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Religious Tolerance logo

Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.(CCT)
A cooperative effort

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Sponsored link.

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2001-SEP: A group of church leaders from many Christian denominations started to work together to create the most inclusive Christian group ever envisioned in the U.S. They met:

"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." 9

2002-APR: Thirty-three church leaders met in Chicago, IL. They produced a draft basis statement:

"Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. 13 gathers together those churches and Christian communities which acknowledging Godís revelation in Christ, confesses the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scripture, and in obedience to Godís 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." 10

2002-SEP: Thirty four church leaders met in Baltimore MD to discuss a cooperative effort. They agreed

"...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." 6

2003-JAN: Forty-six national church leaders met. They created a specific proposal to take back to their denominations for consideration. It calls on faith groups to "grow closer together in Christ" in order to strengthen "Christian witness in the world."

There were five families within Christianity represented at the 2003 meeting: Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic, and Roman Catholic. Present as participants were representatives from the American Baptist Churches, Brethren in Christ, Christian Reformed Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Greek Orthodox, Mennonite Church, Moravian Church, Presbyterian Church, Quakers, Roman Catholic Church, Salvation Army, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and the Worldwide Church of God. The National Council of Churches (NCC) was represented. Notably absent was the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The Southern Baptist Convention was represented only by an observer.

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chairperson of CCT's steering committee said:

"CCT is the best chance that we will have in this decade to really change the ecumenical landscape and to create a body that more fully reflects the life of the churches in the United States. It could be a very powerful tool for the mission of the church." 1

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Initial response by Evangelicals:

Thomas Oden, a professor of theology at Drew University and a member of the United Methodist Church discussed "The Not-so-new Ecumenism" in Christianity Today. He criticized the CCT in 2002-AUG:

"CCT is an invitation to churches ('We invite all churches') to join a select organization of churches. This is vastly different from a call to unity based on apostolic truth. And it is not addressed to renewing and confessing movements within the wayward mainline churches that are now beginning to seek a deeper grounding in ancient ecumenical teaching."

The Pentecostal participants in these dialogues have made it clear that if NCC fingerprints are on the next step of recovering ecumenism, they will not participate. Evangelicals in the mainline must say the same with clarity."

Evangelicals within the mainline long for a deeper expression of the unity we share in our confession of Jesus Christ as the only Lord. We lament the divisions that ecumenism itself has caused and continues to reinforce. We long for the broken body of Christ to be made whole, but not apart from moral teaching on marriage and the family that honors God. Evangelicals lament the lack of unity at the Lord's Table. But such efforts will not be blessed by God if they begin with a wrong step." 7

The CCT steering committee responded to Dr. Oden's article. They claimed that:

bulletTheir policy of making decisions by consensus would prevent the CCT from passing resolutions which would be offensive to Evangelicals, like being too accepting in doctrine or inclusive on sexual ethics.
bulletTheir theological basis is solidly orthodox.
bullet"Everything will be up for full discussion and consensus decision at the [2003-] January meeting." 8

As indicated above, the CCT was successful in attracting a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention -- but only as an observer and not as a participant.

Our feeling is that the liberal/mainline and conservative wings of Protestantism share the name "Christian," and the Bible itself. But they interpret the latter in such different ways that the two movements share few beliefs -- particularly about social matters of concern. It may prove very difficult for these two groups to coexist in the same organization in any meaningful way.

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Comparison of the CCT with other national Christian groups:

There are two main umbrella Christian groups in the U.S.. One is for liberal/mainline denominations. The other is for Evangelicals:

bullet National Council of Churches USA (NCC): This consists of 36 mainline Protestant, liberal Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox communions/denominations are members of the. Members includes denominations:

 "...of British, German, Scandinavian and other European origin, historic African American churches, and immigrant churches from Korea and India. Orthodox member communions have roots in Greece, Syria, Russia, the Ukraine, Egypt, India and other places where Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy have long histories. Still others are members of the 'free church' tradition...." Among the largest denominations represented are the American Baptists, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Orthodox Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church, and United Methodist Church."

Their member groups include 140,000 congregations and 50 million persons. 2

bullet National Association of Evangelicals (NAE): This consists of 52 conservative Protestant denominations and networks of local churches. Their motto is

"Cooperation Without Compromise." Their member groups include Assemblies of God, Baptist General Conference, Brethren Church, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Free Methodist church, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Mennonite Brethren Churches, Presbyterian Church in America, Salvation Army, Wesleyan Church, Worldwide Church of God."

They also have 26 state associations and many para-church and individual Evangelicals as members. 3  They represent 43,000 congregations and 27 million persons.

bulletIndependents: Many large Christian faith groups including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention, remain independent.

Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A is not an umbrella group representing denominations who share a common theology. It is a forum where denominations can interact and learn more about each other. When they reach a common ground by consensus, they can take joint action.

