2007 NWCU Highlights

Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2007—Arlington, Virginia

NWCU 2007


  1. The Ministry of a Congressional Chaplain
    Father Daniel Coughlin,Chaplain for the United States House of Representatives
    Serving since 2000 and first Catholic priest to be a congressional  chaplain, will discuss the ministry he provides for the members of the House of Representatives as they attempt to balance the responsibilities and tensions they may experience in trying to combine their religious beliefs, personal values, and political ideologies with their role as government leaders. Other related matters regarding the ecumenical role of a congressional chaplain will be addressed as well.

  2. Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry: 25th Anniversary
    The Reverend Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright
    After a brief pre-history of BEM, attention will be focused on the contents of this document, its reception, its influence, and its continuing need and potential. The presenter was a member of the ” BEM core group” of the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission in the years immediately before and after the issuance of the document (1976-1991); and he chaired the final establishment of the text at the Lima meeting of the Commission in January, 1982. Besides familiarity with the Lima Document itself (Faith and Order Paper No. 111), participants would profit from having read Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry 1982-1990: Report on the Process and Responses (Faith and Order Paper No. 149).

  3. Baptism—Seminarian Essay Winners
    Dr. Michael Trice
    Baptism calls us into the world! Advocacy, field education, theological study, working in diverse ministry contexts––our vocations rise up with our baptisms. In this seminar, seminarians from different churches around the country discuss models for how baptism is foundational to ecumenical agreements in congregational parish life. The World Council of Churches’ key document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, is the foundation for discussion. Come explore and discuss with these students the present and future needs of unity in a world drawing up from the sacred waters.

  4. IARCCUM: Growing Together in Unity and Mission; Building Together on Forty Years of Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue
    The Right Reverend Chris Epting and
    The Reverend Paul McPartlan

    Almost forty years have passed since Archbishop Michael Ramsey paid the first formal visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope, in this case Pope Paul VI, since the Reformation. Behind the divisions of the Reformation lay fifteen hundred years of communion in faith and practice. Despite the present “imperfect communion” between these two churches, the recently formed International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) believes that the theological statements of ARCIC (Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) over the past 35 years should be translated into practical progress in our relations and common mission. This presentation given by an Episcopalian and a Roman Catholic will consider this new initiative and its recently published working paper, which attempts to state honestly what has been achieved in the dialogue, what remains to be done, and what can be done practically “on the ground” in the meantime.

  5. Scripture, History and the Searchfor an Ecumenical Ecclesiology
    The Reverend Dr. Joseph Fitzmyer and
    The Very Reverend Dr. William H. Petersen
    Every ecclesiology, tacit or explicit, is shaped by the traditions within which we live and have been formed. Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry brought ecclesiological questions to the forefront of ecumenism. On the 25th anniversary of BEM, New Testament scholar Joseph Fitzmyer and church historian William Petersen, using the resources of scripture and the experience of the church in history, ask the question whether there can be a truly ecumenical ecclesiology and, if so, what issues would it have to satisfy in order to serve the ecumenical enterprise.

  6. Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC)—Implementing Ministry
    The Reverend Patrice L. Rosner
    In June, 2006, the Rev. Patrice L. Rosner assumed the directorship of Churches Uniting in Christ. The ten member communions of CUIC are seeking significant movement toward greater unity, looking to reach a common mind on ministry and full recognition of the forms of ministry exercised within their various communities in the near future. At the same time, the CUIC member churches and one partner in mission and dialogue, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, seek to overcome the racism and white privilege within the churches and in society. In this workshop Rosner will share her perspective on CUIC, as she completes the first six months in her new ministry as its director.

  7. Forming the Next Generation of Pastoral Ecumenists: The Washington Theological Consortium Today
    The Reverend Dr. John W. Crossin, OSFS, Executive Director, Washington Theological Consortium
    This seminar will explore some of the Washington Theological Consortium’s new initiatives to form pastoral ecumenists. Some of these initiatives could be replicated in other communities, even without a consortium of seminaries at hand. This workshop will explain the vision, the successes and the challenges (expected and unexpected) of several of the WTC’s efforts, including: ecumenical events for the public, deepening faculty collaboration, increasing ecumenical course offerings for students, and a new Masters-level Certificate Program in Ecumenism. For professionals at the highest level, a Doctor of Ministry degree in Ecumenism has been co-sponsored by the WTC and Wesley Seminary. New consortium interreligious initiatives and dialogue opportunities have enhanced ecumenical efforts as well.

