BY D. AILEEN DODD
The National Council of Churches has long been identified with
controversy, to the
point that dissident members last year called for the group to disband itself
because its ''extremely liberal theological and political views are a hindrance to
the cause of Christian unity.''
The group's secretary general, Robert Edgar, is a former congressman
Pennsylvania who likes to say his tenure ran ''between Watergate and Irangate.''
Its president is Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador, Atlanta
mayor and a
United Church of Christ minister. His election to a two-year term in November
prompted the call for dissolution from seven of its member denominations.
But the group did not disband, and the NCC's leaders remain unrepentant.
''Any association that tries to involve itself in civil rights
and human rights is going
to have critics, within and without,'' says the NCC's director of communications,
Randy Naylor. ''But we as churches try to do what governments cannot do -- find
ways out of problems.''
Founded in 1950 in Cleveland, the organization is an alliance
of 35 denominations
with 52 million members. It has championed civil rights legislation and helped
resettle thousands of refugees. Notable recent efforts include helping to rebuild
150 black Southern churches destroyed by arson and sending aid to flood victims
It has opposed the Cuban and Iraq embargoes, the NATO bombing
of Kosovo, the
Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton, and religious school vouchers. It
has advocated for universal health care, affirmative action, gun control, bilingual
education and a nuclear test ban.
The NCC's Church World Service ministry is involved in more than
through community development projects, emergency response and refugee
assistance -- including $7 million in humanitarian aid to Cuba.
One controversy resurrected this week on some Miami radio stations
NCC's efforts to provide medical supplies to Nicaragua's Sandinista government
during the Reagan administration's backing of the contra war in the 1980s.
Though tied to liberal causes, the council is rooted in the American
Among its member denominations are the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
American Baptist Churches, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the
Coptic Orthodox Church in North America, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ and the United
Religiously, it is best known for two Bible translations that
have sold nearly 70
million copies -- the 1952 Revised Standard Version and the 1990
gender-inclusive New Revised Standard Version.
But as it struggles with an internal debt of $4 million, two huge
sectors of U.S.
Christianity remain outside its reach -- Evangelical Protestants and the Roman
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald