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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."

See November 2004 Update: NCC's Edgar Hails U.S. Catholic Bishops' Agreement to Join CCTUSA

See January 2003 Update: Plans for 'Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.' Move from Vision Toward Reality

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 NCC’s 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 can’t 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 that’s quite valuable," Huszagh said. "It’s 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.

-end-

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.

We lament that we are divided and that our divisions too often result in distrust, misunderstandings, fear and even hostility between us. We long for the broken body of Christ made whole, where unity can be celebrated in the midst of our diversity.

We lament our often diffuse and diminished voice on matters critical to the gospel in our society. We long for a more common witness, vision and mission.

We lament how our lack of faithfulness to each other has led to a lack of effectiveness on crucial issues of human dignity and social justice. We long to strengthen the prophetic public voice of the Christian community in America.

We lament that none of our current organizations represents the full spectrum of Christians in the United States. We long for a place, where our differences could be better understood and our commonalities better affirmed.

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:

Celebrating a common confession of faith in the Triune God.

Seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit through biblical, spiritual and theological reflection.

Engaging in common prayer.

Speaking to society with a common voice.

Promoting the common good of society.

Fostering faithful evangelism.

Seeking reconciliation by affirming our commonalities and understanding our differences.

Building a community of fellowship and mutual support.

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 Lord’s 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 God’s revelation in Christ, confesses the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scripture, and in obedience to God’s 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

Attendees/Signatories:

Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Orthodox Church
Bishop Dimitrios Couchell, Greek Orthodox Church
Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Orthodox Church in America
Bishop Tod Brown, Roman Catholic Church
Commissioner John Busby, The Salvation Army
Rev. Rothangliani Chhangte, American Baptist Churches
Rev. Dr. Seung K. Choi, Korean Presbyterian Church
Bishop Edwin Conway, Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Robert Edgar, National Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. David Engelhard, Christian Reformed Church in NA
Bishop Jon Enslin, Evangelical Lutheran Church
Bishop Chris Epting, Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Reformed Church in America
Ms. Elenie K. Huszagh, Esq. President, National Council of Churches
Cardinal William Keeler, Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Presbyterian Church in the USA
Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America
Archbishop William Levada, Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Michael Livingston, International Council of Community Churches
Sister Joan McGuire, Roman Catholic Church
Bishop George McKinney, Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of NA
Rev. Roy Medley, American Baptist Churches
Colonel Philip Needham, The Salvation Army
Rev. Judy Mills Reimer, Church of the Brethren
Dr. Ann K. Riggs, Director of Faith and Order, National Council of Churches
Rev. Ronald Roberson, Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Robert Sawyer, Moravian Church in America
Rev. Ronald Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action
Bishop Melvin Talbert, United Methodist Church
Rev. Lydia Veliko, United Church of Christ
Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners/Call To Renewal
Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Robina Winbush, Presbyterian Church in the USA
Bishop McKinley Young, African Methodist Episcopal Church


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