NCC Head Welcomes Catholic Church Decision to Join CCT

Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches U.S.A. welcomed the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ recent decision to take part in the fledgling Christian Churches Together U.S.A. – the to-be largest alliance of Christian groups in the nation.

“CCT is a new forum for leaders of the nation's churches to discuss topics of common interest and grow in their relationships with one another -- more a place to be together than to act together,” Dr. Edgar said, upon learning of the 67-million member Catholic Church’s decision to join.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly to join the CCT during their last day of fall deliberations, Nov. 17, 2004.

While observers noted the similarities between the CCT and the NCC – currently the largest ecumenical body with 50 million members in 36 denominations, the Catholic bishops said the CCT is “not to create another kind of National Council of Churches.”

“It's a forum for participation so we can pray together, grow in our understanding together and witness together our faith in whatever way is possible in our society,” the bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California was quoted as saying by Religion News Service.

Once completed in May 2005, the CCT has the potential to encompass over three-times the membership of the NCC. The loosely knit CCT would represent five segments of U.S. Christianity, listed in the plan as "Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic and Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church and most evangelicals and Pentecostals do not belong to the National Council of Churches, which is currently America's largest ecumenical group. If the new alliance does emerge, it could supplant the National Council or radically alter its role in American Christianity.

The idea for the CCT emerged from discussions three years ago within the NCC, shortly after the NCC suffered a financial crisis that forced it to separate from its humanitarian arm Church World Service. While the NCC is not sponsoring the CCT effort, it’s chief executive is participating in it and is helping facilitate the conversations.

According to the CCT website, the alliance will exist mostly for common worship, fellowship and dialogue on "commonalities" and "differences." Later, it would become more active in "speaking to society with a common voice, whenever possible," and sponsor forums where Christians could address specific issues.

"The NCC and CCT are complementary," Edgar said in his Nov. 18 address. "Many of the NCC's 36 member churches are joining CCT -- an important step forward in broadening ecumenical fellowship -- while affirming their strong support of the NCC and its ongoing diverse program, which includes theological discussion, Bible translation, communication, education, interfaith relations and advocacy on behalf of critical issues of justice and peace."