Pan-Christian group in works
By Richard Ostling
A group of church leaders has invited the nation's denominations and congregations to work toward a national alliance that for the first time would unite all sectors of U.S. Christianity.
The new entity, tentatively called Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., has been under private discussion for two years. Leaders agreed on wording for the invitation at an April 6 Chicago meeting and began publicizing it this week.
Planners will meet in January to assess responses.
The concept emerged from discussions in the National Council of Churches, which consists of denominations representing some 50 million "mainline" Protestants, black Protestants and Orthodox Christians. The National Council, however, has been unable to attract Roman Catholic, evangelical or Pentecostal membership.
The invitation defines potential members as those who "confess Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
If the group becomes a reality it could eventually supplant the National Council. While support is broad, the idea faces one drawback: the nation's largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention, appears unlikely to participate.
The invitation says the group would represent "the full spectrum of Christians in the United States" and provide a stronger voice on "matters critical to the gospel in our society" and "crucial issues of human dignity and social justice."
The steering committee is led by John Busby, national commander of the Salvation Army.
Other members include: the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America; Bishop Tod Brown, chairman of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy's ecumenical committee; the Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the National Council's first Orthodox president; black Pentecostal Bishop George McKinney; Judy Mills Reimer, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren; Ronald Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action; and Bishop McKinley Young, ecumenical officer for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Others involved include Baltimore's Cardinal William Keeler; chief executives of the National Council and the Presbyterian Church (United States); and ecumenical officers with the Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church.