Plans for 'Christian Churches Together in the
U.S.A.' Move from Vision Toward Reality
See November 2004 Update: NCC's Edgar
Hails U.S. Catholic Bishops' Agreement to Join CCTUSA
See earlier story:
"Hope, Good Will" Mark Exploration of Broader Christian Unity, Lead to
Formation of "Christian Churches Together in the USA," May 14, 2002
January 29, 2003, PASADENA, Calif. -- A vision for the most inclusive
Christian organization ever in the United States advanced dramatically when
a diverse group of 46 national church leaders agreed Jan. 29, 2003, on a
concrete proposal to take back to their church bodies for consideration.
The proposal-for what is provisionally called Christian Churches Together
in the U.S.A. (CCT) builds on more than two years of behind-the-scenes work
by church leaders. Agreement on the proposal signifies that "we have moved
from the phase of visioning to begin implementation," said the Rev. Wesley
Granberg-Michaelson, who is general secretary of the Reformed Church in
America and who currently chairs CCTís steering committee.
Over the next few years, the proposal will be placed before the top
decision-making bodies of many denominations (or communions as some bodies
are called) and other Christian organizations, as their regularly scheduled
assemblies take place. The proposal calls for a fellowship that is committed
"to grow closer together in Christ" in order to strengthen its "Christian
witness in the world."
Granberg-Michaelson reported that the 46 church leaders, who met on the
campus of Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif., also agreed that
implementation "would require at least 25 denominations or communions to say
Ďyes,í" They further agreed that the new organization "would not
be inaugurated until the numbers reflect the diversity of the Christian
families present at the meeting," Granberg-Michaelson said. "Having a mix is
the whole point."
Church leaders who participated in the Jan. 27-29 Pasadena meeting
represented five families within Christianity that the proposal describes as
"Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic (for
example, predominantly African American churches), and Roman Catholic."
Among those present were participants from 18 Protestant and Orthodox
churches that also hold membership in the National Council of Churches. The
degree to which CCT and the NCC duplicate functions is a question for
"discernment" by the NCCís 36 member communions over the next few years,
Given the breadth of the group at Pasadena, which he described as
"expanded significantly" from the last meeting, April 2002, in Chicago,
Granberg-Michaelson said that any agreement "was an open question going in."
"We were not at all sure we would have something to circulate, and it was
an inspirational moment when we decided to do that," he said.
In the next few weeks, members of the steering committee will invite
still other denominations and Christian organizations to join the CCT
process. The committee hopes to draw an even broader group of participants
to the next planning meeting, projected for late 2003 or early 2004.
"CCT is the best chance that we will have in this decade to really change
the ecumenical landscape and to create a body that more fully reflects the
life of the churches in the United States," Granberg-Michaelson concluded.
"It could be a very powerful tool for the mission of the church."
The full text of the CCT proposal and the list of participants in the
meeting that drafted the proposal follow.
Christian Churches Together in the U.
We are challenged as Christians by the prayer of Jesus in John
17 that all who believe in Him might be one with God and with one another so
that the world would believe in Him as God and Savior.
We acknowledge that this is not what we experience now and recognize that
we have different histories and convictions on some key issues.
We pray for a fresh awareness of the Holy Spiritís work among us that
∑ Relationships where our differences can
be better understood, our commonalities better affirmed, and our
brokenness healed by God;
∑ more opportunities to engage in shared
witness, vision, and action;
∑ a strong prophetic voice of the
Christian community in America.
We believe that we will be led into these new relationships as we commit
ourselves to spiritual disciplines such as prayer and study of Scripture to
listen for and obey the voice of Christ.
This leads us to establish Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. to
create new levels of relationships and actions that offer a shared witness
for Christ to the world.
II. Theological Affirmations
Christian Churches Together in the USA welcomes churches, Christian
communities, and national Christian organizations that:
∑ believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as God
and Savior according to the Scriptures;
∑ worship and serve the One God, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit; and
∑ seek ways to work together in order to
present a more credible Christian witness in and to the world.
III. Purpose and Activity
The purpose of Christian Churches Together is to enable
churches and national Christian organizations to grow closer together in
Christ in order to strengthen our Christian witness in the world.
