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NCC General Assembly Continues Work on Ecumenical Vision
Nov. 15 Agenda Includes Reports from Church World Service, Bible Committee

November 15, 2000, ATLANTA, Ga. – Delegates to the National Council of Churches’ annual General Assembly continued work this morning on the questions, "What would a renewed ecumenical relationship look like in the 21st century? What should be its mission?"

Tuesday afternoon, Assembly delegates spent two hours in 10 small-group discussion of these questions. Notes were transcribed and this morning, Dr. Barbara Brown Zikmund offered a summary of "essentials" and "concerns" as the NCC’s 35 Protestant and Orthodox member communions look forward to exploring an "expanded ecumenical vision" with Roman Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

In particular, she encouraged NCC member communions to consider how they deal with certain dynamic tensions in their own lives and to offer the wisdom of their experience to the wider U.S. Christian community.

Dr. Brown Zikmund, of Washington, D.C., immediate past president of Hartford Theological Seminary, named 10 such dynamic tensions that emerged out of Tuesday’s small group discussions. For example, should exploration of an "expanded ecumenical vision" bubble up from the grassroots – where a broad spectrum of Christians already have found a greater unity – or should it begin with revitalization of national ecumenical life?

Is the starting point a common spiritual reality of being in Christ together, or does commonality grow out of working and serving together? Should the focus be on "membership," implying a certain consensus, or on "covenanting" in Christ in spite of differences?

How can exploration of an "expanded ecumenical vision" take into account the perspectives of the "seasoned ecumenical veteran" and those of young Christians – newcomers to the ecumenical movement? Should the NCC first attend to outstanding issues in its own life – for example, relationships between mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches – before engaging in a broader discussion with others?

Dr. Brown Zikmund emphasized that as discussions continue, "insights begin to shine through when people look at each other, talk with each other directly and share differences candidly. We need to continue that style of interaction."

Exploring an "expanded ecumenical vision" – to include action on a resolution Friday morning -- and launching a 10-year "mobilization to overcome poverty" – set for discussion and action this afternoon and Thursday morning -- are the principal items before the Assembly, which convened Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 14) and continues through Friday noon (Nov. 17).

This morning’s Assembly session also included a spirited celebration of the many bilateral agreements between and among NCC member communions, and reports from Church World Service and the NCC’s Bible Translation and Utilization Committee.

The Rev. John L. McCullough, Church World Service Executive Director, described CWS’s broad global program, which works with partners in more than 80 countries, including the United States, to support disaster response, human development and refugee assistance.  (Click here for the text of his report.)

He reminded Assembly delegates that this is "CROPWALK season," when most of the some 2,000 local fund-raisers for CWS’s work against hunger take place. He thanked the NCC’s Executive Board – a 50-member subgroup of the 250-member General Assembly -- for their $1,200 in support as his sponsors when he participated in a New York City CROPWALK in mid-October.

"Bob (Edgar, the NCC’s General Secretary) got in on some of my action," he quipped, and Dr. Edgar confirmed, "We challenged each other. I pledged I’d give at least $25 more than John gave." The Rev. McCullough urged Assembly delegates to support CROPWALKS in their hometowns. "Find someone to support," he said, "and if you don’t know who to support feel free to put my name down."

Also on Wednesday morning, Dr. Fred Allen made a special presentation on the American Bible Society’s "Jubilee Bible" project, which seeks to make the Bible relevant to the lives of African Americans today and to highlight for all readers African Americans’ past and present contributions to Christendom.

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