November 12 (ENI)—Hard on the heels of its worst ever financial crisis, the US National Council of Churches (NCC) has been meeting here from 9 to 12 November to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
A sign perhaps of the ebbing appeal of the venerable organization - still the biggest ecumenical body in the US, with 35 member churches representing 52 million Christians - was the fact that less than half the anticipated crowd of 2000 showed up for the celebration.
The lower than expected turnout has exacerbated the NCC's financial difficulties, adding several tens of thousands of dollars to a 1999 budget shortfall that now totals nearly US$4 million and has angered elected delegates who had been assured by NCC officials as recently as late October that the celebration would break even financially.
"I'm not surprised, but I'm profoundly disappointed and angry," said John Thomas, a member of the NCC Executive Board, who had insisted earlier that the costs of the celebration not add to the shortfall. NCC treasurer Margaret Thomas quietly replied: "Your feelings are widely shared."
But the celebration itself had positive moments. In a dramatic service on 10 November in Cleveland's Old Stone Church, five survivors of a reported massacre of 400 civilians by the US Army during the early days of the Korean War met three US Army ex-servicemen who have said that they participated in the alleged slaughter.
Hundreds attended the Service of Reconciliation that preceded a private meeting between the survivors and the US veterans from the massacre, which took place in Korea close to the time the NCC was founded in this city.
"This meeting [between the Koreans the US veterans], the first step in a process of remembrance and healing, is exactly the kind ...1