Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Church of the Brethren is received into Christian Churches Together.

On Jan. 11, the new ecumenical organization Christian Churches Together completed its second annual meeting in Baltimore at the Maritime Institute. Representatives of 37 participating churches and six organizations attended. CCT’s main objectives are evangelism and domestic poverty, and the organization seeks to bring Christians from across the theological and denominational spectrum together for fellowship and common witness.

The Church of the Brethren was one of seven new churches and organizations received into CCT during the opening worship service on Jan. 8. The other new participants are the American Bible Society, Elim Fellowship, Habitat For Humanity, the Mennonite Church USA, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the Vineyard USA.

"It was a very simple but meaningful ceremony. They called us forward, identified us, and gave thanks to God for us in prayer," said James Beckwith, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.He was one of two delegates representing the Brethren, along with Michael Hostetter, chair of the Committee on Interchurch Relations. Annual Conference moderator-elect David Shumate attended as an observer.

"I think our part in the CCT is intended to complement our work with other ecumenical groups, not to compete with other national associations," Hostetter said. "It is intended as a much more broadly based national Christian organization and to bring a variety of Christian expression at the table."

On Jan. 9, the group visited the headquarters of Bread for the World, a CCT participant organization, where they were joined by 18 seminarians including Nathan Myers, a Church of the Brethren student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. The group also toured the service sites of S.O.M.E. (So Others May Eat) in Washington, D.C., and Sojourners, another CCT participant organization. They heard reflections from representatives of churches on the topic, "What we have learned in our struggle to eliminate poverty."

Throughout the meeting, participants met in small discernment groups to pray and think together about what God may be calling CCT to do--as individuals, as churches and as CCT together--in regard to poverty and in addition to the organization’s Statement on Poverty.

"The heart of the meeting was in the discernment groups," said Beckwith. The groups of five people were intended to include one person from each of the five faith families in CCT (Catholic, Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Racial Ethnic). "We talked about evangelism and poverty in tandem, just as Jesus did when he declared that he had come to preach good news to the poor in Luke," Beckwith said. "We represented a broad political and religious spectrum and tried to discern what we can say together about the issues of poverty and evangelism."

The group approved next steps including dedicating the largest part of the 2009 annual meeting to 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.

In other actions, Wesley Granberg Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, was thanked for his service as moderator; Leonid Kishkovsky, director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Church in America, was commissioned as the new moderator; and Richard L. Hamm was installed as the new executive administrator.

New members of the Steering Committee also were affirmed. One new member on the Steering Committee is Wendy McFadden, executive director and publisher of Brethren Press, who was selected because the Historic Protestant group wanted to include a peace church representative, Beckwith reported.

The date for the next annual meeting was set for Jan. 13-16, 2009.

--Brethren Press intern Jamie Denlinger contributed to this story. Denlinger is a senior English major at Ohio University, and has been an outreach intern at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering, Ohio.

Source: 1/16/2008 Newsline

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