The new cooperative body Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT), bringing together representatives of 43 participating churches and organizations across America, is giving priority to work on poverty and witness.
CCT now represents the broadest ever national table of conversation among Christian churches in the United States, drawing in those not previously involved in ecumenical conversation. Its annual meeting took place from 8-11 January 2008 at the Conference Centre for the Maritime Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
"It is a joy for The Episcopal Church to be a participant member of this broadest ecumenical association in the United States," said Bishop Christopher Epting, the EP Presiding Bishop's deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations recently.
"It is complementary - not in competition with - the National Council of Churches [USA], just as the Global Christian Forum is in relationship with the World Council of Churches. CCT has taken yet another step forward however in agreeing to work together in the years ahead on issues of domestic poverty and evangelism here in the United States."
The meeting also included a discernment session on the theme of evangelism, the other primary focus of CCT.
In remembrance of the 40th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, Dr Ron Sider of Evangelicals For Social Action, a CCT participant, provided input on "God, the Poor and Us: Forty Biblical Reminders," 40 biblical texts that highlight God's special concern for poor people. The document is available here.
Participants heard reflections from representatives of the five church families of CCT (Catholic, Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Racial/Ethnic) on the topic of "What we have learned in our struggle to eliminate poverty."
They also met in small groups to pray and think together about what God might be calling CCT to do as individuals, as churches and as CCT together in regard to poverty and in addition to the "Statement on Poverty" which was released last year, the release said.
Participants decided that the largest part of the next annual meeting - scheduled for 13-16 January 2009 - will be a continued exploration of the convergences and divergences of the participant churches and organizations regarding poverty. The group also decided to press the new US president-elect to make the elimination of domestic poverty a part of his or her administration's goals.
Also during the meeting, participants met at the headquarters of Bread for the World, a CCT participant organization, where they were joined by 18 seminarians. The group toured the service sites of S.O.M.E. (So Others May Eat) in Washington DC, and Sojourners, another CCT participant organization.
The seminarians participating reflected on their experience of that day and shared their thoughts with the CCT representatives. They appreciated the opportunity to be involved and many remarked upon the openness and humanness of these national church leaders, the release said. Likewise, the representatives were impressed with the quality of the seminarians and decided to enlarge this component of future annual meetings, according to the release.
A major part of the meeting was the experience of what were described as "high-quality worship services", reflecting the traditions of each church family.
Seven new churches and organizations were received into CCT participation during the meeting. They include American Bible Society, the Church of the Brethren, Elim Fellowship, Habitat for Humanity, the Mennonite Church USA, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the Vineyard USA.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, was thanked for his service as moderator and Father Leonid Kishkovsky, director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Church in America, was commissioned as the new moderator. Dr Richard L. Hamm was installed as CCT's new executive administrator.
With thanks to the Episcopal News Service - http://www.episcopalchurch.org/