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Under old management

National | National Council of Churches looks for options as its future looks grim

Issue: "The cost of war," Feb. 15, 2003

Top leaders in the financially ailing National Council of Churches don't see much of a future for the increasingly marginalized, financially troubled NCC. They would like to replace it with something having broader membership and greater clout-and, of course, plenty of money. For about a year, representatives of some 30 denominations have been laying the groundwork for a loosely knit alliance, to be known tentatively as Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. (CCT). The idea is to get it off the ground before the NCC goes belly up.

Following a meeting of 55 leaders at Fuller Seminary last month, a steering committee went to work inviting a broad range of denominations and church agencies to join. Their goal is to see CCT launched within two years.

As the ecumenical architects see it, the CCT would represent five segments of the religious community: "Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic, and Roman Catholic." The Catholic Church and most evangelical churches don't belong to the 36-denomination NCC, and it receives little financial support from its Orthodox, predominantly black, and smaller members. Two Catholic bishops at the Fuller meeting indicated that their church would sign onto CCT. Few, if any, evangelical denominations likely will be interested, including the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Convention.

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The proposal sees the alliance in its initial form existing mostly for common worship, fellowship, and dialogue. It would later become more aggressive in "speaking to society with a common voice, whenever possible" and sponsoring forums to address specific issues. At which point, critics predict, it would start unraveling.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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