Author Topic: NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC  (Read 696 times)

Steverem

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NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC
« on: February 14, 2013, 10:38:43 AM »
This is a pretty stunning turn of events - the National Council of Churches, which not much more than a decade ago had hundreds of staff members, is moving from their offices on Riverside Drive in New York City (referred to by many as the "God Box"), with the transitional general secretary moving to a single office in Washington.  The author of the article tells me that three senior staffers will remain in "satellite offices," and that it appears that all remaining staff members are being let go.

Any thoughts as to what this means for the future of ecumenism here in the United States? Polemics aside, I'd love to hear what people of varying ideological stripes think of this.  It definitely seems to signal a significant paradigm shift in inter-church relations.

http://juicyecumenism.com/2013/02/13/national-council-of-churches-bidding-god-box-farewell/

John_Hannah

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Re: NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 11:08:23 AM »
This is just one man's opinion. I think that the NCC has been out of the mainstream ecumenically for some time. It has also been very weak institutionally. The trend continues.

What ecumenical momentum there is today is mostly with Rome.


Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Steverem

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Re: NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 11:16:37 AM »

What ecumenical momentum there is today is mostly with Rome.


That sentence alone is quite stunning, considering the historical context.

Charles_Austin

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Re: NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 01:13:55 PM »
The "Conciliar ecumenism" of the NCC has been waning for years, maybe a couple of decades. Remember that as councils of churches came into existence following World War II, there were virtually no pan-Protestant "organizations" that brought churches together in a wholistic way.
There was the Faith and Order movement, primarily theological ecumenism; and the Life and Work movement getting churches to cooperate in works of mercy. Conciliar ecumenism internationally - through the World Council of Churches - and nationally expanded considerably.
Times change. Needs change.
The NCC was in the forefront of the struggle against segregation, forging more bonds across denominational lines. And it brought eastern Orthodox churches into the mix.
My own not-so-humble opinion; the NCC got big-headed over social renewal and forgot the Faith and Order side and began to equate "mission" with social change. I attended many NCC meetings and sensed that the "social activists" were in charge and had little use for the "gospel mission" people. Faith and Order declined precipitously.
But the NCC lumbered on, drawing less and less attention from denominations.
COCU, Consultation on Church Union, started, faltered, started again; and I'm not sure where it is now. It was, I think, just another type of conciliar ecumenism, but with the goal of actual church union.
Meanwhile, bi-lateral dialogues flourished.
I have heard in recent years, and I have heard darn little about the NCC in recent years, that they just kept asking each other "what are we doing and why?"
In a way I will be sorry to see it go; but it may be time. The well-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy was founded years ago to put the NCC out of business. Maybe its days are numbered too.
The NCC has a distinguished history and I hope some Ph.D. candidate in American Church history is writing it. But its specific mission may be at an end. We should thank God, and people like Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, to name a Lutheran, for what it accomplished.


Steverem

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Re: NCC Leaving the "God Box" in NYC
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 02:46:00 PM »
The "Conciliar ecumenism" of the NCC has been waning for years, maybe a couple of decades. Remember that as councils of churches came into existence following World War II, there were virtually no pan-Protestant "organizations" that brought churches together in a wholistic way.
There was the Faith and Order movement, primarily theological ecumenism; and the Life and Work movement getting churches to cooperate in works of mercy. Conciliar ecumenism internationally - through the World Council of Churches - and nationally expanded considerably.
Times change. Needs change.
The NCC was in the forefront of the struggle against segregation, forging more bonds across denominational lines. And it brought eastern Orthodox churches into the mix.
My own not-so-humble opinion; the NCC got big-headed over social renewal and forgot the Faith and Order side and began to equate "mission" with social change. I attended many NCC meetings and sensed that the "social activists" were in charge and had little use for the "gospel mission" people. Faith and Order declined precipitously.
But the NCC lumbered on, drawing less and less attention from denominations.
COCU, Consultation on Church Union, started, faltered, started again; and I'm not sure where it is now. It was, I think, just another type of conciliar ecumenism, but with the goal of actual church union.
Meanwhile, bi-lateral dialogues flourished.
I have heard in recent years, and I have heard darn little about the NCC in recent years, that they just kept asking each other "what are we doing and why?"
In a way I will be sorry to see it go; but it may be time. The well-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy was founded years ago to put the NCC out of business. Maybe its days are numbered too.
The NCC has a distinguished history and I hope some Ph.D. candidate in American Church history is writing it. But its specific mission may be at an end. We should thank God, and people like Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, to name a Lutheran, for what it accomplished.

Sigh.

I was just about to commend you for what I found to be a fair, accurate, and balanced analysis of what has plagued the NCC and "conciliar ecumenism."  Of course, then you had to go and throw in the comment about the "well-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy."  I can assure you that if the IRD was anywhere close to as "well-funded" as you and others seem to think, I'd still be on the employment rolls there.  Truth is, IRD has always operated on a shoestring budget relative to groups like the NCC, which still receives annual support from the denominations they support.  (Perhaps ironically, I'm told that the number of full-time employees of the IRD and NCC are now identical.)

And I wouldn't say that the IRD was founded "to put the NCC out of business."  Perhaps the latter-day, social activist NCC you describe, but I don't think there was ever an objection to a theological ecumenism, and there was always the hope that NCC leadership would acknowledge this and return to a broader ecumenism based on a shared creed, and less dependent on the social and political issues of the day.  Alas, general secretaries such as Bob Edgar and Joan Brown Campbell seemed intent on moving in the other direction.  More recent general secretaries appeared to recognize the slide, but were too late to correct it.

I, for one, look at the demise of the NCC with mixed feelings - grateful that the body no longer has the disruptive, disunifying effect on the Church catholic that it once had; but sad that it was never able to truly live up to the noble goals that it once professed.

Ultimately, how much money IRD did or didn't have is immaterial.  The NCC wasn't destroyed from forces from the outside, it was destroyed by it's own hubris and a lack of focus on the one thing that should have animated it and given it life.  It became much more enamored with having a voice in the corridors of power, and less connected with those for whom it was purporting to speak.

As for the IRD, it appears to have made a conscious decision to move away from mainline church politics, and has instead moved toward critiquing a more postmodern approach to Christianity, with an increasingly evangelical perspective.  I know of one Methodist staffer and two Anglican ones (all holdovers from my days there).  As best as I can tell, all the newer staff members are young and evangelicals of various stripes.