2004 World Conference Legislation
H-11 Ecumenical/Interfaith Relations Committee Report
To the First Presidency and the World Conference:
As a result of the action of the 2002 World Conference, the First Presidency
appointed a committee on “Ecumenical/Interfaith Relations” for 2003-2004.
WCR 1275 called for the establishment of this committee to “serve as a link
between the Community of Christ and interdenominational, interfaith, and other
carefully selected mission-oriented groups.” This same resolution expressed
the support of the World Conference “for the Community of Christ entering into
membership with the National Council of Churches of Christ-USA (NCCC-USA) and
the World Council of Churches (WCC). It further called on the church to enter
into dialogues with the NCCC-USA and the WCC “regarding an appropriate
relationship between the Community of Christ and these ecumenical/interfaith
The committee took its charge in three ways:
1. investigate and enter into a dialogue with the NCCC-USA about possible
membership by the Community of Christ;
2. investigate and enter into dialogues with the WCC about possible
membership by the Community of Christ; and
3. begin the development of a list of other groups that the Community of
Christ should investigate for possible membership.
The committee met three times during the biennium. Apostle Gail Mengel was
designated as the point person with the NCCC-USA, and Apostle Leonard Young took
this same role with respect to the WCC.
I. World Council of Churches
Wim van Klinken (Netherlands national president) and Apostle Young visited
the headquarters of the WCC on April 10, 2003. Discussions took place with WCC
officials about the Community of Christ’s interest in possible membership.
The WCC rules indicate that one of the conditions for membership is
involvement with the appropriate regional ecumenical body. The emphasis is on
assuring that each communion requesting membership has a history of involvement
in the national ecumenical organization in which its headquarters is located.
WCC officials felt it would be advisable for the Community of Christ to join the
NCCC-USA before seeking admission to the WCC.
Members of the WCC are expected to make contributions. The rules indicate
that this is “mutually agreed upon.” For many years the financing of the WCC
was based on voluntary contributions from member churches and there were no
requirements for funds to be paid to the WCC. This is not the case now. The
amounts contributed to the WCC by member churches ranges from a few hundred
dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. The contribution from new members
is an agreed-upon figure negotiated at the time of membership.
The WCC is financed from a number of sources. Currently income from
contributions amounts to only about 20 percent of the WCC’s income; 60 percent
of the income of the WCC comes from contributions by ecumenical organizations,
such as Church World Service, who cooperate with the WCC on human relief and
development ministries. These contributions vary widely year to year due to the
appropriate collaboration relationships that may wax and wane for any particular
organization. Other income comes from individual contributions, sales of
materials, and interest on investments.
The basis upon which the WCC is formed relates to the statement, “The World
Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus
Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures….” This gives rise to
questions about the use of extra-biblical scriptures by the Community of Christ.
As discussions move forward in future years, an intentional information process
will be required to share our view of scripture and the role of the Bible, Book
of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants in the life of the church.
It is important to note that the WCC has many noncredal churches as members
and there is a wide range of churches in the WCC on the issue of credalism. They
do ask churches seeking membership to declare acceptance of the “Basis” of
the WCC and to acknowledge that the decision taken by the church to join the WCC
was made with full knowledge of the Basis. A new set of rules for applications
for membership will be considered in 2006 by the WCC Central Committee. These
rules require the following:
1. In its life and witness, the church professes faith in the Triune God as
expressed in the scriptures and in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
2. The church maintains a ministry of proclaiming the gospel and
celebrating the sacraments.
3. The church baptizes in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
and acknowledges the need to move toward the recognition of the baptism of
4. The church recognizes the presence and activity of Christ and the Holy
Spirit outside its own boundaries and prays for the wisdom of all in the
awareness that other member churches also believe in the Holy Trinity and the
saving grace of God.
5. The church recognizes in the other member churches of the WCC elements
of the true church even if it does not regard them as churches in the true and
full sense of the word.
