Christian Churches Together launches, targets poverty
Feb. 13, 2007
NOTE: Photo available at http://umns.umc.org.
A UMNS Report By Linda Bloom*
As Christian Churches Together celebrated its official launch in Pasadena, Calif., a United Methodist participant said the new ecumenical body must overcome "suspicion and concern about its mission."
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said the launch Feb. 6-9 was only part of the journey for Christian Churches Together, which began as a concept in 2001 to expand beyond traditional ecumenical boundaries. The group now counts 36 churches and organizations as founding members.
"We, as United Methodists, still have concern about the role of the historic African- American Methodist churches and the fact that they are not at the table," Pickens said.
Representatives of historic black Methodist churches have expressed reservations about how some participants in Christian Churches Together handle issues of racism, social justice and the ministry of women. They also have questioned the need for another ecumenical organization.
Because of the lack of participation by fellow member denominations of the Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union, The United Methodist Church opted for provisional membership in the new organization rather than full membership.
Expanding Christian conversation
During the past five years, representatives to Christian Churches Together have focused on praying and witnessing together and building relationships through five faith families in the United States - Evangelical/Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic, historic Protestant and Racial/Ethnic.
The Pasadena event included discussions on the importance of evangelism and the elimination of poverty and a "celebration and commitment service" involving more than 150 participants and observers, including seminary students and young leaders.
As one of the five presidents, Pickens spoke on the understanding and practice of evangelism for the Protestant faith.
"God is calling our communions to seek unity even in a divided and broken world," Pickens said. "God is calling our churches to always move toward perfection and never grow too satisfied with ourselves and the way things are. God is calling us to witness for a church in which the whole of God's family is welcomed, received and fulfilled."
Pickens said Christian Churches Together provides an opportunity to move from self-righteousness to the righteousness of Christ.
"It is a call to God's people that uptight lives can be relaxed, trapped lives can be liberated, arrogant lives can be humbled, soiled lives can be cleansed, slouching lives raised up to tiptoe, empty lives filled, life unto death turned into life unto life," he said.
The other four presidents who spoke were the Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America; Cardinal William Keeler, Archdiocese of Baltimore; Bishop James Leggett, International Pentecostal Holiness Church; and the Rev. Dr. William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc., a historic African-American communion.
Targeting U.S. poverty
The organization adopted a statement on "the scandal of widespread poverty in the United States and around the world" and proclaimed that a renewed commitment to overcome poverty "is central to the mission of the church and essential to our unity in Christ."
"Our faith in Christ who is the truth compels us to confront the ignorance of and indifference to the scandal of widespread, persistent poverty in this rich nation. We must call this situation by its real names: moral failure, unacceptable injustice. Our faith in Christ drives us to call our churches and our society to a more urgent, united response," the statement said.
Acknowledging the work that churches already do to help struggling people, the statement stressed that Christian Churches Together must build on those efforts and collaborate more closely to eliminate poverty in the United States.
"Unfortunately, partisan and ideological divisions too often promote one-sided solutions and prevent genuine progress," the statement said. "We believe substantial success in reducing domestic poverty requires an overall framework that insists that overcoming poverty requires both more personal responsibility and broader societal responsibility, both better choices by individuals and better policies and investments by government, both renewing wholesome families and strengthening economic incentives."
The group cites four necessities to overcome domestic poverty: strengthening families and communities, reducing child poverty, making "work" work and strengthening the educational system.
*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.
United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: http://umns.umc.org