01: The New Wineskins Association of Churches joins other renewal groups in mainline denomination in straddling the line between schism and remaining in their church bodies. The association was started for evangelical churches within the Presbyterian Church (USA) unhappy with the liberal directions of their church (particularly on gay rights issues).
But at the association’s February meeting, dozens of church representatives voted unanimously to pursue possible exile within the 75,000-member Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The proposal is to establish a temporary, non-geographic presbytery for dissident PCUSA congregations. The proposed New Wineskins Presbytery would be self-governing and would allow pastors and staff to take part in the pension and medical plans of the EPC.
About 130 congregations voted for this measure, although not all might follow through and actually leave the PCUSA. The New Wineskins proposal follows other initiatives by mainline evangelical groups, particularly Episcopalians but also Lutherans and the United Church of Christ, to create alternative structures outside of the denomination even as they remain active in the work of renewal and reform. (Source: March 6, Christian Century).
02: Christian Churches Together has garnered little media attention, but the new ecumenical organization is up and running and approaching its goal of creating a more diverse kind of ecumenism. CCT has drawn together a broad coalition of Catholic, Protestant– including evangelicals and Pentecostals–,and Orthodox churches in the face of declining support for the “establishment” ecumenism represented by the National Council of Churches.
Although organizers assert that they are not competing with the NCC, the new organization will focus on fellowship, prayer and dialogue and avoid the NCC’s tendency to embrace controversial social issues (although in February, CCT did issue a statement calling for more personal and government involvement in fighting poverty).
CCT canceled a planned launch in 2005 because it was felt the group did not have enough participation of African-American denominations. The greater black participation has still not convinced the mainline Presbyterian and United Methodist to join as full members until their African-American counterparts, such as the African Methodist Episcopal church, also join.
(Source: Christian Century, March 6)
03: There are plans to create an international communion of churches built upon an episcopal structure. The Old Catholic Church (a breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church) belonging to the Union of Utrecht has been in intercommunion with the Anglican Communion since 1931, and it has followed the divisions within world Anglicanism with concern.
Discussions have led to the idea of approaching various episcopal churches around the world, beginning with the Philippine Independent Church and the Mar Thoma Church in India, for the purpose of creating a common platform. If their responses are positive, a common consultation may take place later in 2007.
At the same time, the Union of Utrecht recently saw the need to revise its guidelines regarding the admission of new churches within the Union itself: it had accepted the Old Catholic Church of British Columbia in a probationary status last year, but the Union has now come to the conclusion that it was a mistake. In North America as in other places around the world, there are dozens of groups which call themselves “Old Catholic” without belonging to the Union of Utrecht.
(Source: Présence Catholique-Chrétienne, April)
— By Jean-François Mayer
04: Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda has drawn a worldwide audience to his message proclaiming him to be a messianic figure who has abolished sin and hell. DeJesus runs a wide network of satellite TV and radio programs along with 300 education centers in 52 countries.
As head of his Miami-based church, Creciendo En Gracia, De Jesus claimed in 1999 to be a “spiritual super-being” named El Otro (“The Other”) before designating himself as the both the anti-Christ and the second coming of Christ. De Jesus’ followers are said to engage in disruptive actions against churches refusing to recognize his divine status.
(Source: Charisma, April)