Christian Churches Together postpones launch
June 10, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
The launch of a new ecumenical group, Christian Churches Together, has been postponed.
The decision was made during the June 1-3 meeting of 67 Christian leaders at the Jesuit Conference Center in Palo Alto, Calif., which was to be the inauguration of the group. An inaugural worship service had been planned at Washington Cathedral in September.
So far, 31 churches and national Christian organizations have formally decided to join Christian Churches Together and 20 additional church leaders from denominations considering membership attended the meeting as observers. Participants include mainline Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, Pentecostals and evangelicals.
According to a statement from the meeting, "the decision was made to delay a formal launch this fall in order to continue the productive and positive conversation with churches and organizations actively considering joining."
"Participants enthusiastically reaffirmed their commitment to 'grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our Christian witness in the world,'" the statement said.
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said the decision to delay was reached after participants addressed the fact that no African-American churches "are presently represented at the table as participants" and questioned whether the new entity could be inaugurated without their presence.
"This was in some ways a difficult and painful decision, but in my mind, it was the right decision," Pickens told United Methodist News Service.
He noted that the United Methodist Council of Bishops had voted in May for the denomination to enter Christian Churches Together as a provisional member, partly because of this concern, and that the Commission on Christian Unity had raised the issue as well.
Although the commission supported provisional membership, it did lament, in an April statement, the historic divisions in the church over race and wanted to know how Christian Churches Together "will strive to be racially and ethnically inclusive."
Pickens said he thinks the organization is strong and has "a new level of legitimacy" because of the decision to delay an inauguration.
The next meeting of Christian Churches Together will "continue common activities of prayer, biblical reflection, worship and relationship building as well as wrestle in depth with the issue of poverty in the United States," the group's statement said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.