money, and power seem to be the more pervasive issues in the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (the NCC); yes, more
pervasive than any kind of Christian concerns. "A strong
accusation!" you might say to me. What if I told
you that the NCC is so desperate for money from the UMC that the NCC
allowed itself to be blackmailed by the UMC. Sounds very
unChristian, doesn't it? Read it and weep:
The saga has played out in just one week's time, as you can read
below, but first we must preface the saga with some background.
The NCC has been a left-leaning organization for decades, and has been
accused of aiding communists for about 40 years, and recently, the NCC
was a key player in aiding Fidel Castro's efforts to obtain the return
of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, from his Florida relatives. The NCC has
been in dire financial straits in the recent past, even nearing
dissolution until the UMC and other major contributors agreed to stand
behind the NCC. At GC2000, the UMC voted to continue to contribute
to the NCC.
However, the NCC has continued to operate on the edge of bankruptcy
throughout the year 2000. In order to search out a new source of
money, the NCC has been trying to establish a relationship with
Christian churches that are no where near the left-leaning position of
their long-standing members. One major effort by the NCC to bring
in new conservative money has been a negotiation of a position statement
on marriage in conjunction with with the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, and National Association of
With this background, we now pick up the events of last week,
November 14, 2000, as the NCC proudly announces their Christian
Declaration on Marriage as part of their general
assembly convention (excerpts follow):
We believe that marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman
in which they commit, with God's help, to build a loving, life-giving,
faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime. God has
established the married state, in the order of creation and
redemption, for spouses to grow in love of one another and for the
procreation, nurture, formation and education of children.
This declaration was signed by the three more conservative Christian
organizations mentioned above, as well as by Dr. Robert Edgar, General
Secretary of the NCC. The signature by Edgar was somewhat
unexpected, as he has publicly stated his support of same-sex unions
(Edgar is a UMC pastor and former congressman).
We believe that when a marriage is true to God's loving design
it brings spiritual, physical, emotional, economic, and social
benefits not only to a couple and family but also to the Church and to
the wider culture.
Our nation is threatened by a high divorce rate, a rise in
cohabitation, a rise in non-marital births, a decline in the marriage
rate, and a diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying,
especially among young people. The documented adverse impact of these
trends on children, adults, and society is alarming. Therefore, as
church leaders, we recognize an unprecedented need and responsibility
to help couples begin, build, and sustain better marriages, and to
restore those threatened by divorce.
Motivated by our common desire that God's Kingdom be manifested
on earth as it is in heaven, we pledge to deepen our commitment to
Further, we urge churches in every community to join in
developing policies and programs with concrete goals to reduce the
divorce rate and increase the marriage rate.
Well, Edgar's support for the marriage declaration lasted only a
matter of hours. At a breakfast presentation with the NCC's
homosexual advocacy group, a liberal
speaker called on Edgar to retract his support for the declaration.
Just hours after this criticism by the liberal support base of the
NCC, Edgar issued
a letter retracting his support for the declaration. In this
letter, he attempted to ride the fence between his liberal base and the
new sources for income represented by the more conservative churches:
November 16, 2000
This "trial balloon" letter floated by Edgar apparently didn't
fly, as the next day he apologized at the NCC's General Assembly session
for his support of marriage, which was considered by
everyone (obviously) as indicating a lack of support for
homosexual unions, and all other abominable forms of
"marriage." He then followed up his public verbal
statements with another
Dear General Assembly Delegate:
I believe that churches must support Christian men and women in
marriage--especially in our "disposable society," where
marriage is often diminished and undermined, a practice contrary to
Christian teaching and heritage. This statement signals that churches
can do a better job of offering married couples the kind of support
that helps them keep their commitments.
I would not want this statement to be misconstrued as if it were
an oblique comment on same-sex unions. Even more importantly, it would
be unconscionable if support for married couples, so desperately
needed today, were to be twisted into a weapon that can be used to
attack gays and lesbians, their families and friends and all in our
churches who love and care for them.