  8. Lessons Learned in Local Ecumenical Efforts
    The Reverend Dr. Christopher Agnew, Ecumenical Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and
    The Reverend Dr. Michael Lee Nelson,Messiah United Methodist Church
    Is anybody listening? This seminar will explore ways in which churches and judicatories on the local level have been listening and responding to the ecumenical movement. A panel representing successful local ecumenical efforts will discuss the lessons they have learned, and how they can be applied in other settings. The panel will include members from United Christian Parish (a local ecumenical congregation in Reston, Virginia, affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church) , Virginia LARCUM (a Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist covenant on the judicatory level), the Virginia Council of Churches Faith & Order Commission and the Washington Metropolitan Area Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee.

  9. Christians in the Holy Land
    The Reverend John Tidy
    His Emminence Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
    The Right Reverend Bishop Vicken Aykazian, President Elect of the NCCCUSA
    This seminar will explore the difficulties of Christians in making a common witness in the Holy Land as their numbers dwindle, and the positive impact that a common witness of Christian churches in the United States could make in supporting them. Some positive and negative experiences of those who have lived or worked in that context will be shared.

  10. Progress & Potholes on the Road to Unity: Updates & Obstacles
    The Very Reverend Dr. William H. Petersen (Tues.)
    Dr. Ann Riggs (Wed.)
    This seminar will present an update on ecumenical dialogues, principally in bilateral ecumenical conversations, but with some notice of multilaterals. The spectrum of goals from “mutual understanding” to “reconciliation of differences” to “full communion” will be considered with attention to national, regional and some global perspective. In addition, the appearance of new causes of hesitation, obstacles to unity, and division between and within ecclesial communities will be examined. Discussion will focus on the elements necessary to meeting these new challenges.

  11. Ecumenism 101
    The Reverend Dr. Robert K. Welsh
    This seminar is for newcomers to formal structures of the ecumenical movement. It provides a brief history and introduction to the movement, context for current dialogues, an overview of national and international ecumenical conversation and engagement, and a sampling of new and emerging discussions. The presentation will draw on the attendees’ experience of ecumenical engagement and will encourage conversation and interaction.

  12. Religion and the Media
    Mr. Jerry Filteau, Catholic News Service
    and The Reverend Leslie C. Tune, NCCCUSA
    Writing on national and international church news, being effective in getting the message of the churches placed on radio and TV, the tasks of accurately and compellingly relating religious news through and in “the media” are complex. Jerry Filteau, a senior reporter for Catholic News Service, and the Rev. Leslie C. Tune, communications officer of the Washington office of the National Council of Churches share their wisdom and experience.

  13. Christian-Muslim Relations:Interreligious or Intercultural Dialogue
    The Reverend Dr. Jay Rock, Coordinator for Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian Church (USA);
    Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Secretary General, Islamic Society of North America;
    Dr. Ahmad S. Dallal, Chair and Professor of Islamic Studies, Georgetown University;
    Dr. John Borelli, Special Assistant to the President for Interreligious Initiatives,Georgetown University
    Some church leaders and theologians are suggesting that we understand the dialogue between Christians and Muslims as an intercultural rather than an interreligious dialogue. If there are important differences between these approaches, what are they? Is a critical and appreciative Christian-Muslim understanding better served by discerning common values amid cultural differences, or by respectfully examining religious differences and what they have to teach us?

  14. Making Christian Churches Together (CCT) Appropriate to Local Contexts
    Dr. Ann Riggs
    Christian Churches Together in the USA is a new forum growing out of a deeply felt need to broaden and expand fellowship, unity, and witness among the diverse expressions of Christian faith today. Coming into formal existence in March 2006, the national organization immediately suggested its suitability for replication on more local levels, especially in settings where no state or local council of churches exists. This seminar is a place to consider together the needs, tasks, questions, and successes of those building CCT organizations of Christian communities at the state and local level. Ann Riggs, director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, will moderate the discussion but participants will be the real experts for one another as we together learn how CCT structures can be built in a variety of settings.

