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From "The Unity We Seek" to "On Being Christian Together"

Memories of two Faith and Order founder's honored by bequest

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2007 The Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is pleased to announce that the Commission has received an anonymous gift honoring the memory of two of the commission's founders.

The bequest is intended to establish two ecumenical program funds in the names of Dr. Paul S. Minear and Dr. James I. McCord.

Both theologians were pioneers in the development of the worldwide ecumenical movement and key to the planning and success of the first Conference on Faith and Order in North America in 1957.

The funds are being established in conjunction with the Faith and Order Commission's 50th anniversary celebration to be held at Oberlin College from July 19-23, 2007 entitled, "On Being Christian Together: The Faith and Order Experience in the United States."

"The intention of the donor is to honor the legacy of two ecumenical leaders who valued the importance of faith, theological rigor and education. The gift will assist in funding the participation of the 100 theological students from across the country who have been accepted to attend the Faith and Order fiftieth anniversary event in July 2007, and to help secure the future of the Commission's programs for younger scholars," said Dr. Ann Riggs, NCC's associate general secretary for Faith and Order. "The key to the success of the ecumenical movement is the training and development of the next generation of church leaders and theologians," said Riggs.

Potential benefactors interested in furthering the cause of ecumenism by honoring the pioneering work of these two men may also contribute to these two funds. Visit http://www.ncccusa.org/about/invest.html or contact John Briscoe, NCC's director of development [see below].

Dr. Paul S. Minear, who died at age 101 last February, was a well known New Testament scholar and a prolific author of more than 25 books and 150 articles. He taught at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary (1934-44), Andover Newton Theological School as Norris Professor of New Testament (1944-56), and at Yale Divinity School as Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology (1956-1971). In 1964-65 he was President of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and from 1967-88 he was a member of the committee that produced the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Dr. Minear worked extensively as a leader from the Congregational Christian Churches (later becoming apart of the United Church of Christ) on the planning team that organized the first Oberlin event in 1957, and he was the editor of the official report of the historic Oberlin conference entitled, The Nature of the Unity We Seek, published by The Bethany Press in 1958. At his 100th birthday celebration in 2006, students remembered him as "a creative teacher, fully abreast of current developments in his field and a leading figure in the 'Biblical theology' movement."

Dr. James I. McCord (1919-1990), clergyman, educator and ecumenist was the first chair of the U.S. Faith and Order Commission established as an outcome of the 1957 Oberlin conference. He was a theological consultant to the first Oberlin Faith and Order conference in 1957. McCord was professor of systematic theology and academic dean of Austin Theological Seminary from 1944 to 1959, and then president of Princeton Theological Seminary until his retirement in 1983. During his tenure the student body doubled in size and the faculty increased by nearly a third. He served for a number of years as president of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

After retirement, McCord established and became chancellor of an independent Center of Theological Inquiry, a research institution for theologians, scientists, and leaders in other disciplines to work together on similar projects.

McCord's influence extended far. An avid supporter of national and international ecumenism, he represented his Presbyterian denomination in Amsterdam in 1948 when the World Council of Churches was organized. Subsequently, he was a delegate to numerous ecumenical conferences in the United States and overseas. He was a longtime chairman of the editorial council of Theology Today and in 1986 he received the prestigious John M. Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

"Dr. McCord defined the intent of theological education and religious studies in general as 'a community of scholars [students and faculty] who are disciplined by the Word of God,'" said the Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the NCC. "And Dr. Minear, while recognizing the solid academic gains made in theology, issued a clear warning of the dangers of theological 'professionalization' over and above a theological relationship to faith and to the living community of faith. This is the Faith and Order legacy we build upon," said Livingston, who is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the executive director of the International Council of Community Churches.

The goal of the Faith and Order movement is to work towards the full visible unity of the Christian Church. The commission works by bringing together Christians from different established Christian communities (denominations, independent churches, religious orders, ecclesially-recognized learned societies, etc.) to engage in rigorous theological reflection. Over the past 50 years, the commission has carried out a complex, sustained theological discourse on the issues that divide and those that unite the church of the United States. It has united into that discourse churches and movements that derive a heritage of Oberlin and Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant and Anglican churches. Many U.S.-originated Evangelical, Holiness and Pentecostal and Mainline churches themselves have Oberlin roots.

More information on the July 19-23 anniversary event at Oberlin College is available online http://www.ncccusa.org/about/unityhome.html


NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org


 

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