There is disagreement between and among our member communions on
many issues related to sexuality and marriage. Currently, several of
our member communions are in discussion and discernment regarding
In our dangerously fragmented society, I regret and will resist
any attempt to interpret support for one beleaguered segment of
society as an attack another. That is my appeal. Please help me in
extending this call for mutual respect and love. Please pray for all
who are today engaged in work that strengthens the one body of Christ.
November 17, 2000
Obviously, Edgar was pressured by his liberal support base to drop his
newly-found evangelical position (or let's call it as it is: the
newly-found source of money). You might ask, Just how much
homage must Edgar pay to his liberal base? As demonstrated in
the following writing, Edgar and the NCC are wholly beholden to the UMC:
Bishop Anthony O'Connell, Chairman
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Committee on Marriage and Family Life
Dr. Richard Land, President
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention
Bishop Kevin Mannoia, President
National Association of Evangelicals
Dear Anthony, Richard and Kevin:
I write to remove my signature from the November 14, 2000,
statement on "A Christian Declaration on Marriage."
I do so because I did not adequately consult with the 36 member
communions of the National Council of Churches prior to agreeing to
sign the statement.
A number of the NCC member communions interpret the document
more as a condemnation of same-sex unions than as an affirmation
of marriage. The fact that the declaration omits mention of
same-sex unions is taken by some as proof that all of the signatories
disapprove of such unions.
Further, I am concerned that in our dangerously fragmented and
violent society, misinterpretation of the declaration may be
used by some as a pretext for attacks on gay and lesbian persons.
My hope, when I signed the Declaration on Christian Marriage on
November 14, was a sincere one that we could find ways to work
together as Christians to reduce the high rate of divorce in our
nation by better preparing people for marriage and supporting them in
their marriage vows. I still hold that hope, even though I find that I
cannot support this particular declaration.
My withdrawal should in no way be seen as a weakening of my
commitment to building the larger ecumenical table about which we have
talked. I have been heartened this week as Father John Ford, the Rev
Jim is, and the Rev. Bernard Wilson spoke eloquently at our General
Assembly from the Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal
traditions about the promise and potential of an expanded ecumenical
I remain committed to that goal and confidant that we can find
ways to work together.
May God bless you and may God guide us in our journey on the
path of Christian unity.
survival hinges on Methodist contribution
So, now you see the picture more clearly, don't you. The NCC is
near demise and so they've reached out to new sources of money (the more
conservative churches), but as they reached out, their base felt
abandoned. The most significant member of their base is the UMC,
and the NCC knows that they will live or die with the UMC.
Obviously, the UMC was the major player in strong-arming Edgar to back
out of his marriage declaration that he made with the new money sources.
in "deep, deep trouble," trims program areas, payroll
Nov 14 2000 2:48 PM
by Bill Lancaster
ATLANTA -- The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
(NCC) will cease to exist if funding does not come through from one of
its major supporting denominations, the United Methodist Church (UMC),
according to Phillip Young, the NCC's outgoing treasurer.
The NCC is taking strong measures to reinvent itself because of
its severe and chronic financial problems. On Tuesday, its executive
board approved a reorganization of program areas and a reduction in
NCC staff from 64 employees to 47, effective Nov. 20.
During the meeting of the NCC executive board, Young and Barbara
Ellen Black, the NCC's interim general manager, told the board the
ecumenical organization will finish 2000 with a surplus of $176,870,
if -- and it's a big if -- the United Methodists come through with
$400,000 of the approximately $618,000 remaining that they pledged in
During an interview after the meeting, Young said auditors have
told the NCC that the UMC pledge is not a good account-receivable
because it is more than a year old. Auditors already have required the
NCC to write off "a significant amount" -- about $150,000 --
of other non-receivable pledges.
"If the Methodists don't come through," Young said,
"we are in deep, deep trouble."
The former treasurer said he "cannot conceive what this
council would be like if they failed to do that. They are a major
contributor. Half of the money for this council comes from the
Methodists and the Presbyterians. If the Methodists pull out, the
Presbyterians are going to look like they sure made a mistake in
Bob Edgar, the NCC general secretary, said the UMC pledge is the
only outstanding commitment in a $2 million debt-reduction plan put
together by NCC member denominations. If the Methodist money isn't
delivered, he said, "it will be very difficult, because we are
counting on those funds to stay within our budgeted means. God still
has work for the National Council of Churches, in its faith, justice
and education arm, and its service-and-witness arm."