Participants in Christian Churches Together accomplish this purpose by:
∑ rejoicing in our faith in the Triune
∑ discerning the guidance of the Holy
Spirit through prayer and theological dialogue;
∑ providing fellowship and mutual support;
∑ affirming our commonalities and
understanding our differences;
∑ fostering Christian evangelism faithful
to the proclamation of the gospel;
∑ speaking to society with a common voice
∑ promoting the common good of society.
We cannot act together until we pray and walk together and understand
each other better. Therefore in the early period, our primary focus should
be on the first four activities. As we do this faithfully, we believe the
Holy Spirit will lead us to discern how best to engage in the three
remaining activities in our Christian witness to the world.
At least once a year, a General Assembly will gather for two and a half
days for fellowship, prayer, theological discussion and discernment of
potential areas for common witness.
Christian Churches Together will sponsor in the name of Christian
Churches Together, various Forums on diverse topics (e.g., evangelism,
worship, public policy). The Steering Committee will have full authority
over the topics and the program (speakers, etc.) for Forums sponsored by
Christian Churches Together. National Christian organizations that share
Christian Churches Togetherís purpose and theology will be invited to
participate in these Forums.
IV. Participation in Christian Churches Together
All who share the theological affirmations and purpose are eligible to
participate in Christian Churches Together.
There will be two categories of participants:
∑ Participant churches which include
national church bodies and associations of churches which are national
∑ Participant national Christian
No more than approximately 20% of Christian Churches Together will be
participant national Christian organizations.
The Christian Churches Together Steering Committee will develop a broad
invitation list of national church bodies, associations of churches and
national Christian organizations, which will be invited to become
participants in Christian Churches Together as it is founded. Participant
national Christian organizations will be those that strongly share the
theological convictions and purposes of Christian Churches Together, are
deeply related to its churches, and which have the strong support of a wide
variety of churches that will compose Christian Churches Together.
Once inaugurated, and Phase II has begun, Christian Churches Together
will develop a process for issuing additional invitations for participation
and for receiving applications from those churches and national Christian
organizations wishing to participate. Criteria will be developed to welcome
into the fellowship those national church bodies, associations of churches
and national Christian organizations, which, based on the discernment of the
governing bodies of Christian Churches Together, will uphold its theological
affirmations, further its purpose, and promote unity within the fellowship
of Christian Churches Together.
All participants in Christian Churches Together will be expected to:
∑ uphold Christian Churches Togetherís
∑ forward the purpose of Christian
∑ support the organization, both
financially and through personal participation;
∑ share in fellowship, prayer and dialogue
with other participants in Christian Churches Together;
∑ join others in common ministry as they
are led by the Holy Spirit.
Those organizations that meet the criteria for participation, but are not
able to do so at this time, will be invited to be observers in the meetings
and gatherings of Christian Churches Together.
V. Governing Christian Churches Together
1. General Assembly
The General Assembly (meeting at least once every year for two
and a half days) will consist of the heads of communions (or their
designated representative) of each participating church plus an
additional representative for each five million members (or fraction
thereof) in their church or association of churches. Twenty per cent may
also be heads of participant national Christian organizations.
For a small part of the annual meeting, the heads of participant
churches and participant national Christian organizations will meet to
decide upon basic issues-- including at least: the addition of new
participants, foundational theological documents, and Christian Churches
2. Steering Committee
The Steering Committee will consist of 18-24 members. Each of
Christian Churches Togetherís five families (Evangelical/Pentecostal;
Historic Protestant; Historic Racial/Ethnic; Orthodox; Roman Catholic)
will have three members each on the Steering Committee. Each of the five
families will choose their three representatives according to their own
procedures. The Steering Committee will have at least three additional
at-large members. These at-large members may be representatives of
participant national Christian organizations (selected according to
criteria to be developed by the Steering Committee).
Upon joining Christian Churches Together, each communion or
association of churches will choose which of the five families they wish
to join for purposes of selecting the members of the Steering Committee.
The Steering Committee will elect its officers, develop bylaws
(including length of term on the Steering Committee), and attend to the
business of Christian Churches Together between meetings of the General
3. Topical Forums
Any action (declarations, policy proposals, etc.) that develop
out of the Forums sponsored by Christian Churches Together will be done,
not in the name of Christian Churches Together, but in the name of
whatever churches, national Christian organizations and individuals
choose to sign on to that specific item. Common action in the name of
Christian Churches Together can only be done by consensus of the General
Assembly or Steering Committee.
