A November 9-11 Centennial Gathering in New Orleans
will mark one hundred years of ecumenical cooperation

New Orleans, July 7, 2010 -- When the National Council of Churches and Church World Service gather here in the Marriott New Orleans Convention Center for their General Assembly this November 9-11, the meeting will mark a historic milestone for the ecumenical movement.

One hundred years ago, representatives of Christian churches around the world gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland, for an unprecedented World Missionary Conference. The conference, which brought together missionary, faith and order, social activism and education streams of the churches, is considered the birth of the modern ecumenical movement.

The anniversary is being celebrated worldwide, most recently back in June when more than 300 delegates and 100 other participants gathered in Edinburgh to celebrate this marker on the road to church unity and to imagine the future. The theme of the most recent gathering was, "Witnessing to Christ Today."  

This November 9-11 in New Orleans, the discussions of what it means to be ecumenical in the 21st century will continue at a centennial gathering that is part of the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service. The theme of the Centennial Gathering is "Witnesses of These Things, Ecumenical Involvement in a New Era."

The theme is taken from Luke 24:48 which is the scriptural theme text for the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- an additional reminder that there is one, multi-faceted ecumenical movement. 

"In one sense, this event will be a 'celebration' of modern ecumenism," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary and one of the planners of the Gathering. " But it will also a time for assessing the churches’ failure to receive God’s gift of unity, for anticipating new directions for ecumenism in the 21st Century, and for recommitting ourselves and our churches to the ecumenical calling."

Unlike the original gathering which was generally attended by mainline Protestants, the Centennial Gathering in New Orleans is expected to welcome a wider spectrum of faith representatives.

"Leaders of various partner bodies -- in this effort to realize a visible unity of faith, witness, and service -- have indicated their strong interest in participating in this centennial assembly,"  Kinnamon said.

In addition to representatives of member communions composing the NCC and CWS, others expected to attend include the National Association of Ecumenical and Interreligious Staff (NAEIS), the organization of State Ecumenical Executives
(SEE), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Council of Churches, the Caribbean Council of Churches, the World Student Christian Federation, and the U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches.

The process of preparing for the Centennial Assembly includes five study groups dealing with crucial themes of our era: 

  • Christian Understanding of Unity in an Age of Radical Diversity
  • Christian Understanding of Mission in an Age of Interfaith Relations
  • Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terrorism
  • Christian Understanding of the Economy in an Age of Growing Inequality
  • Christian Understanding of Creation in an Age of Environmental Crisis

The text of the study papers, currently being edited, will be posted at the Centennial Gathering website, www.ncccusa.org/witnesses2010/

President over the meeting will be the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches, and Bishop Johncy Itty, chair of the Church World Service Board of Directors.

Kinnamon and the Rev.John L. McCullough, executive director and CEO of Church World Service, will be reporting on the missions and ministries of their organizations.

Other personalities participating in the gathering will include Kathryn Lohre, President Elect, National Council of Churches; Rev. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches; Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; Archbishop Demetrios of America; Bishop Vashti McKenzie, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr. Lois Wilson, United Church of Canada and Canadian Council of Churches; Rabbi Steve Gutow, President, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Dr.Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymand of New Orleans; Dr. Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow in Foreign policy and co-director of The Brookings Institution.                        

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

Church World Service works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world. Recognized as one of America's Most Efficient Charities, Church World Service has earned an A rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy and was named one of the Top 100 Highly Rated Charities by GiveSpot.com.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell), pjenks@ncccusa.org

Centennial Gathering