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Pentecostals Needed: New NCC Director Partners with Pentecostals

 

TR: Tony, please, let’s be frank and direct. Readers of PR often tend to be conservative Evangelical and Pentecostal/charismatic Christians involved in hands on church leadership and ministry. Many of them are probably wondering what relationship, if any, between Pentecostals and the NCC is appropriate or even possible. From your perspective, what would you wish to say to readers regarding developing or future relations between the NCC and Pentecostals?

Dr K: We are blessed to have a growing relationship with the Pentecostal community, both on Faith & Order and on Interfaith Relations. NCC official membership in the USA is from mainline and historic Protestant, Orthodox, the Episcopal, historic African American, and historic peace churches. However, we are making an intentional effort to expand our horizons for a wider representation especially at these crucial dialogue tables. We all need a wider perspective. I can’t imagine not having Pentecostals on board with us. At even the most basic level, the sheer size and growth of Pentecostalism and its influence suggests a need for mutual interaction and participation. I’d love to see even more involvement on the institutional level at some time in the future, but for the present I’m grateful for the involvement we already have. I would encourage an understanding by Pentecostals that there needs to be conversation among us on the issues of the day even if not on the institutional level of formal affiliation. In some ways, the relationship of NCC with Pentecostals is similar to that with Roman Catholics – the Catholic Church is not an official member of the NCC either, but it is involved as an important voice in the NCC conversations around Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations. In those settings, we are extremely pleased to be working with members of the Pentecostal community.

 

TR: Sir, from your perspective in this national organization of churches, what do you anticipate to be some of the most important issues facing the American church now and in the near future? How do you suggest Pentecostals and Charismatics may contribute, with other Christians, on these important matters of mutual concern?

Dr K: Yes, Tony, first, one thing that stands out for me is that Christians today need to be a truly effective voice in the public sphere. We don’t need to be detoured or sidetracked by partisan politics, especially by the extreme agendas of either the far left or the far right. The witness of Christ in and to contemporary society is not well served when Christians over-identify with a particular political perspective. Politically, and theologically, the NCC has both conservative and liberal members, but a careful reading of our documents will show that together we are a fairly moderate bunch, especially when it comes to advocacy on peace and justice issues. What we seek to do most of all is to speak and act according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s very important for us all to do! Second, terrorism and the challenges it raises are critically important. There is a necessary response to terrorism, sure enough, but it is how we respond that I am concerned about here. Some identify terrorism with Islam and Muslims in general rather than with the extremists who are its actual perpetrators. Terrorism is real, and we need to address it in a constructive and comprehensive way rather than in a way that only adds to hostility. Effectively addressing terrorism requires, among other things, countering its causes – poverty, marginalization, oppression, humiliation – rather than ignoring them or even contributing to them through policy decisions based on generalizations such as the indiscriminate of labeling others. Third, the volatile situation in the Middle East, in particularly Israel and Palestine, is a core problem that only a just peace can answer.

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Category: Fall 2008, Ministry

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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