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|"Hope, Good Will" Mark Exploration of
Broader Christian Unity,
Lead to Formation of "Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A."
May 14, 2002, Harrisburg, Pa. - "A good deal of hope and common good will" mark explorations by church leaders of a broader expression of Christian unity in the United States, reported National Council of Churches President Elenie Huszagh to the NCCs Executive Board, meeting here May 14-15.
Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical church leaders have met twice for those explorations - September 7-8 in Baltimore and April 4-6 in Chicago - and are planning a third meeting in January 2003. The NCC is helping to facilitate the conversations, which involve "virtually all NCC member churches" along with several non-member communions, Huszagh said.
The 34 church leaders assembled in April issued a statement entitled "An Invitation to a Journey," describing how "we began to see a vision of a new life together. This vision has led us to provisionally call ourselves Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A."
"We are Christians who long for greater unity," said the leaders. "We invite all churches who confess Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to join us on this journey."
Huszagh emphasized that the statement "reflects where the participants got to" in April. "Nothing is committed" yet, and "how long the process will take we cant say now. We are in different thinking and structural modes."
She added that she prefers to speak of "an evolutionary process" rather than a process "that may signal the demise of the NCC. We have something as a Council thats quite valuable," Huszagh said. "Its not an either-or as we move forward."
Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary, urged Executive Board members to share "An Invitation to a Journey" broadly within their member communions. A more formal document for circulation could come out of the January 2003 meeting, he said.
"Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. is a creation of communions and not of the National Council of Churches," Dr. Edgar emphasized. "There was an audible yes that this is an important moment for coming together, and for talking about a new something that would be broader and deeper."
Salvation Army Commissioner John Busby is serving as chair of the "CCT" steering committee until August, when the Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, will take a turn.
The full text of "An Invitation to a Journey" follows, along with a list of signatories, representing church leaders in attendance at the April 4-6 meeting.
Christians Churches Together in the U.S.A.: An Invitation to a Journey
As Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic church leaders, we write to all Christians in the United States to share our longing for an expanded Christian conversation in our nation. In Baltimore on Sept 7-8, 2001, we met to pray, to listen and to seek the guidance of God on whether all who confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures can talk together about how to share with the world our common confession of Jesus Christ. We continued this prayerful conversation in Chicago on April 4-6 and sensed the Holy Spirit leading us to new possibilities.
We are Christians who long for greater unity. It is our longing which most clearly points us toward "something new" as a possibility for the churches in the United States. We celebrate the unique traditions, gifts and charisms of our respective faith communities. We also acknowledge that when our differences create unnecessary divisions, our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ is distorted. We offer our lamentations and longings with prayerful expectation that the Holy Spirit is moving us toward a new expression of our relationships with one another and our witness to the world.
In Chicago, we began to see a vision of a new life together. This vision has led us to provisionally call ourselves "Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A." With excitement we began to sketch the outlines of a new level of relationship and action that offer a common witness for Christ to the world. This common witness will be visible through our:
In Chicago we felt led to invite the churches.
We invite all churches who confess Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to join us on this journey. We have only just begun to explore how to walk together. The questions for conversation, the ways to talk together and the paths to take all remain to be fleshed out by those whom, we trust, will join us on this difficult and essential journey of faith and obedience. We cannot know the details of the way, but we long to allow the Holy Spirit to answer our Lords prayer to the Father, "that they may all be one . . . so that the world may be believe that you have sent me." John 17: 21
APPENDIX -- DRAFT BASIS STATEMENT: Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. gathers together those churches and Christian communities which acknowledging Gods revelation in Christ, confesses the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scripture, and in obedience to Gods will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another; to fulfill their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world for the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
April 6, 2002 Chicago, Illinois
Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Orthodox Church
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