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WASHINGTON—Christian Churches Together in the USA okayed a common action against poverty across the country for April 2, 2011 and issued a statement of solidarity with earthquake-stricken Haiti at their January 12-15 meeting outside Seattle.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, led the USCCB delegation to the meeting held at Cedarbrook Conference Center.
The key theme of the meeting was Evangelization. Dr. Mel Robeck, Professor of Church History and Ecumenics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, delivered the keynote address “Evangelism in an Ecumenical Context: Celebrating Edinburgh 1910.”
Dr. Doug Strong, Dean of the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University and Professor of the History of Christianity, gave a presentation on “Celebrating the ‘Great Commission’ of Jesus: the Understanding of Evangelism in the Early Church, in Frontier America of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and in the Current Spiritual Ferment and Foment in the Nation.” Panelists responding to Dr Strong’s paper included Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland in Maine, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
Another panel discussion on the experience of evangelization in the Pacific Northwest included remarks by Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Joyce Cox, the Archbishop of Seattle’s Delegate for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue.
Jesuit Father Allan Deck, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, conducted a seminar on Evangelization and Culture from a Catholic perspective at the nearby headquarters of World Vision, which the group visited on January 14.
Archbishop Gregory noted the significance of the church groups’ addressing evangelization.
“We looked closely at the theology and practice of evangelization in our various communities,” he said, “and lamented the fact that our witness is compromised by our divisions. It was especially appropriate for us to consider the relationship between ecumenism and evangelization during this centennial year of the 1910 World Mission Conference that marked the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.”
CCT approved a proposal to encourage leaders of the five CCT families to engage in a day of common action against poverty in a number of cities and towns across the country on April 2, 2011.
The issue had been on their agenda the previous two years.
In addition to Archbishop Gregory, Bishop Malone and Father Deck, USCCB representatives at this meeting included Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California; Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, California; Titular Bishop Nicholas J. Samra of Gerasa; Maryknoll Sister Joan Delaney; Beverly A. Carroll, USCCB Assistant Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church; Father Alexei Smith, Ecumenical Officer of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Paulist Father John Hurley, Administrator of St. Austin’s Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, Father Leo A. Walsh, USCCB Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical Affairs; and Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, USCCB Associate Director of the same Secretariat.
Christian Churches Together in the USA is the result of a 2001 initiative to create a new ecumenical forum in the United States. It formally came into existence in 2006, and now includes a total of 36 churches and six national Christian organizations grouped together in five families: Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, African American, Orthodox, and Catholic. More information about CCT can be found on its website at http://www.christianchurchestogether.org
At their meeting, CCT participants voiced concern over the situation in Haiti following the earthquake and in Egypt where parishioners were gunned down after Christmas services. The text is below.
A Pastoral Prayer of Comfort and Hope for Haiti and Egypt
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” – Luke 4:18-19
At the annual gathering of Christian Churches Together (CCT), we have met once again to deepen our fellowship as a diverse group of national Christian leaders. In the midst of this time together, and here on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we have been deeply affected by recent events that have led to the suffering of parts of the body of Christ.
We grieve the devastation and loss of life caused by the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti. We mourn the death of brothers and sisters, including Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of the Catholic Church and other faith leaders. In the face of devastating scenes of the “living walking among the dead,” we seek to be icons of the living Christ. We pray that our affected brothers and sisters will be comforted and encouraged by our pastoral presence that includes prayers, visitation and physical aid that our churches have rushed to provide. Such a presence seeks to give witness to Christ’s work of healing and hope.
Likewise, as we “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), we are one with our brothers and sisters in the Coptic Orthodox Church who have suffered when parishioners were gunned down in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, after Christmas Eve services. We lament the use of violence in the name of God.
In the midst of the world’s suffering, we pray for God’s compassionate and healing spirit.
We bow our heads in prayer to Him “Who loosens the bound and uplifts the fallen, the Hope of those who have no hope and the Help of those who have no helper, the Comfort of the fainthearted and the Harbor of those in the storm”, to look, with a compassionate eye, on those who are suffering, and to be as He is, full of mercy, full of compassion, full of love. For He grants us more than we ask for, and more than we need, and more than we understand. – Adapted from the Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil, the Litany of the Sick.
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