Leaders of the National Council of Churches have at various times over the past decade floated the idea of seeking a new, more inclusive kind of ecumenical organization. Last month the NCC made its most concrete move in that direction by appointing a team of top church leaders to explore the idea with Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Pentecostals.
At one level, the logic behind the idea of an expanded organization is obvious. The NCC’s 35 member churches account for only about one-third of U.S. Christians. A body that does not include Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Pentecostals does not represent the breadth of Christianity in the U.S. and in that sense is not very ecumenical. The scope of official intra-Christian conversation in the U.S. seems especially limited if one compares the NCC to church councils in in such countries as Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Sweden, where Roman Catholics participate.