From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Worship launches Christian Churches Together

From News Service <newsservice@CTR.PCUSA.ORG>
Date Thu, 8 Feb 2007 12:45:25 -0500

You are currently subscribed to the PCUSANEWS listserv of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


This story located at:

07081 February 8, 2007

Worship launches Christian Churches Together

Historic ecumenical group talks first about evangelization

by Evan Silverstein

PASADENA, CA - More than 300 worshipers gathered for worship at Pasadena Presbyterian Church Feb. 7 to inaugurate the most diverse ecumenical grouping in U.S. history.

Christian Churches Together (CCT) begins with 36 member organizations from all five church "families" - Roman Catholic, evangelical/Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox and historic racial ethnic - as well as a number of non-denomination religious groups, such as World Vision, Bread for the World, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, Evangelicals for Social Action and the Salvation Army.

"It is our intent and prayer to broaden and deepen the fellowship of Christian churches and organizations in the United States," said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chair of the CCT steering committee. He said he expects many more groups to soon join the CCT, including denominations such as the Mennonite Church USA and the Church of the Brethren, which are likely to join CCT during its next assembly.

It is the first time the Roman Catholics have formally participated in a broad national ecumenical coalition. Greetings were brought to the worship by Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. "Tonight I commit myself to endeavor to draw even closer to all those who call themselves Christian to strengthen our common witness to the world," he told the congregation.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was represented in the service by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, director of operations in the Office of the General Assembly. Also attending for the PC(USA) was the Rev. Carlos Malave, associate for ecumenical relations. Greetings were brought on behalf of Pasadena Church by co-pastor the Rev. Barbara Anderson, who recalled the rich ecumenical heritage of the church as exemplified by former pastor and world-renowned leader Eugene Carson Blake.

Earlier, the 85 CCT delegates, along with several dozen observers and 30 seminary students from around the country spent a full day sharing the five Christian families' perspectives on evangelization.

All agreed that evangelization is central to the gospel as expressed in Jesus' Great Commission in Matthew 28. But the approaches vary.

For those in the evangelical/Pentecostal tradition, evanglization is "experiential, exegetical and expressive," said Grant McClung, a theologian and seminary professor in the Church of God, based in Cleveland, TN. "We believe that one must know God personally through Jesus Christ and that our evangelistic witness flows out of that personal experience."

Sound theological scholarship and biblical exegesis is essential, McClung said, to counter "the rising deterrence of non-Christian religions and secularization, along with the alarming drift toward theological 'slippage' in the Christian community."

In such dire straits, McClung said, evangelicals and Pentecostals believe "the truth of the gospel is meant to be verbally expressed with the expectation of a verdict on the part of the listener."

Part of that verdict must include the renunciation of racism, said Angelique Walker-Smith of the National Baptist Convention USA, an African American denomination. "The Black church has viewed and practiced evangelism through the hermeneutical prism of the experience of African Americans with racism and injustice in the United States," she said.

"Jesus is our model," Walker-Smith said, "and, like Jesus, we proclaim the Good News with compassion and a consciousness of the contextual challenges that oppressed and poor people are confronted with."

That reaching out to people in their context of need is global in its scope, said the Rev. Rothang Chhangte, who was converted to Christianity by Methodist missionaries in her native Burma. "Evangelism is so related to mission," she said. "I am a product of it.

"We must dedicate ourselves to proclaim the gospel in ways understandable to all persons," Chhangte said, "by being a forming and reforming influence in all aspects of life."

It was not until the mid-1960s that the Roman Catholic Church experienced a "reawakening of evangelization as the essential mission of the church" at the subtle urging of Pope Paul VI said the Rev. John Hurley, former executive director of the U.S. Catholics' Secretariat for Evangelization.

When the Pope issued a papal "exhortation" to that effect in 1975, it made Catholics squirm, Hurley said. "Many were still more comfortable in their vertical relationship with God rather than a horizontal relationship which the Vatican was calling us to."

Protestants, too, went through a period of reduced evangelization, said United Church of Christ head John Thomas. He attributed the decline to "liberal theology, fuzzy Christology and the fear of being perceived as proselytizing." But the rise of evangelism as a holistic appeal to all of life and the realization that denominational identity is at stake has renewed his church for evangelization, Thomas said.

The renewed Catholic emphasis on evangelization has also been holistic, Hurley said. "Evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individual and society *, he said.

That understanding is echoed in the Orthodox tradition, said the Rev. Martin Ritsi, director of the Othodox Christian Mission Center in St. Augustine, FL. "Evangelization for the Orthodox family carries a holistic understanding that includes proclamation by word, deed, prayer and worship," he said. "It witnesses to the Christian life and to strengthening people's relationships with God and each other."

The Rev. Larry Pickens of the United Methodist Church said the characteristics of such evangelization are "a quickened mind and a warm evangelical heart, a blending of personal commitment with social responsibility."

For the evangelical/Pentecostal family, McClung said, the blend of evangelization with social action means being "ecologically active" - that is, "bringing the message and realities of the kingdom of God into the social affairs of human beings and into responsible stewardship of all creation."

Though "evangelism is primary" for evangelicals and Pentecostals, McClung said, quoting Luis Palau, "The people of this world create the problems of the world. If we can lead them to Christ, we will create a climate for other positive, practical changes to take place. Conversion leads to the greatest social action. As people's lives are changed, they are different in their families, in their jobs, and in society."

The evangelistic task, Ritsi said, is to create and nurture such just communities. "The Orthodox seek to create nurturing Christian communities that will share Great Commission with those around them, he said. "At the forefront is our desire to create authentic local Eucharistic communities."

But it all belongs to God, reminded the Rev. Jack Rogers of the PC(USA). "It is God who saves us through Jesus Christ," he said. "The church is called to be Christ's faithful evangelist - baptizing, teaching, making disciples. We do this by demonstrating God's love to one another and participating in God's activities in the world - a just, peaceful and loving rule."

And it all flows from that initial encounter with Jesus Christ, said Hurley. "Everything planned in the church must have Christ and his Gospel as the starting point," he quoted Pope John Paul II. "We must stay in touch with that personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Otherwise, ministry becomes work."

On its second full day, Feb. 8, CCT was slated to take up an anti-poverty initiative. That session has been closed to the press.


You are currently subscribed to the PCUSANEWS listserv of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

To unsubscribe, send a blank message to

To update your email address, send your old email address and your new one to

For questions or comments, send an email to

To learn more, visit

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 100 Witherspoon Street Louisville, KY 40202 (888) 728-7228

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home