5 Church 'Families' Open Inauguration Meeting

Representatives from 36 Christian denominations begin their ecumenical meeting as Christian Churches Together (CCT) on Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif. What are said to be the broadest faith groups will officially inaugurate their national body this week.

CCT members represent the "five families" of Christianity in the United States, according to the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Mihaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chair of the CCT steering committee. Evangelical/Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Racial/Ethnic families are brought together as members of the same movement for the first time. The ecumenical effort is being made official on Wednesday.

Discussions for a new national organization began five years ago and the idea for an ecumenical gathering was backed by National Council of Churches USA general secretary Bob Edgar and by a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, John Busby. Christian Churches Together was to take shape to be more "inclusive," housing other church leaders and Christian traditions that were not members of the two other national groups. CCT began as an informally structured organization in 2001.

It was soon founded in March 2006 with 36 churches and organizations. Nearly a year later, the five families are inaugurating the most extensive ecumenical body in U.S. history.

"This effort is crucial for the Christian Church in an increasingly diverse religious landscape in the United States," said the Rev. Jon S. Enslin, who represented the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America at formative meetings of the CCT, in an earlier statement.

This week's meeting at Lake Avenue Church on Feb. 6-9 will mark the sixth annual gathering for Christian Churches Together. Each of the five families is scheduled to make special presentations on the understanding and practice of evangelism. And on the meeting agenda will be a discussion on poverty.