Local councils of churches in many major cities are sick and dying. For example:

Both the Berkeley Area Council and the Oakland Council in northern California have voted themselves out of business. The Oklahoma City Council has been phased out. Councils in Kansas City, Missouri, Nashville, Tulsa, and Columbus have been replaced. And while executives ponder its future, the pulse of the St. Petersburg, Florida, council grows feebler.

The old council of churches of the Pittsburgh area (comprising 600 Protestant congregations with 400,000 members) recently vanished like magic.

But although area councils seem to be faltering, many state councils appear to be alive and well,Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas already have joint Protestant-Catholic councils of churches, and eight other states are contemplating combined councils. and the emergence of more informal “coalitions for metropolitan mission” may be a trend for getting things done in the seventies.

After the fade-out of the Pittsburgh council, to cite one case, the way was cleared for the creation of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, an agency with full Catholic and Orthodox participation. Unlike the old agency, Christian Associates puts major stress on social problems—housing, poverty, youth, the aged, and race.

An expert in church councils sees the job of the new task-force-coalition approach as “raising the right issues and helping churches do something about them.” Observes the Reverend David J. Bowman, S. J., the first Catholic priest to become a full-time staff member of the National Council of Churches: “Local initiative is being taken,” but not necessarily through a formal structure of churches.

Bowman, a personal deputy of NCC general secretary ...

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