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The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is an association of mainline and liberal Protestant, Orthodox, and black Protestant denominations. It includes "35 Protestant and Orthodox member communions (denominations)." They "include more than 50 million adherents in nearly 140,000 congregations nationwide.1

Two of the NCC's Unity Priorities for 2000-2001 are:

bullet "To study, interpret and implement the "Report of the Ecclesiology Study Task Force." 2
bullet "To study the NCC policy statement, "Interfaith Relations and the Churches," and implement its recommendations. 3

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Ecclesiology Study:

A study of past, present and potential future ecumenical activities by the NCC was triggered, in part, by the decision by Eastern Orthodox members in 1992 to suspend their participation in the NCC. Another contributing reason was that a decade had passed since the previous 1982 ecumenical statement "Marks of our Commitment" had been adopted. Finally, the millennium was approaching -- a good time to review progress.

The NCC's organized an Ecclesiology Study Task Force to develop a new document on ecumenicalism in the U.S.

In 1994, the task force conduced a survey of member denominations. It showed that there was diminishing enthusiasm for the historical ecumenism movement nationally. They acknowledge that there are many factors that now separate Christians, such "sexuality, mission, race, economics, [and] social policy." However, there was general view that a new "ecumenical expression" was needed: one that would be more inclusive, and bring to the table Evangelicals, mainline and liberal Christians, Orthodox Christians, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics.

The task force envisioned a "place" where all groups within Christianity can gather:  All Christian denominations which have a belief in the Trinity would be welcome. Each group would maintain their own belief systems, including the conviction that others are in "dangerous error." As an initial task, they recommended that the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Pentecostal Conference of North America work with the NCC to draft and publish a statement on "Living the Gospel in the U.S. in the Third Millennium.

The task force document was adopted unanimously by the NCC General Assembly in 1997-NOV. 

At a meeting of its executive  board on 2000-MAR-22/23, the NCC "endorsed a plan to pursue a cooperative effort with all major branches of Christianity in the United States"..." A notice of the proposal has been sent to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals." 4 The board appointed an eight-member committee to flesh out the concept. Their goal is to establish the "new ecumenical body" by the year 2003. 5

NCC general secretary Rev. Robert Edgar said he doesn't know "what the shape of this new vehicle will be...It may or may not mean the death of the NCC as an organization, but what I do know is that there's a lot of energy among our sit around the same table with Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Pentecostals, to dream a new ecumenical future together."

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, chief executive of the Reformed Church in America, speculated on the future of the NCC if a new, inclusive umbrella group is created: "Sometimes an organizational structure has to be willing to die. We have to be willing to entertain that." 4

The National Religious Broadcasters is an association of many dozens of conservative Christian broadcasters. They had been affiliated with National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) since 1944. Shocked by the possibility of cooperation between the NAE and the NCC, the Broadcasters unanimously voted (81 to 0) to sever their connection with the NAE on 2001-FEB-8. 

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Interfaith relations:

The Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches' has developed a policy statement called "Interfaith Relations and the Churches." It was adopted by at the NCC's 50th anniversary meeting in 1999-NOV.  Some excerpts from the statement are:

bullet "We seek God’s grace in our common effort to understand ever more fully how to live as the body of Christ in this religiously plural and culturally diverse time and place."
bullet "We speak out of a changing experience of religious diversity in our country"
bullet "In their efforts to address community problems, provide hope for a better society, and work for justice, Christians find themselves working side-by-side with men and women who practice religions other than their own."
bullet "...we see the involvement of religion for good and for ill in the struggles in many places in the world."
bullet " human beings we have a propensity for taking the gift of diversity and turning it into a cause of disunity, antagonism and hatred—often because we see ourselves as part of a unique, special community."

The document's Recommendations include commitments to:

bullet "Recommit ourselves to pursue religious liberty and religious freedom for all, and to defend 'the rights and liberties of cultural, racial and religious minorities'; and call again for 'interfaith dialogue on the nature and meaning of human rights' and on 'the patterns of inter-religious intolerance and practices that lead to inter-faith conflict', including both intolerance toward Christians and Christian intolerance of others."
bullet "Promote and participate regularly in bilateral and multilateral consultations with other religious communities to explore practical and theological concerns."

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Withdrawal of an Orthodox church:

The 450,000 member Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America joined the NCC when it was founded in 1950. However, clergy and lay delegates at the church's the 47th archdiocesan convention in Dearborn, MI in 2005-JUL unanimously approved a motion to withdraw from the NCC. Some of the factors were:

bullet A feeling that the mainline Protestant denominations in the NCC did not want to hear the Orthodox message.
bullet The primary goal of the NCC is no longer the unification of Christianity.
bullet Support for same-sex marriage, abortion access, ordination of women, and pre-emptive war within the NCC.

The Rev. Paul Albert, pastor of St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sylvania, said the denomination sought "to be a voice of traditional, patristic Christianity [in the NCC] but that voice was falling on deaf ears."

The Rev. Mark Hodges, of St. Stephen Orthodox Mission in Lima, said the NCC has moved away from its original mission to "restore unity among Christians....It has become, especially in the last few decades, a forum for a political and moral agenda that is contrary to Christianity. We still want dialogue and want to love people of all faiths, but we don't want to be directly associated with members of a body that is promoting an anti-Christian and immoral agenda."

Father Olof, of Charleston, WV said: "This is not a withdrawal of the Antiochian archdiocese from other ecumenical endeavors. This is a withdrawal from the National Council of Churches specifically, and if there appears on the horizon an ecumenical venue that we think would be beneficial for dialogue, we'll be happy to consider participating." 7

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  1. The NCC has a website at: 
  2. "Reclaiming the vision, deepening our commitment, expanding the table: Report of the Ecclesiology Study Task Force," at: 
  3. "Interfaith Relations and the Churches,"  a policy statement of the National Council of Churches. See: 
  4. ReligionToday news summary, 2000-MAY-24.
  5. "NCC proposes 'a new ecumenical body'," 2000-MAY-24, PCUSA News, #00207
  6. "Religious broadcasters cut ties with Evangelical group," Baptist Press, at:
  7. David Yonke, "Antiochian archdiocese votes to leave church council. Move prompted by gulf with NCC over views," Toledo Blade, 2005-AUG-06, at:

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Copyright © 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAY-25
Latest update: 2005-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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