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NEW YORK (ENI) — After nearly five years of discussions and planning, a new group for all the major Christian traditions in the United States, including Roman Catholics as well as Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, has been formally launched.

Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT), calling itself “the most inclusive fellowship of Christian churches and traditions” in the United States, was inaugurated on March 28. It marks the first time that bodies representing the five major Christian traditions in the United States — Evangelical and Pentecostal, Protestant, predominantly racial/ethnic churches, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic — have come together at a national level.

“We finally found the courage to confront our obvious and longstanding divisions and to build a new expression of unity, rooted in the Spirit, that will strengthen our mission in the world,” the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and interim CCT moderator, said in a statement.

The creation of CCT is the first time that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined such a church association.

Thirty-four churches and church organizations are formal participants in the new grouping, while eight others, which are considering participation, remain observers.

The launch had been delayed in mid-2005 after concerns were raised by leaders of predominantly black churches as to whether another national ecumenical body was needed in the United States alongside the U.S. National Council of Churches (NCC). They also questioned whether the new grouping would address concerns important to their members, such as racial and economic justice.

The statement announcing the launch of the new grouping noted that overcoming poverty was “central to the mission of the church and essential to our unity in Christ,” and that participants had committed themselves to work together to address the causes of poverty.

Granberg-Michaelson made clear that membership now includes representation from the five major church groupings in the United States, including the historic black churches. Christian Churches Together is not seen, at least for now, as supplanting the NCC. The Catholic Church, the largest denomination in the United States, does not belong to the NCC nor do many evangelical or Pentecostal groups.

CTT, however, includes participation by a variety of groupings. They include several Orthodox churches; Protestant groups as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal (Anglican) Church; and bodies such as the Salvation Army, Open Bible Churches, International Pentecostal Holiness Church and the humanitarian organization World Vision.

Ecumenical News International (ENI)

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