Is the National Council of Churches un-American?

It has been just over 30 years since the National Council of Churches was formed, and it doesn’t seem to be cutting the wide swath across religious America that its leaders had hoped. As the umbrella for mostly mainline Protestant churches, it has found itself more and more in the shadows of resurgent fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

“It’s not that we have a bad public image,” said an NCC spokesman. “It’s that we don’t have any public image at all.” To help change things, the NCC formed an Information Committee, and the committee sponsored a luncheon at the NCC’s 475 Riverside Drive headquarters in Manhattan last month. It invited two potent critics within mainline churches, who told the NCC in no uncertain terms how to be saved. The two were Edmund Robb, an evangelist and evangelical leader in the United Methodist church, and American Lutheran theologian Richard John Neuhaus.

Neuhaus accused the NCC of betraying the cause of religious liberalism and ecumenism by its one-sided political activity, thus driving away many Christians who might otherwise be associated with it.

He said, “Today an obsession with the alleged systemic and inherent injustices of America precludes the affirmative, even patriotic, vision that is required if critical judgment is to be meaningful and effective.”

Criticizing the NCC for its association with liberal domestic politics and leftist foreign regimes, Neuhaus said, “The meaning of prophecy is debased when it is equated with a return to the failed policies of the past, and the meaning of prophecy is debased when it is identified with revolutionary fantasies of the future.… Even prayer and doctrine are suspected of being in the service of partisan purpose. ...

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