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Christian Churches Together
Formation of Christian Churches Together celebrated
Christian Churches Together (CCT), the most diverse ongoing ecumenical forum in the U.S., draws together 36 Christian bodies (coming from five Catholic, racial/ ethnic, Orthodox, Pentecostal / evangelical, and historic Protestan families, plus four national organizations). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a provisional member. Meditate on the nature of CCT's makeup by spending time looking at the movement found in the banner to its web site.
CCT's two basic commitment areas for the period ahead are evangelism and fighting poverty. It lists several general tasks in its by-laws:
celebrate a common confession of faith in the Triune God
discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and theological dialogue
provide fellowship and mutual support
seek better understanding of each other by affirming our commonalities and understanding our differences
foster evangelism faithful to the proclamation of the gospel
speak to society with a common voice whenever possible
- promote the common good of society and engage in other activities consistent with its purposes
CCT selects Hamm as its executive administrator
CCT's steering committee in May named Richard L. Hamm its executive administrator, its first full-time staff, beginning on August 1. Hamm was formerly the general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The National Council of Churches / Church World Service
| NCC member church list | NCC organization at a glance |
Young adult stewards applications for November meeting being received
Young adults, 18-30 years of age, have until September 14 to apply for selection as stewards for the November 6-8, 2007, general assembly of the National Council of Churches / Church World Service. They will serve November 4-9 in Woodbridge, N.J., the assembly site, with assignments to hospitality, registration, the assembly office, the newsroom, platform assistance, and technology. There will also be opportunity to network with one another.
NCC searches for new general secretary
A search committee for general secretary of the National Council of Churches has posted the job description and hopes to have a candidate by September 2007 (or, if further work is needed, by November). Randall Lee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the committee co-chair. The term of Bob Edgar as general secretary ends in 2007. He is becoming the president of Common Cause, a nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization.
Church World Service receives high marks for financial health
For 2006, Church World Service (CWS) has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of large charities' financial health. According to CWS, this rating is given to less than 25% of the ranked organizations. CWS' current 4-star rating is up from a 3-star rating in the immediately preceding years.
Education and Leadership Ministries Commission launches new web site
The programs of the NCC's Education and Leadership Ministries Commission have five foci under which its new web site is organized:
The strategic goals for 2007-2011 highlight the provision of support to congregations and communions as well as proactive identification of and response to emerging trends in faith formation, development, and nurture.
Faith and Order announces study themes for 2008-2011
The U.S. Faith and Order Commission has listened to NCC member churches and non-member churches as it has decided its next list of study themes, selected to be "relevant and critical at this stage in the ecumenical journey." In 2008-2011, it has announced, it will study:
- Unity in Mission (which will seek to involve NCC member communions and beyond)
- Justification and Justice: Beyond Dichotomies (which will move beyond the Catholic-Lutheran "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" to include various denominational principles, biblical research, and ecumenical documents)
- The Nature and Mission of the Church (which will assist collaboration in responding to the important World Council of Churches' study process on this theme)
The 2004-2007 studies have included the themes of the Authority of the Church in the World and Full Communion. A number of books growing out of past studies are available.
Faith and Order founders honored by bequest
Paul Minear and James McCord have been honored through an anonymous bequest given to the NCC's Faith and Order Commission. Both men were pioneers in the development of the worldwide ecumenical movement and in the planning of the first Conference on Faith and Order in the United States, held fifty years ago in 1957. The bequest will assist in funding participation of one hundred theological students in the Faith and Order celebration in Oberlin in July 2007 and in helping secure programs for younger scholars in the future. McCord was president of Princeton Seminary.
NCC governing board creates health task force
At its May meeting, the NCC governing board heard a report on a congregational health ministries survey and authorized a new task force on health. The new group will
network with congregational health providers, research the faith community’s role in health ministries, address issues of congregational emergency preparedness, and advocate for health policy reform with emphasis on state initiatives. The NCC's preliminary findings from a survey already show significant congregational involvement in health ministries, including
visitation, meals, transportation, screenings, clinics, emergency funding, health counseling, assistance with paper work, 12-step groups, and exercise groups.
