More than 300 people witnessed the inauguration of Christian Churches Together, the most diverse ecumenical grouping in U.S. history.
Members from the Roman Catholic, evangelical/Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox and historic racial/ethnic groups formally established the national body on Wednesday at Pasadena Presbyterian Church during a conference which ends Friday. Among the 36 member organizations of CCT were also such religious groups as World Vision, Bread for the World, Sojourners, Evangelicals for Social Action and the Salvation Army.
CCT is said to be the broadest group of Christian "families" in the nation and the first time an ecumenical coalition is including the formal participation of Roman Catholics.
"Tonight I commit myself to endeavor to draw even closer to all those who call themselves Christian to strengthen our common witness to the world," said Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the inauguration ceremony, according to the Presbyterian News Service.
The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chair of the CCT steering committee, told worship attendants, "It is our intent and prayer to broaden and deepen the fellowship of Christian churches and organizations in the United States."
CCT's sixth annual gathering brought 85 delegates together for a four-day conference where they affirmed the centrality of evangelization, especially in the midst of an increasingly secularized society.
Grant McClung, a theologian and seminary professor in the Church of God, said sound theological scholarship and biblical exegesis are essential to counter "the rising deterrence of non-Christian religions and secularization, along with the alarming drift toward theological 'slippage' in the Christian community."
Some acknowledged the decline of evangelization in the United States, saying "liberal theology, fuzzy Christology and the fear of being perceived as proselytizing" has attributed to the little evangelism activity, according to United Church of Christ head John Thomas.
But evangelism is being renewed among the churches. And it's being renewed with a holistic appeal, Thomas indicated of his church. Catholics and Orthodox Christians are also emphasizing holistic evangelization.
"It witnesses to the Christian life and to strengthening people's relationships with God and each other," said the Rev. Martin Ritsi, director of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in St. Augustine, Fla., the Presbyterian News Service reported.
Similarly, the Rev. Rothang Chhangte, a Christian convert from Burma, stated, "We must dedicate ourselves to proclaim the gospel in ways understandable to all persons by being a forming and reforming influence in all aspects of life."
Ultimately, leading people to Christ leads to "the greatest social action," said McClung, as the conversion creates a climate for other positive changes to take place.