The Words of the Antal Family
New Hope for Dialogue with National Council of Churches of Christ
Chris is a junior in the Religious Education Program at Unification Theological Seminary, Barrytown NY.
Last November I attended a major ecumenical conference in Cleveland, Ohio, commemorating 50 years of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States (NCCC-USA). The purpose of this report is to inform the Unification community about my experience in that conference. As Unificationists, committed to unifying world Christianity, this conference has special significance. For myself, as a seminary student enrolled in the Unification Theological Seminary, an institution founded to "revive Christianity and save America," I was particularly concerned with the NCCC-USA and the recent activities of mainstream American Christians. To put this conference in an historical context, I will begin with a brief background of the organization. I will also include in this account the historical relationship between the NCCC-USA and HSA-UWC in America.
From Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 1950, 29 Christian denominations participated in the inaugural "Constituting Convention" of the NCC. In the 49 years since its founding, the NCC has been involved in many relief, development and social justice issues. The council is perhaps best known for strongly supporting civil rights legislation, helping resettle thousands of refugees in the United States and sponsoring two influential Bible translations which have sold nearly 70 million copies.
This year, 50 years after the inauguration, the Council is composed of 35 Christian denominations with more than 50 million members. However, interest and participation in the Council is down in recent years. Only 757 church members registered in advance for the Cleveland convention, though the council had anticipated over 2,000 participants. Three tour buses were hired to transport people from local hotels to the convention site, but one driver told me he only had seven passengers over the course of an entire day.
From the viewpoint of Unificationists, the NCC has played a mixed role. On the one hand, the NCC has helped protect members of new religious movements and helped undermine the practice of religious kidnapping in America. On Feb. 28, 1974 the NCC Governing Board adopted a resolution on "Deprogramming" which affirmed "religious liberty for young people" and denounced "kidnapping to compel religious deconversion" as "criminal." In Feb. 1984, the NCC was among groups filing a "friends of the court" (amici curiae) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of True Father. That brief expressed alarm at "the complete disregard of Rev. Moonís First and Fifth Amendment rights." When True Father was released from Danbury prison, many NCC ministers rallied in support of the "God and Freedom Banquet."
On the other hand, the NCC has (in the words of one Unificationist theologian) engaged in a "theological witch-hunt" against the Unification Church. On June 21, 1977 the Commission on Faith and Order released to the press and other interested persons a "Critique of the Theology of the Unification Church as set forth in the Divine Principle." According to Dr. Jonathan Wells, this critique "distorts the Divine Principle by quoting it incorrectly, quoting it out of context, and interpreting it in ways which Unificationists and other scholars reject. It also judges Unification theology unfairly by applying standards which some traditional Christians and some of the NCCís own members do not meet.... The critique misrepresents Unification Theology."
Wells provides evidence that the NCC continues to distribute the bogus critique in the knowledge that it is damaging to members of the Unification Church and their friends. He concludes that "the NCC is engaged in the deliberate and malicious propagation of falsehoods."
Despite this, True Father told Dr. Seuk 10 years ago that HSA-UWC should become a member of NCCC-USA. Then Dr. Kathy Winings took on the mission as ecumenical officer and began contact with the NCCC-USA. Prior to 1990, Dr. Winings said, HSA-UWC "did not have the time for NCC." After True Father gave a clear direction, Dr. Winings began to create a relationship with various NCC officers through a "series of private meetings" in order to create a "genuine, ecumenical relationship."
On June 12, 1991, during a leaders meeting at East Garden, True Father once again emphasized the importance of the NCC: "We have to bring NCC in and all the other organized powerful groups for reviving the Christian churches in this country."
From her experience, Winings concludes that "the orthodox will not let us in." By orthodox she refers to the ecumenical officers who represent the ten orthodox churches in the NCCC-USA. From their viewpoint, UC is not Christian. Rather, we are an "anathema." As for the future, Dr. Winings will continue to pursue a deep and genuine relationship with NCC churches. As to what form and on which terms that will be, Dr. Winings is continuing to consider.
The future of the NCC is uncertain. As America in the new millennium promises more cultural and religious pluralism than at any previous time in history, mainstream Protestant church members dwindle in number. The NCC no longer reflects the diversity of religious traditions in America. Further, it doesnít represent the broad spectrum of Americaís Christian landscape. Realizing this, the NCCC plans to venture beyond ecumenism into the realm of interfaith dialogue. This means new hope for relations between the Unification community and the NCCC. Amb. Andrew Young, the president-elect of the NCCC-USA, seems committed to this vision. Better later than never. They seem to have finally reached the point True Father was at Several decades ago.
During the Cleveland conference, Mr. Shunsike Uotani, International Coalition for Religious Freedom-Japan, and I met with several NCCC leaders regarding the attitude and behavior of Japanese ministers toward Unification Church in Japan. We presented a report to Rev. Oliver Thomas, Special Counsel on Religious Liberty of the NCC, which gave a detailed account of some of the more than 300 religious kidnappings which occur each year. We also met with Rev. Victor Hsu, Director of East Asia and Pacific Office of the NCCC-USA and Rev. Eileen Lindner who seemed responsive and willing to help correct the deviant behavior of certain Japanese Christian ministers.
After the recent breakthrough with Christian ministers in Chicago (True Father was warmly welcomed at a ministers conference in that city), Unification Church Vice President Michael Jenkins boldly proclaimed that "the time has come for (American) Christianity to welcome the Lord." If the new millennium has indeed brought us to this level in the dispensation, then this is the year to forget their unwarranted attacks, forgive with the heart of our True Parents, and embrace our brothers and sisters of the NCCC-USA. In order to save this nation, our families must work together with mainline Christians. Through a united effort we can realize Godís hope for America.
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