NCC takes stance on biotechnology decisions
The NCC's 2006 policy statement on human biotechnologies,"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," is important in situations where not everyone agrees on the issues involved. It calls for faith communities to join the debate, speak out about questionable methods of human enhancement, and push for adequate regulation of the biotechnology industry. Presbyterians Peter Sulyok and Jacqueline Cho were on the committee that developed the policy, while Eileen Lindner and Marcel Welty provided staff services. The 2006 NCC General Assembly also adopted resolutions related to the new policy. Study guides/curriculum on biotechnologies are available for download as are excerpts from the policy statement. The NCC and WCC will sponsor a fall 2007 international consultation on biotechnologies.
NCC testimony on climate policy takes "side of the truth" and of the poor
Episcopal Church presiding bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori, trained as a scientist, was the NCC's spokesperson in testimony before a Senate committee concerning climate policy on Juine 7. She said, " I take as a sacred obligation the faith community's responsibility to stand on the side of truth -- whether that be the truth of science or the truth of God's unquenchable love for God's children." She went on to say that science has shown that global warming is real and also pointed to legislative needs that can help those who would suffer most from global warming, the poor. Faith Principles on Global Warming have been agreed by a variety of religious offices in Washington.
Who funds the NCC -- or the IRD?
Bob Edgar's book, Middle Church Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right, has unleashed new controversy with the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) concerning the NCC. The Washington Post says the IRD is mainly responding to criticisms from Edgar. Presbyterian Alan Wisdom, IRD's vice president, asserts, ". . . shrinking membership is no longer able or willing to bear the financial load of the NCC. But non-church givers with political agendas have stepped in to save the council. And, in preserving and strengthening the NCC, they help to project an exaggerated image of the Religious Left -- beyond what the NCC's or any other constituency could justify." The IRD analyzes that the NCC had $1.76 million income in 2005 from secular foundations and $1.75 million from church sources. The Washington Post reports that the IRD claims roughly $1 million in annual revenue, 40% of it from conservative foundations.
Media coverage not balanced, study says
A recent study,
Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media, issued by Media Matters, analyzed major U.S. television and print media outlets to see how they covered ten national religious leaders who are "progressive" or "mainstream" -- including Bob Edgar -- and ten who are "conservative." Its conclusion, for the time from the day after the 2004 election to the end of 2006, is that coverage was skewed toward conservatives, affecting the public's perception of religion, its leaders, and its representative groups. The watchdog group describes itself as
a non-profit progressive research and information center. Its analysis was both echoed and critiqued by others.
Ecumenical leaders call for end to Cuba travel ban
Executives of Church World Service, the National Council of Churches, and eleven of their member communions have issued a statement urging lawmakers to support
the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2007 (S721) and the Export Freedom to Cuba Act of 2007 (HR 654), which would end restrictions on travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba. They particularly emphasize that any Cuban travel legislation should be broad enough to
end the current restrictions that hamper religious travel by national, regional, and local church bodies and by ecumenical and interfaith organizations.Advocates will meet with House and Senate personnel on June 14 to press their concern. Presbyterian witness began in Cuba in 1890, and nine PC(USA) presbyteries have partnership relationships with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba today.
Churches Uniting in Christ
| CUIC member list | predecessor COCU's history |
CUIC plans 2008 plenary
CUIC, which has not yet convened a plenary, will do so on January 11-14, 2008, in St. Louis, Missouri. Each CUIC communion will be represented by a seven-member delegation that includes the head of communion and ecumenical officer. Planners, chaired by retired United Methodist Church bishop Fritz Mutti, say that dismantling racism will be a motif throughout -- in the planning process, the agenda, the invited participants, and the leadership. There will be a daily Eucharist, solid biblical study, and small group theological discussion related to the mutual recognition and reconciliation of ministries.