  15. 50th Anniversary of Faith and Order
    Dr. Keelan Downton, NCCCUSA Faith and Order Postdoctoral Fellow
    In the summer of 2007, the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) is returning to Oberlin, Ohio, to celebrate its Fiftieth Anniversary. Senior scholars such as Dr. Martin Marty will assist the review and assessment of the Commission’s work as we chart a course towards the future. The event will culminate in a service of revival and thanksgiving featuring the vibrant preaching of The Rev. Dr. James Forbes. The conference seeks to stimulate a new interest in multi-lateral ecumenical engagement at all levels of ecclesial life, especially among a younger generation and will include a unique ecumenical “film festival.” There will be a significant presence of ecumenists who work at local and regional levels and a training session following the meeting will focus on using Faith and Order materials in local settings.

  16. The Concept of Spiritual Ecumenism
    The Reverend Dr. Diane Kessler
    and The Reverend Tom Ryan
    What comes to mind when you hear the expression, “spiritual ecumenism?” “Making nice” with other Christians on social occasions? What you’re left with when the dialogues have hit the wall of the hard issues where doctrine still divides? “Ecumenism lite?” Considered by some the “heart and soul” of the ecumenical movement, spiritual ecumenism involves change of heart, holiness of life, public and private prayer for personal, communal, and ecclesial renewal. The presenters will unpack its considerable content and describe how they are engaging whole congregations in it through a four-day renewal event, “Gospel Call,” designed to deepen Christians’ sense of identity and solidarity with one another in mission.

  17. Ecumenical Advocacy on Moral Issues
    The Reverend Dr. Michael Kinnamon
    Advocacy offices in Washington are sponsored by the churches to enable ready access to government and timely response to its actions. How do these offices work? How are current moral issues addressed, issues of war and justice, economics, human rights, and advances in medical science, to name a few? Is there an ecumenical approach to global issues such as genocide, inter-religious violence, the AIDS crisis, to enable a united Christian voice to be heard?

Featured Speakers

Preacher: Opening Prayer Service:
Armenian Bishop Vicken Aykazian,
President Elect of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Bishop Vicken Aykazian is the legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and ecumenical officer. He studied theology at the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem and was ordained a deacon in 1968 and later a celibate priest in 1971.

In 1992, His Holiness Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians at Holy Echmiadzin in Armenia, ordained him a bishop. He has also served as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Switzerland from 1992 to 1996. As pastor of the Armenian Church of Switzerland from 1980 to 1992, he established and organized new church communities in Zurich, Bern, Kreazlingen and Lugano.

Bishop Aykazian was born in Siirt, Turkey, and is fluent in English, Armenian, French and Turkish. Bishop, who holds a Ph.D in history and is working on a second Ph.D in theology at Catholic University in Washington, is an active ecumenist. In addition to his contributions to the National Council of Churches as a member of the Governing Board, he has been active in the World Council of Churches as a member of the Mission and Evangelism Unit, the Orthodox Task Force and the Central Committee.

Bishop Aykazian is President Elect of the National Council of Churches USA, and is a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s member faith groups — representing a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and Living Peace churches – include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations across the nation.

Keynote Speaker:
Brother Jeffrey Gros, FSC
Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary

Brother Jeffrey Gros, FSC, has provided thirty years of ministry in the field of Ecumenism. He began his work in the Diocese of Memphis as an ecumenical officer, then served ten years as Director of Faith and Order for the National Council of Churches, and then 14 years as Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Brother Gros is currently a professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary.

Brother Gros received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters of Education (Biology Education) degree from St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota. He earned a Masters degree in Theology from Marquette University and a Ph.D in Theology from Fordham University.

Brother Gros has been involved in editing numerous books including: Deepening Communion (co-edited with William Rusch, US Catholic Conference, 1998); Introduction to Ecumenism (with Ann Riggs, Eamon McManus, New York: Paulist Press, 1998); The Church as Koinonia of Salvation; Its Structures and Ministries (co-edited with Randall Lee, Washington/Chicago: USCCB/Augsburg-Fortress, 2000); Growing Concensus II (co-edited with Lydia Veliko, Washington: USCCB, 2005) and The Ecumenical Christian Dialogues and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (coedited with Daniel Mulhall, Paulist, 2006).

Brother Gros has many professional memberships including the Catholic Theological Society of America (former Board Member), College Theological Society, National Association of Evangelicals, National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers (Associate), Society for Pentecostal Studies, and the North American Academy of Ecumenists (former Board Member).

He is well-known to the National Workshop on Christian Unity and has spoken to a wide range of religious groups including the American Academy of Religions, College Theological Society, Faith and Order Commission USA, and Councils of Churches in various states and many varied religious and educational groups throughout the world.

