting opportunity,” he said.
Archer was Morton’s second-in-command during his tenure. She said his departure was surprising, given his track record of building strong community relationships. She said she doesn’t know the whole story behind the decision.
“I think he had done a lot of good things,” Archer said. “I’m not privy to the board’s communications.”
Archer hopes to see a new executive director with significant social service experience who supports marginalized populations and reaches out to faith communities.
“I want us to stay strong as an organization during this interim time,” she said.