CUIC seeds to be planted locally
CUIC will particularly plant and nurture CUIC relationships in ten communities across the U.S. representing a spectrum of demographics, size, and location -- including Decatur, Georgia, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and Hot Springs, Arkansas. In each, persons committed to CUIC will work on a two-year project addressing racism and will hold at least one CUIC Eucharistic worship yearly. The ecumenical officer of each CUIC communion will recruit one lead pastor for the project. The plan originated with the Local and Regional Task Force of which our network member Rebecca Tollefson is chair.
Assistance is on the way for local congregations sharing the Eucharist
When CUIC congregations share the Eucharist together locally, what should be included? Creeds? Liturgical dancing? How many Scripture readings? Who should be at the Table? As Christians share the Table in all their diversity, they visibly demonstrate unity in Christ, but they often face questions unanswered by simply having a common liturgy on the CUIC web site. A committee chaired by retired AME bishop Vinton Anderson will prepare guidelines for local use.
CUIC congregations urged to work to dismantle racism
On January 21, 2002 leaders representing the emerging CUIC member denominations assembled in Memphis at the historic spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain and signed an agreement "committing the members and partners in mission of CUIC to express their unity in Christ by living more closely together and working together to combat racism in church and in society." On King's birthday in 2007, the heads of CUIC churches issued a statement recalling the commitment and urging CUIC congregations in a community to exercise common witness and service "as together we seek to dismantle racism and, in so doing, to be the voice and presence of God's love in the world." Some suggested activities for congregations are posted on the CUIC web site. Also see the Call to Commitment and Action to Combat Racism and a congregational guide for combatting racism (found in the CUIC newsletter of March 2007 ).
Churches Uniting in Christ engages churches in study of ministry
The CUIC Ministry Task Force sponsored a consultation on episcope (i.e., "oversight") on October 2-4, 2006, as a step in the process of working toward mutual recognition and reconciliation of ministries among CUIC churches. The task force had worked for three years toward a proposal that was sent to each of the member churches for study and feedback, and the responding reflections of the churches were background for the consultation. Among the five persons who presented papers to the attendees was Presbyterian Anna Case-Winter.
Robert Welsh, the ecumenical officer of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, commenting on the process and its implications, concluded that we cannot correctly view the ecumenical movement as "linear" -- moving forward in a straight line. Rather, the movement is like a dance, he says, with steps forward, backward, and sideways. The PC(USA) 2005 Annual Report section on the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) says, “During the CUIC process, the goal was never to ‘dictate’ or change what an individual church believes / practices, but rather to commit to realizing that sharing experiences between the denominational lines is an essential dimension of practicing faith.”
The formal speeches, sermon, and Bible studies from the consultation are being published in Call to Unity,
(Council on Christian Unity, P.O. Box 1986, 130 E Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46206;
telephone 317-713-2586; fax 317-713-2588; $20.00 / year).
Freda Gardner, a member of the Ministry Task Force, wrote about the Ministry Task Force for the Fall 2005 issue of Ecu-Dialogue. News about the process is in the May 2006 and December 2006 CUIC Notes.
Moravians become members of Churches Uniting in Christ
CUIC has officially received the Moravian Church Northern Province as its tenth full member. The Moravians are particularly looking to CUIC for fellowship with persons of color beyond the Moravian Church and for interchange of ordained leadership. The 550th anniversary of the Moravian Church worldwide fell on March 1, 2007. In the U.S., there will be a Mid-States Moravian celebration on August 10-12.
A congregation named COCU came into being at a time of crisis
Reading their web site, it is not clear whether the Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston, Pennsylvania, sees itself as two congregations uniting to act together -- with a common program, common pastoral staff, and common building -- or as one congregation. And this fits the story of a congregation that took the name COCU -- theretofore used for the Consultation on Church Union -- seriously in 1972. After a devastating flood, two congregations, a Presbyterian and a Methodist, decided they could best survive together.They now say they are a Community Of Christians Uniting for Service. A local newspaper recently told their story.
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