Andrew Young, the outgoing president of the NCC, a member of the
United Church of Christ, said, "We've got to find a way to keep
the National Council going and get all the member churches to fulfill
Andrew Young said the NCC is "moving clearly in the right
direction," adding that he thinks churches will be more willing
to contribute. "We really can't do anything without the
Methodists," he said, expressing hope that somehow the
long-troubled organization will make it. "I don't think that
anybody can afford to let the National Council of Churches die. I
can't conceive of the United Methodists not living up to this
Who do you think is the personality behind this UMC strong-arm
approach? None other than the UMC's Melvin Talbert (retired
bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference), as reported
Homosexuality surfaced in still another NCC discussion. During a
roll-call on whether to accept the Alliance of Baptists, a former
Southern Baptist dissident group, as a new NCC member church, two
denominational representatives expressed regret that the homosexual
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) could
not also be accepted into membership. (Previous NCC General Assemblies
have rejected the UFMCC's membership application.)
How much leverage did Talbert have in his possession to hold over Edgar?
Take a look at this:
One of the two was United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, who
left his northern California jurisdiction in turmoil when he retired
earlier this year. He had refused to discipline 68 of his clergy who
participated in a lesbian "marriage" rite, while driving out
of the denomination about a dozen evangelical pastors who objected to
his policy. The United Methodist Church forbids clergy from performing
As the ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of
Bishops, Talbert implied he was speaking for his denomination when he
supported the UFMCC's inclusion. But another United Methodist delegate
corrected the record. Leland Collins, who heads the Georgia Christian
Council, told the General Assembly that the United Methodist
delegation had not authorized Talbert to speak for them on that issue.
Talbert later angrily confronted Collins.
Talbert had earlier received an award from the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual Transgender Caucus at its breakfast. The caucus saluted
Talbert for defying his church's stance against same-sex unions. In
his acceptance speech, Talbert explained he was simply being
"faithful as a follower of Jesus Christ." He said he was an
introvert by nature and wanted to avoid controversy. But when
"people of conscience present an issue before me I never walk
Mentioning the 68 clergy who performed the lesbian
"marriage" rite in Sacramento last year, Talbert said his
response was "not difficult for me at all." He acclaimed the
lesbian couple as leaders in his United Methodist region. "The
least I could do was be supportive despite the policy of my
church," he said. He also said he "probably" would not
conduct same-sex unions himself, but he believed clergy should be free
to do so. Talbert is a former president of the NCC.
United Methodist News
That's right, just hours after Talbert, along with other homosexual
advocates, cornered Edgar and forced him to tow the liberal line to the "T,"
Talbert presented "the goods" to the GCFA, and the UMC
followed through by paying off the NCC with an advance of $400,000.
Nov. 20, 2000 News media contact: Joretta Purdue (202) 546-8722
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (UMNS) -- Voting members of the United
Methodist Church's finance agency have agreed to advance $400,000 to
the financially struggling National Council of Churches (NCC).
That decision was one of several made during the Nov. 16-18
meeting of the denomination's General Council on Finance and
The $400,000 for the NCC is an advance on the church's NCC
allocation for 2001-2004 from the Interdenominational Cooperation
Fund. The fund was included in the church's four-year budget approved
by General Conference, the denomination's highest legislative
assembly, in May.
Repayment of the advance will be deducted from the monthly
distribution that GCFA makes to the NCC and will include a 7 percent
interest rate. GCFA decided that it will give a full rebate of the
interest collected as a grant to the NCC when the loan has been repaid
and the NCC "demonstrates positive net assets and a balanced
Before voting on the issue, GCFA members heard a report from
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, the denomination's ecumenical officer, who
had just attended the NCC assembly in Atlanta.
Financial integrity has been restored to the National Council of
Churches, Talbert assured the GCFA. He described the organization's
efforts to establish new communication with the Catholic Church and
evangelical groups, and he said the NCC is undertaking a 10-year focus
on overcoming poverty.
Yep, that's how the politics of the mainline Protestant denominations
works; It ain't a pretty sight, is it?