The WCC does take stands on important political and social issues that relate
to peace and justice and the witness of the Christian church. None of the member
churches are ever bound by decisions of the WCC on social/political/economic
issues. The authority of the WCC lies in the wisdom of what it says and does,
not on any binding authority over member churches. The WCC often seeks to broker
member churches into alliances where this is possible and helpful. Such
alliances may seek to make public statements for those involved. It is expected
that if a member church has a strong disagreement with a position taken by the
WCC, such disagreement will be discussed with a WCC official prior to any public
statements of disagreement. There is always a consultative approach taken with
member churches that might be affected by any statement made by the WCC.
The WCC offers a fellowship of commitment. The goal is unity and common
witness. The unity of the churches is the primary calling of the Council. The
Council believes that no church alone can be the church of Christ by itself, but
all together they represent the body of Christ in the world. The WCC offers to
member churches the opportunity to be in dialogue with one another, to make
joint efforts to promote better understanding among churches toward the goal of
The present climate on admitting new members to the WCC is not entirely
positive. Over the last few years there has been a fairly intensive and
extensive discussion within the WCC on whether the Orthodox churches would
continue as members of the WCC. In the 1980s and 1990s the Orthodox churches
have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the activities of the WCC. This has
particularly been true as there has been an increase in evangelism in the area
of the former Soviet Union and as Western churches have given greater emphasis
to the ordination of women and issues of human sexuality.
As part of this discussion, the Orthodox churches have put into question the
issue of whether the WCC should accept new member churches. The concern is that
there are only increases in membership on the Protestant side since the Orthodox
churches admitted to the WCC are only those associated with the ecumenical
patriarchate in Constantinople. So there cannot be more Orthodox members.
They have agreed that during this time of discussion no new members will be
proposed before the Central Committee meeting in February 2005. In the meantime,
the proposals to change the theological criteria for membership (listed in #5
above) will “guide” but not control decisions made by staff in bringing
forward churches for possible membership to the February 2005 Central Committee
Typically the process of membership takes two to three years. The process
usually goes like this:
A formal letter of invitation is sent from the church seeking membership to
the WCC general secretary. The letter indicates that the church wishes to
pursue membership in the WCC and would like to initiate a dialogue with WCC
officials on possible membership.
The WCC will request information about the church, including theological
statements, polity descriptions, and governing documents.
There is discussion among staff about the church seeking membership and
subsequently specific questions may be raised to which the church is asked to
Often there are seminars or consultations scheduled in which members of the
WCC staff can interact with representatives of the church and ask questions
about the church.
A delegation from the church may come at some point to visit with WCC
officials in Geneva and there will probably be at least one visit by WCC
representatives to the church’s headquarters.
After this initial visit with the WCC, there are several concerns that have
First, this is not a good time to be seeking membership in the WCC given
their internal discussions about membership and their on-going financial
Second, the new “theological” criteria may pose a problem for the
Community of Christ and should be examined carefully.
Third, it appears that the WCC would prefer for the Community of Christ to
be a member of the NCCC-USA before seeking membership in the WCC.
Fourth, there appears to be a potential problem with the Community of
Christ’s acceptance of extra-biblical scriptures. This is only lifted up as
a potential problem that will have to be addressed if a process of membership
application goes forward.
Fifth, no assurances could be given to the Community of Christ that even
after staff consultations and a recommendation for approval of membership is
made to the Central Committee, that the Central Committee will give final
There are enough questions raised in this report to warrant caution on the
part of the Community of Christ in its approach to the WCC. There is an openness
to further meetings and discussions with officials of the Community of Christ.
II. National Council of Churches of Christ-USA
As the committee began its work, we recognized that many church members have
attended training events, conferences, and workshops sponsored by the National
Council of Churches. In addition, we identified numbers of church members who
have served on committees locally, regionally, and nationally during the last
The decision of the World Conference authorized the church to begin the more
formal discussion with the NCCC-USA concerning our participation as an associate
or full member of the organization. We learned early in our discussions that it
might be a several-year process of discussions and approvals if we were
considered for membership.
Thirty-four denominations make up the membership of the board of the National
Council of Christian Churches. Participation at that level requires a formal
application and review process. During our months of discovery we learned that
fifty-four denominations participate at the commission level of the
organization. This is a more open and inclusive level where representatives of
the denominations work together on commissions for Faith and Order, Justice and
Advocacy, Education and Communications. We have been invited to send
representatives to participate as members of these commissions. This was
received positively, but it would also require a financial contribution, and the
costs have not been identified at this writing.
