The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s top legislative body had a full plate as it convened in Milwaukee in mid-August—major statements or initiatives on evangelism, mission, worship, health care and the Middle East, as well as an invitation to join a new ecumenical group.
For years premature rumors circulated about the demise of the Consultation on Church Union—the 40-year-old theological dialogue in which nine U.S. church bodies have sought to break down the barriers that divide them.
In the waning days of the Episcopal Church’s July 5-15 General Convention in Denver, a weary sense of déjà vu descended on the bishops and the lay and clergy deputies who make up the church’s highest legislative body. Twenty-four years ago the General Convention made headlines by permitting the ordination of women as priests.
By some gracious irony, the death of Robert Runcie came while the U.S. Episcopal Church’s General Convention was in session. As archbishop of Canterbury, Runcie led the Church of England and the Anglican Communion through the turbulent 1980s, seeking to hew to a “middle way” when issues of women’s ordination and modernized liturgies threatened to split his church.
One figure concentrates the attention of Robert Edgar, chief executive of the National Council of Churches: $650,000. That’s the amount of cash the ecumenical organization must come up with every two weeks to meet payroll.
Seizing the blessings of a rising stock market and unexpectedly plentiful reserve funds, the United Methodist General Conference approved millions of dollars for innovative programs serving overseas churches, ethnic groups in the U.S., young people, older adults, urban needs, ministries to the deaf, and even the production of cable TV spots to attract new members.
When United Methodist delegates take their seats at the church’s May 2-12 General Conference in Cleveland, they’ll be facing decisions on 2,500 or more pieces of legislation, including a far-reaching proposal to restructure the denomination.
The National Council of Churches, its existence threatened by persistent deficits, inept financial management and denominational apathy, approved plans at a November 9-12 meeting to eliminate 34 staff positions, mandated a gaunt new structure, and OK'd the framework for a balanced year 2000 budget that would include a built-in 10 percent surplus.
Robert Edgar, whose four-year term as general secretary of the National Council of Churches begins January 1, will commute between New York and Southern California for two months while he wraps up his responsibilities at the School of Theology at Claremont. He is expected to be virtually full time at the council by March.
At the end of the year Joan Brown Campbell will conclude her nine-year tenure at the helm of the National Council of Churches. But she won't be relinquishing her role as a champion of the ecumenical movement. She will become director of religion at the Chautauqua Institute in New York state, overseeing religious programs and interfaith services.