Last week’s Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) brought more than 400 people to New Orleans, La., to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1910 World Mission Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland–an event many church historians regard as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.
The National Council of Churches itself was formed in 1950 out of several national church streams, including Church World Service.
The theme for the centennial gathering Nov. 9-11, “Witnesses of These Things: Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era,” comes from Luke 24:48, the same scriptural theme text as the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC are Elizabeth Bidgood Enders of Harrisburg, Pa.; J.D. Glick of Bridgewater, Va.; Illana Naylor of Manassas, Va.; Kenneth M. Rieman of Seattle, Wash.; and representing the denominational staff Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director for Ministry, and general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger.
The agenda included five “vision papers” presented for discussion: “Christian Understanding of Unity in an Age of Radical Diversity,” “Christian Understanding of Mission in an Age of Interfaith Relations,” “Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism),” “Christian Understanding of the Economy in an Age of Growing Inequality,” and “Christian Understanding of Creation in an Age of Environmental Crisis.”
The vision papers were not presented for a vote, but used to stimulate ideas for future directions for common, life, witness, and mission. In comments after returning from the gathering, Noffsinger said that his office is preparing study guides to help Brethren use the vision papers, with plans to offer them as online resources.
In action items, the gathering adopted a number of statements including a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform, a call for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), a document “Honoring the Sacredness of Religious Others: Reaffirming our Commitment to Positive Interfaith Relations” that takes note of controversies over the building of Islamic houses of worship and threats to burn the Koran, a resolution on violence against Christians in Iraq, and a resolution calling for investigation of human rights abuses in Myanmar. The NCC welcomed one new member communion, the Community of Christ, once known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
In other business the NCC Governing Board, which includes Noffsinger as a member, adopted a resolution calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan, approved merging the US Conference for the World Council of Churches into the NCC, and re-elected Michael Kinnamon as NCC general secretary. The resolution, “A Call to End the War in Afghanistan,” calls for withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan “to be completed as soon as possible without further endangerment to the lives and welfare of US and NATO troops, Afghan troops, and Afghan civilians.” The document states “that we must reaffirm our witness to Christ’s commandment to love our enemies,” and calls on member communions “to articulate to one another and to government authorities the concept of a ‘Just Peace’ as a proactive strategy for avoiding premature or unnecessary decisions to employ military means of solving conflicts.”
(This article is primarily excerpted from releases by Philip E. Jenks of the NCC staff and Lesley Crosson of CWS. For more about the gathering go to www.ncccusa.org/witnesses2010 .)
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