National Council of Churches

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Logo of the NCC

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, usually identified as the National Council of Churches (NCC), is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace churches. Together, they encompass more than 100,000 local congregations and 45 million adherents.[citation needed] It began as the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, and expanded through merger with several other ecumenical organizations to become the National Council of Churches in 1950.[1]

The NCC's influence reached its peak in the 1950s, largely because of its commitment to ecumenism, and to the popularity of a wide variety of collaborative programs and ministries undertaken by its member churches, including the humanitarian movement, Church World Service.

The NCC's strong position against the Vietnam War in the 1960s alienated many laity, leading to a decline in influence among pro-war members of some of its member bodies.[2]

Membership[edit]

The Council's 37 member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace churches.[3] Individual adherents of more than 50 Christian faith groups actively participate in NCC study groups, commissions and ministries, though some of their denominations, including the Roman Catholics, fundamentalists, Southern Baptists, and Missouri Synod Lutherans, are not officially a part of the Council's membership.[2]

All NCC member organizations subscribe to the NCC's statement of faith.[4]

Social and political advocacy[edit]

According to Gill (2011), the NCC's position against the Vietnam War became increasingly strident in the 1960s and 1970s, and alienated the laity.[2] As in other Mainline churches, the senior officials and the laity had diverging positions on public policy.[5] At one point conservative media falsely reported NCC had channeled money to Communist groups in Vietnam and left-wing groups in Central America, provoking an outcry. Even the NCC's defenders admitted it had been "opaque" and "tone-deaf to their constituents."[6]

Although often accused of being a left-wing organization, the NCC never attracted support from the New Left. The result of being caught in the national polarization between left and right in a variety of controversies has been a long-lasting decline in influence.[2]

The member churches have engaged on issues of public policy and moral values, including by adopting the "Social Creed of the Churches" in 1908, a document which was updated by the NCC General Assembly in 2007.[7]

The Council has supported minimum wage laws,[8] environmentalist policies, and affirmative action,[9] and played a significant role in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.[10]

Since the late 1960s the NCC has taken positions sympathetic towards Palestinian land rights.[11]

NCC partners with dozens of other faith-based groups, such as Bread for the World, Habitat for Humanity, and Children's Defense Fund, to press for broad policy initiatives that address poverty issues.[12] The Council helped launch the Let Justice Roll grassroots anti-poverty campaign that has been successful in raising the minimum wage in more than 20 states since 2005.[13]

In July 2005, the Antiochian Orthodox Church suspended its participation in the NCC because, according to an assistant to the denomination's senior cleric, "the NCC...seems to have taken a turn toward political positioning." [14]

Publishing and research[edit]

The NCC fostered the multi-denominational research effort that produced the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and holds the copyright to both translations.[15]

The NCC sponsors the research program on which the Uniform Sunday School Lesson Series is based. The series began in 1872 under the auspices of the National Sunday School Convention.[16]

The NCC also publishes the annual Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, since 1916 a widely-used reference work on trends, statistics and programmatic information on religious organizations in North America.

Theological and ecumenical dialogue[edit]

The NCC Faith and Order Commission is an ongoing, scholarly, ecumenical dialogue among North American Christian theologians and church historians, including Evangelical, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, and African-American scholars.[citation needed] In 2007, the Commission celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.[17]

Media[edit]

The NCC is a founding member of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, a partnership established in 1980 to provide religious television programming for the local affiliates of ABC, NBC and CBS.[18] The current IBC members include a variety of Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic organizations.[18]

Facilities[edit]

The Council's headquarters were originally located in the Interchurch Center in New York City, but it vacated these premises in 2013, when it consolidated its offices in the building long used by its public-policy staff at 110 Maryland Avenue, N.E., on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Civil Rights Greensboro: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA". Library.uncg.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jill K. Gill (2011). Embattled Ecumenism: The National Council of Churches, the Vietnam War, and the Trials of the Protestant Left. Northern Illinois University Press. 
  3. ^ "National Council of Churches: Membership List". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  4. ^ "About the National Council of Churches". Archived from the original on 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  5. ^ Jason S. Lantzer (2012). Mainline Christianity: The Past and Future of America's Majority Faith. NYU Press. p. 57. 
  6. ^ Diane Winston (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media. Oxford University Press. pp. 189–90. 
  7. ^ "The Social Creed of 1908 Updated for 21st Century". Pubtheo.com. 
  8. ^ "Faith and community leaders urge Congress to raise minimum wage to $7.25 an hour". NCC News. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  9. ^ NCC General Assembly (1997). "Resolution on Continued Support For Affirmative Action". 
  10. ^ Findlay, Jr., James F. (1993). Church People in the Struggle: The National Council of Churches and the Black Freedom Movement, 1950-1970. Oxford University Press Inc, USA. ISBN 0-19-507967-1. 
  11. ^ James Q. Wilson (2010). American Politics, Then & Now: And Other Essays. AEI Press. pp. 126–27. 
  12. ^ "NCC's Partners in Ministry". National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  13. ^ "Morality of the Minimum". The Nation magazine. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  14. ^ "NCC Speaks Out About Withdrawal of Orthodox Church". Christianpost.com. 2005-09-30. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  15. ^ Boring, M. Eugene (2012). An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 46. Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  16. ^ "Historic Uniform Series Now Meets 21st Century Needs". Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  17. ^ "Celebrating 50 Years of Faith and Order". Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  18. ^ a b "About Interfaith Broadcasting Commission: History". Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  19. ^ Markoe, Lauren (February 13, 2013). "Cash-strapped National Council of Churches to move to D.C.". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 

External links[edit]

National Council of Churches FBI files obtained through the FOIA and hosted at the Internet Archive