4. Consensus Decision Making
Decisions in every setting of Christian Churches Togetherís life
will be by consensus. Only when all members present either say "Yes" or
agree to "stand aside" will the body move ahead on any action. For every
decision, representatives from each of the five families must be
A consensus decision-making process emphasizes the process of
listening and discussion and is not merely a matter of saying yes or no.
Several responses to any proposal are possible in consensus
1.) Yes - that means one is supportive of the proposal and will do
nothing to undermine it.
2.) No - one cannot in good conscience allow the proposal to go
3.) Stand Aside - one has reservations, but not enough to keep the
group from accepting the proposal and one will do nothing to undermine
4.) The group by consensus can decide to make a particular decision
by majority vote.
NOTE: In any of the above situations, but especially in 3) and 4),
the group may decide by consensus to present majority and minority
opinions on any given topic.
VI. Finances and Budget
1. During phase I
All meeting costs, including professional fees, will be
covered by registration fees.
Each year, $20,000 should be raised to cover the costs of the
Steering Committee. Churches and organizations exploring participation
should contribute at least $100 annually and where possible $1,000 or
2. During phase II
We anticipate a budget of at least $250,000 which will cover one
professional, one support staff member and other costs.
We will need to create an equitable formula which should include one
or more of the following factors:
∑ number of members as defined by the
∑ number of congregations/parishes
∑ annual budget of the communion or
national Christian organization
∑ annual budget of communionís
∑ number of persons that communions
have in the General Assembly of Christian Churches Together
VII. TIME LINE
1. During Phase I
This period started at the January 27-29, 2003 meeting when it was
decided to invite churches and national Christian organizations formally
to decide (in ways appropriate to their particular church polity) to
join Christian Churches Together.
2. During Phase II
This period will start when at least twenty-five churches from an
adequately representative group of the five
families-Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Historic
Racial/Ethnic, Orthodox and Roman Catholic--have formally decided in
ways appropriate to each churchís internal polity, to join Christian
Churches Together in the U.S.A.
NOTE: This document was approved by consensus by the participants at the
January 27-29, 2003 meeting at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena,
Participants in the January 27-29, 2003 Meeting of
Christian Churches Together
||Diocese of the Armenian
Church of America
|Commissioner W. Todd
||The Salvation Army
||Diocese of Orange of
||Sharon Browning and
||Church of the Nazarene
||American Baptist Churches,
|Rev. Dr. Seung Koo
||Korean Presbyterian Church in
||Nat'l Assoc. of
Congregational Christ. Churches
|Right Rev. Dimitrios
||Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of
||Roman Catholic Church
||Southern Baptist Convention
|Rev. Dr. Robert
||Brethren in Christ Church
|Rev. Dr. David
||Christian Reformed Church
|Rev. Jon S.
||Evangelical Lutheran Church
||Episcopal Church Center
||Antiochian Orthodox Christian
||Reformed Church in America
||Church of God (Cleveland
||Bd. Of Bishops - Free
|Rev. Dr. Roberta
||Religious Society of Friends
|Archbishop Cyril Aphrem
||Syrian Orthodox Church
|Cardinal William H.
||Archdiocese of Baltimore
||United States Conference Of
|Rev. Dr. Clifton
||Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
|Very Rev. Leonid
||Orthodox Church in America
||Int'l Pentecostal Holiness
|Rev. Michael E.
||Int'l Council of Community
||Fuller Theological Seminary
||Dean of Haggard School of
||Int'l. Church of the
||Friends United Meeting
||Diocese of Oakland
||Archdiocese of Chicago
||St. Stephen's Church of God
in Christ Ministries
|Very Rev. Dr. Michel
||Antiochian Orthodox Christian
||The Salvation Army
||Disciples Seminary Foundation
|President Glenn K.
||The Evangelical Covenant
|Rev. Judy Mills
||Church of Brethren
||North American Mission Board
|Dr. Ann K.
||Faith and Order Commission,
Nat'l Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
||United States Conference Of
|Rev. Dr. William G.
||Foundation for a Conference
on Faith & Order
|Rev. Gabriel A.
Churches of God, Inc.
|Rev. Dr. Robert
||Moravian Church in America
||Mennonite Church USA
|Rev. Ronald J.
||Evangelicals for Social
|Bishop Melvin G.
||United Methodist Church
||Worldwide Church of God
||United Church of Christ
||Orthodox Church in America
||Sojourners/Call to Renewal
||Presbyterian Church USA