Nation's Broadest Ecumenical Body Resists '08 Politics

One of the largest ecumenical groups in the United States decided Friday it would not be involved in this year's presidential race in spite of the potential future benefits it could reap in knowing the next man or woman in the White House.

Christian Churches Together (CCT) during its second annual meeting in Baltimore, Jan. 8-11, decided that it would pursue efforts to combat domestic poverty instead of befriending candidates this year.

CCT comprises 37 national churches from five Christian "families" – Evangelical/Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Racial/Ethnic - and six national Christian organizations.

The relatively new group, which formally launched in 2006, explained that it wanted to navigate its future carefully and that now was not the time to wander into the dangerous field of politics.

"A couple of churches in the mix have gotten bit by being seen as endorsing a candidate or party," said the Rev. Richard Hamm, CCT's new executive administrator, according to Religion News Service. "They've had one too many photo ops and been stung by that."

Others chimed in: "We're still building trust and understanding with each other," said the Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA. "You can't expect a child to carry what an adult can. "

But several members tried to persuade their colleagues that CCT must "seize the moment" and raise the profile of the still largely unknown group by meeting with presidential hopefuls.

"I think some spade work is necessary," said the Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith, executive director of the Greater Church Federation of Indianapolis, according to RNS. "It's too late to cold call after the president is elected."

In the end, the leaders agreed not to meet with the presidential candidates until after the November general election.

Christian leaders attending the four-day CCT meeting included: Cardinal William Keeler, archdiocese of Baltimore; Dr. William Shaw, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America; and Bishop James Leggett, International Pentecostal Holiness Church.