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Sponsored link:

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Membership requirements:

The 2003 meeting approved a proposal to be distributed among "...churches, Christian communities, and national Christian organizations" that might wish to join the CCT. Their theological requirements for membership are minimal. Members are expected to:

bullet"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures;
bulletWorship and serve the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and
bulletSeek ways to work together in order to present a more credible Christian witness in and to the world." 1

The phrase "according to the scriptures" allows each of the member organizations to interpret the Bible in their own way. This will inevitably lead to a great diversity of latitude in beliefs about Jesus.

This list of doctrinal requirements allows the CCT to include a much broader range of Christian faith groups than, for example, the NAE which requires members to specifically affirm the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, and of Jesus' virgin birth and sinless life, atonement, resurrection and ascension.

The leaders at the 2003 meeting agreed that implementation of the plan would require agreement from at least 25 denominations or communions which reflect "the diversity of the Christian families present at the meeting." They had hoped to formally found the group in 2005. It was started up in 2006-MAR.

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Proposed activities of the CCT:

Their main initial activities will be:

bulletRejoicing in our faith in the Triune God;
bulletDiscerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and theological dialogue;
bulletProviding fellowship and mutual support; and
bulletAffirming our commonalities and understanding our differences.

As they gain experience cooperating with each other, they expect the Holy Spirit to lead them in:

bulletFostering Christian evangelism faithful to the proclamation of the gospel;
bulletSpeaking to society with a common voice whenever possible;
bulletPromoting the common good of society.

With religious groups as diverse as the Roman Catholic Church, Salvation Army and United Church of Christ present, they might well have great difficulty in reaching agreement on programs that they can all support. Agreement will be even more difficult to attain because of two policies that they have adopted:

bulletDecisions will be made by consensus.
bulletA quorum is only present if representatives from each of the five families are in attendance.

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Founding faith groups of the CCT:

At a meeting in the Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center near Atlanta, GA starting on 2006-MAR-28, 34 churches and national Christian organizations representing over 100 million Americans  officially founded the CCT. Their news release stated:

"Twenty-two additional churches and organizations are participating as observers or are in the process of deciding about joining, and more than 30 others are in conversation with Christian Churches Together. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, who hosted a 2001 meeting in Baltimore at which plans for the new organization first took shape, will represent the Catholic Church as one of its five co-presidents. He said he was "delighted that the work we began in Baltimore has continued to prosper." Christian Churches Together is intended as a forum of ecumenical dialogue and witness involving the participation of representatives from all five major Christian families of churches in the United States: Catholic, Orthodox, historic Protestant, evangelical/Pentecostal, and historic racial/ethnic." 12

The Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and interim moderator of the CCT said:

"We finally found the courage to confront our obvious and longstanding divisions and to build a new expression of unity, rooted in the Spirit, that will strengthen our mission in the world. We are filled with excitement, hope and expectation for how God will use this new expression of our fellowship together." 11

Among the major denominations and para-church organizations that have joined are the American Baptist Churches, USA 7; Call to Renewal/Sojourners; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Christian Reformed Church in NA; Evangelicals for Social Action; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4; Free Methodist Church; Friends United Meeting; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; International Council of Community Churches; International Pentecostal Holiness Church National Association of Congregational Christian Churches; National Baptist Convention of America; National Baptist Convention, USA; Orthodox Church in America; Reformed Church in America; The Episcopal Church, USA; The Presbyterian Church USA; The Salvation Army; United Church of Christ; United Methodist Church, US Conference of Catholic Bishops 5; and World Vision. A full list is online. 11

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Home page > Christianity > History, practices.... > here

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  1. "Plans for 'Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.' Move from Vision Toward Reality," National Council of Churches USA, 2004-JAN-29, at: http://www.ncccusa.org/
  2. "Member Communions," National Council of Churches USA, at: http://www.ncccusa.org/
  3. "Current Members," National Association of Evangelicals, at: http://www.nae.net/
  4. "ELCA Assembly Votes to Join Christian Churches Together," ELCA News Service, 20043-AUG-16, at: http://www.wfn.org/
  5. "Catholic bishops join Christian alliance," CNN.com, 2004-NOV-17, at: http://www2.cnn.com/
  6. "Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. An Invitation to a Journey," Church of the Brethren, 2002-APR-6, at: http://www.brethren.org/
  7. Thomas C. Oden, "The Not-So-New Ecumenism. A recent initiative is structured to exclude evangelicals in the mainline," Christinity Today, 2002-AUG-05, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com
  8. "CCT's Proposed Theological Basis Is Solidly Orthodox. The steering committee of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. responds to Christianity Today," Christianity Today, 2002-AUG-05. at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  9. "Unprecedented Alliance of U.S. Christian Groups Proposed," American Baptist Churches, 2003-FEB-06, at: http://www.wfn.org/
  10. "Christians [sic] Churches Together in the U.S.A.: An Invitation to a Journey," (2002), at: http://www.pcusa.org/ You may need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  11. "CCT Member Organizations," at: http://www.christianchurchestogether.org/
  12. "Christian Churches Together in the USA is officially started," CCT, 2006-APR-10, at: http://www.catholicnews.com/
  13. Christian Churches Together in the USA has a web site at: http://www.christianchurchestogether.org/

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Copyright © 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-NOV-19
Latest update: 2006-DEC-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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