Bible Study Leader:
Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

The Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell is a native of the state of Indiana. She is inspired in her ministry by a very supportive spouse, Mr. James A. Mitchell and resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The Reverend Girton-Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Ball State University and a Masters degree from Indiana/Purdue University in Indianapolis. She graduated with honors from Chicago Kent College of Law. Ms. Girton-Mitchell has been admitted to the Bar in the State of Illinois, the District of Columbia and to the United States Supreme Court. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

The Reverend Girton-Mitchell was licensed to preach in 1998, and was ordained at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC in 2004 and now serves as Minister for Christian Discipleship, a member of the Metropolitan Community Development Corporation, and the Millennium Building Committee.

The Reverend Girton-Mitchell is a life member of the National Council of Negro Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Washington Urban League. She also holds membership in the National Bar Association, Washington Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She serves as chaplain for the National Bar Association and is on the Board of Wesley Theological Seminary.

The Reverend Girton-Mitchell has received numerous awards including the National Bar Association Presidential Award, the Charlotte Ray Award, and she is the recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, the highest award given to any civilian by the State of Indiana.

Thursday Speaker Panel/Discussion
“How Faith Influences Christians in Political Office”
A Moderator and Four Panel Members

Representing Four Perspectives

–Two panelists who have been elected members of Congress and members of Christian Churches, one of whom is confirmed: The Honorable John LaFalce, former Congressman from Buffalo, NY;

The Reverend Elenora Giddings-Ivory, Director of the Washington, DC Office of the Presbyterian Church, responsible for its advocacy;

— A pastor who has in his congregation elected political leaders.

Holding our National Workshop in the Washington area turns our attention to political issues related to faith. The intersection of faith and politics has often become contentious on the American scene, and how the faith of people in political life influences their political decisions is not a simple issue. Questioned and criticized or approved and applauded, issues have the potential of working against an ecumenical understanding of how churches come together in unity and accord. We hope, in our panel, to go beyond simplistic divisions to the more basic and personal questions of the influence of faith on those who make political and juridical decisions for our society.


2007 Registration.
2007 Registration.

Participants in the 2007 National Workshop arrived at the Marriott Key Bridge to take part in this years event.  Seated at the table is Gay Mount, member of the Local Planning Committee and Registrar fore the event.  Standing on the right camel overcoat is Allen Johnson (United Methodist) the chair of the National Planning Committee for the National Workshop on Christian Unity.  Various Network (denominational) Meetings took part through the afternoon.

Washington National Cathedral.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian

The NWCU formally began with the Opening Worship Service that was held at 7:30 at the Washington National Cathedral.  Leadership from the regions participatingdenominations took part in the service together with students from theological seminaries within the region.  The evening’s message was brought by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church in America, who is President-elect of the National Council of Churches. His message built upon the theme for this year’s National Workshop on Christian unity, “Ephphatha (Be opened!).

Brother Jeff Gros, Professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary.
Brother Jeff Gros, Professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary.

The 2007 Keynote Address was given by Brother Jeff Gros, Professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary.  Brother Gros is a longtime participant in the National Workshop and, until recently, a member of the NWCU National Planning Committee.  The Keynote Address was again sponsored by the Military and Hospitalier Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.

In his keynote address, Brother Gros listed five major accomplishments of the recent decades and the challenges which remain to be addressed.   [Full text of the Keynote Address by Brother Jeff Gros].

Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, was the Bible Study Leader for this year’s National Workshop on Christian Unity.  The American Bible Society sponsored the Bible Study.  The Rev. Girton-Mitchel engaged the Workshop Participants in an interactive study of the theme text for the Workshop, Mark, Chapter 7 verses 31-37.

Brenda Girton-Mitchell has graciously provided us with the notes she used in preparation for the Bible Study.

Senate Halls Filled with Song
Senate Halls Filled with Song

The NWCU’s Wednesday Evening Social Event featured a Dinner and Songfest held in the Senate Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building.  That hall, the scene of the Teapot Dome investigation, the Army-McCarthy Hearngs, the Watergate Hearings and many other famous events, became a choir chamber when Dr. Ysye Barnell (of Sweet Honey in the Rock) organized participants into a “pick-up choir.”

Dr. Barnell divided the participants into four parts, and then taught them the harmonies of many of the classic spirituals.  It was a joy-filled time and the halls of the Russell Office Building reverberated with the beautiful harmony of the blended voices.  She made this an evening we will long and fondly remember.

Equipping Church Leaders in the Quest for Christian Unity