III. Other Ecumenical/Interfaith Organizations
The committee also investigated the Parliament of World Religions as
an organization in which the church should participate. The first Parliament was
held in 1898, and Joseph Smith III was a participant. The focus of the
Parliament is to foster interreligious dialogue and appreciation for diverse
worldwide religious expressions.
The next Parliament will be held in Barcelona, Spain, in June 2004. The
committee recommended to the First Presidency that the church have a strong
presence at the upcoming Parliament of World Religions.
Early in our work and investigations of possible options for NCCC-USA
membership, we learned that a new organization was being considered by a large
representation of Christian churches in the United States with a vast variety of
perspectives and backgrounds. The name that has been chosen during the months of
discussing the formation of the group is Christian Churches Together in the
President Grant McMurray and Apostle Gail Mengel were invited to participate
in the third gathering of this new group. Representatives from Protestant, Roman
Catholic, Greek Orthodox, evangelical, pentecostal, racial, and ethnic
denominations along with participants from Christian organizations gathered to
discuss the purposes and activities of this emerging and historic group that
seeks to create new levels of relationships that offer a shared witness for
Christ to the world.
In their preamble they stated:
We are challenged as Christians by the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that all
who believe in Him might be one with God and with one another so that the
world would believe in Him as God and Savior.
We acknowledge that this is not what we experience now and recognize that
we have different histories and convictions on some key issues.
We pray for a fresh awareness of the Holy Spirit’s work among us that
relationships in which differences can be better understood, our
commonalities better affirmed, and our brokenness healed by God;
more opportunities to engage in shared witness, vision and action; and
a strong prophetic voice of the Christian community in America.
A steering committee is working to develop guidelines for membership and
bylaws, and to make plans for the first General Assembly in spring 2005.
A. Education: The committee has given sustained consideration to the
question of how church leaders can share their experiences of ecumenical and
interreligious participation with the wider church. The committee offers
1. Consider the creation of an “interfaith desk” at world headquarters
that focuses on helping the church see the value of interfaith dialogue.
2. Include in the annual Worship Helps an “Interfaith Celebration”
with appropriate worship outlines and helps.
3. Publish articles in the Herald about the work of the committee
specifically and issues related to interreligious dialogue generally.
4. Consider making a course on world religions and/or interreligious
dialogue part of the MAR/MEADS programs.
5. Consider sponsoring a World Religions Colloquy similar in format to the
Peace Colloquy and Theology Colloquy to educate members about the world’s
wisdom traditions, mutually introduce Community of Christ and leaders of world
faiths, and explore the possibilities and issues of interreligious dialogue.
6. Continue to include information about ecumenism and interreligious
dialogue in church school curriculum resources for adults and youth, as well
as in reunion texts and other vehicles in order to further educate the church
about the religions of the world.
7. Encourage every mission center to investigate appropriate
ecumenical/interfaith organizations and associations that are available for
local participation and encourage pastors and mission center leaders to become
involved where possible.
B. National Council of Christian Churches-USA: Continue observing the
national organization and consider the best options for our contribution as
members of the NCCC commissions, in which fifty-four different denominations
C. Christian Churches Together in the USA: As this organization moves
toward its founding date of April 2005, support our participation in the
formative discussions and submit application for membership.
D. World Council of Churches: Continue dialogue with the WCC during the
next biennium as its rules and procedures for membership become clear and as the
church’s position with relation to the NCCC-USA becomes more firmly
The committee appreciates the opportunity to share its observations with the
church and looks forward to an ever-increasing participation by the church in
Ecumenical/Interfaith Relations Committee
Gail E. Mengel, co-chair
Leonard M. Young, co-chair
Miklos E. Csorba
Jean L. Holmes
Jeremy S. Kohlman
Brad A. Martell
Mark E. Megee
Anna E. Patterson
John F. Rawson
Beth A. Richardson
Scott W. Sinclair
Willem F. van Klinken
J. W. Windland