NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES:
INTER-FAITH & ECUMENICAL ACTIVITY
The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is an
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:
||"To study, interpret and implement the "Report of the
Ecclesiology Study Task Force." 2
||"To study the NCC policy statement, "Interfaith Relations and
the Churches," and implement its recommendations. 3
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
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 churches...to sit around the same table with Roman Catholics, evangelicals
and Pentecostals, to dream a new ecumenical future together."
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
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:
||"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."
||"We speak out of a changing experience of religious diversity in
||"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
||"...we see the involvement of religion for good and for
ill in the struggles in many places in the world."
||"...as 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
The document's Recommendations include commitments to:
||"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."
||"Promote and participate regularly in bilateral and multilateral
consultations with other religious communities to explore practical and
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:
||A feeling that the mainline Protestant
denominations in the NCC did not want to hear the Orthodox message.
||The primary goal of the NCC is no longer the
unification of Christianity.
||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
The NCC has a website at: http://bruno.ncccusa.org/
"Reclaiming the vision, deepening our commitment, expanding the
table: Report of the Ecclesiology Study Task Force," at: http://bruno.ncccusa.org/assembly/ecclesiology.htm
"Interfaith Relations and the Churches," a policy
statement of the National Council of Churches. See: http://bruno.ncccusa.org/interfaith/ifr.html
ReligionToday news summary, 2000-MAY-24.
"NCC proposes 'a new ecumenical body'," 2000-MAY-24,
PCUSA News, #00207
"Religious broadcasters cut ties with Evangelical group,"
Baptist Press, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/01a/20010216b.shtml
David Yonke, "Antiochian archdiocese votes
to leave church council. Move
prompted by gulf with NCC over views," Toledo Blade, 2005-AUG-06,
Copyright © 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2000-MAY-25
Latest update: 2005-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson