Planners of broad U.S. Christian alliance report on progress

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2004

NAVASOTA, Texas (AP) Fifty-three leaders from a wide range of denominations met last week to lay plans for Christian Churches Together, a hoped-for loose alliance to unite major branches of U.S. Christianity as early as next year.

Participants achieved ''consensus on all major issues related to the founding document'' and ''a substantial number of denominations'' are expected to be founders, said an announcement from the meeting at an Episcopal Church conference center.

''Never before in the history of the United States has this broad and widely representative'' an array of churches sought to work together, the statement said.

A major breakthrough would occur if the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formally joins the organization. A vote on that could occur next November.

U.S. Catholicism has had friendly involvements with other Christians since the Second Vatican Council but, like conservative and evangelical Protestant bodies, has not joined ecumenical organizations like the National Council of Churches.

Christian Churches Together seeks members from what it defines as the five ''families'' of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox, ''evangelical-Pentecostal,'' ''racial/ethnic'' and ''historic Protestant.''

One leader, General Secretary Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America, said more than 25 groups are officially committed to the effort, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and World Vision, the evangelical relief agency.

Granberg-Michaelson said many others are seriously considering the idea.

The nation's largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention, is considered very unlikely to join.

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