ELCA NEWS SERVICE
January 22, 2007
ELCA Joins Inauguration of Christian Churches Together on February 7
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is one of 36 churches and national Christian organizations that will be founding members when Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. (CCT) is inaugurated Feb. 7 at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Pasadena, Calif. CCT will bring together families of Christian churches and organizations from across the United States.
Another 18 churches and national Christian organizations are involved or are present as observers in the CCT decision-making process.
The ELCA's 2003 Churchwide Assembly adopted an action to join CCT by a vote of 918 to 48.
"The creation of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. is an exciting development in the ecumenical world. It is an opportunity to broaden the ecumenical table or perhaps more directly to invite more people into ecumenical conversation," said the Rev. Randall R. Lee, executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
On its Web site, the new ecumenical organization claims to do something the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and National Association of Evangelicals have not been able to do -- bring together Christians from five traditions: evangelical and Pentecostal, Orthodox, Protestant, racial and ethnic, and Roman Catholic. "Christian Churches Together is unique in providing the only venue where churches from all the major groupings of churches, representing over 100 million Christians, come together for prayer, dialogue, fellowship and witness," it said.
Lee said evangelicals, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics have not been involved directly in the ecumenical movement in the United States. Roman Catholics "have certainly been a part of the Faith and Order movement of the National Council of Churches, but they are not members of the National Council," he said.
"With Pentecostals and evangelicals in particular we talk about their experience of the Christian faith, how they came to faith and the dimensions of faith as they live it out in their daily lives," Lee said.
"This effort is crucial for the Christian Church in an increasingly diverse religious landscape in the United States," said the Rev. Jon S. Enslin, who represented the ELCA at formative meetings of the CCT. "In our early meetings it became apparent that our mutual commitment to Christ transcended differences we have with each other, although those differences are real and significant," he said.
"We were mutually surprised to discover that differences were enhanced by presumptions we had about each other, presumptions not based in fact," said Enslin, a former bishop of the ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin who served as interim director of the former ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.
In addition to its ecumenical purpose, Lee said CCT hopes to "marshal the forces of the whole Christian movement to help eliminate poverty." He said, "This is such an incredible problem in our country at this point that anything we can do to bring people above the poverty line would be a wonderful goal."
"It is significant that we all agreed upon the need to address poverty in this country as our first focus," Enslin said. "We each bring unique insight and perspective to the table. The possibilities of working together and understanding each other more fully is wonderful," he said. "That decisions will be made by consensus enables honest discussion and deliberation."
"Christian Churches Together in its governance has committed itself to a consensus model of decision-making, which has also been adopted by the World Council of Churches," Lee said. "It's an attempt to say we are not going to move ahead on anything, if a significant portion of the partners are not willing to move ahead," he said.
"It's a way of framing conversation in such a way that people recognize that what we are talking about is important. It's crucial to the way we are going to deal with one another in these kinds of organizations," Lee said. "It's a way of saying we all have something to bring to the table, and we all need to come to agreement."
"Some people have argued that this will paralyze the organization or make it unable to say anything of significance," Lee said. He said the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Brazil in February 2006 demonstrated that decision-making by consensus is effective.
"It is possible to frame both theological conversation and practical conversation in ways that everyone can agree that what is being articulated is an appropriate statement for the Christian church to make," Lee said.
"When people of different denominations pray together and work beside each other, differences lose the power to divide," Enslin said. "I have no doubt that CCT will be a great blessing to this country, enabling a clear and bold proclamation of the gospel," he said.
Five presidents will represent CCT, one from each of the five traditions. The initial presidents are Bishop James Leggett, International Pentecostal Holiness Church; the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America; the Rev. Larry Pickens, United Methodist Church; Dr. William Shaw, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; and Cardinal William Keeler, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, and the Southern California Ecumenical Council host the inaugural events.
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The home page for Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. is at http://www.christianchurchestogether.org/ on the Web.
Audio of comments by the Rev. Randall R. Lee related to this story are on the ELCA Web site at:
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog