Magazine article The Christian Century

Lack of Black Churches Delays Launch of New Ecumenical Group

Magazine article The Christian Century

Lack of Black Churches Delays Launch of New Ecumenical Group

Article excerpt

The launching of a new group that aims to bring Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the U.S. together for the first time has been postponed because the effort has received little interest from black churches, leaders said.

The fledgling group, Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT), has struggled to recruit historically black churches, which have been skeptical that their issues would be addressed in the ecumenical organization.

At a meeting June 1-3 in Los Altos, California, 67 leaders from some 31 church bodies decided to postpone a formal launch that was scheduled for September to allow more "productive and positive conversation" with churches that have not yet joined.

The delay--which officials insist can be overcome--highlights the difficulty of undoing decades of mutual suspicion and political differences between churches that have kept them from speaking with a unified voice.

"Frankly, we felt this was so historic and promising that we want to be sure that we get it right," said Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, chair of the CCT steering committee and general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

The effort to build a broader "ecumenical table" started four years ago as a loose-knit forum for U.S. Christians to work together, including Catholics, evangelicals and Pentecostals who have been reluctant to join other ecumenical groups.

When it finally launches, CCT will be organized into five church "families"--Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, racial/ethnic and evangelical/Pentecostal--and will take action only when all five families agree by consensus.

The nation's largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention, has said it has no intention of ever joining CCT.

So far, no predominantly black denominations have joined, although several have expressed interest. Currently, the only racial/ethnic groups to sign on as members are a Korean Presbyterian body and an evangelical Hispanic group.

"We really want to wait and all move forward together," said Bishop Christopher Epting, who oversees ecumenical talks for the Episcopal Church. "We don't want to do some sort of big public event when one or two of the families aren't at the table yet. …

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