Vital Signs

The End of the NCC?

The declining National Council of Churches, once the mouthpiece of America’s mainline Protestant denominations, is struggling to find a new purpose.  At its May 2002 board meeting, the NCC discussed its latest ecumenical outreach, an attempt to incorporate Roman Catholics and evangelicals.  Called “Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.: An Invitation to a Journey,” the April manifesto was signed in Chicago by leaders of most of the NCC’s constituent Protestant and Orthodox churches, along with several Roman Catholic prelates, some liberal evangelicals, a Pentecostalist, and the head of the Salvation Army.

In the past, NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar has proposed that the NCC might dissolve itself in favor of a larger ecumenical umbrella that would include Catholics and evangelicals.  Other NCC leaders, however, have a different vision.  This latest manifesto does not specify what its goal really is.  “This is an evolutionary process,” NCC President Elenie Huszagh explained to the board.   “[The Chicago manifesto] doesn’t suggest the demise of the NCC.  It’s not ‘either/or.’  It’s an ecumenical conversation.”

But Edgar still seems to envision a broader group replacing the NCC, comparing the transition to the evolution of the old Federal Council of Churches into the National Council of Churches 50 years...

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