The National Council of Churches (NCC) is an ecumenical partnership of 38 Christian faith groups in the United States. The NCC seeks to manifest the unity of the body of Christ by enabling its constituent members to work together on issues of common concern. The NCC has been an influential voice of witness to the living Christ in public life since its founding in 1950.
The Bible does not explicitly mention the National Council of Churches, as it is a modern organization established in the 20th century. However, the Bible does speak to themes of Christian unity and cooperation that are embodied by the NCC. Here are some relevant biblical teachings:
Unity of the Body of Christ
The NCC seeks to manifest the unity of the body of Christ. Jesus prayed for this kind of unity among his followers: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
Paul also emphasized unity in the body of Christ: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
This spiritual unity is modeled by the partnership of NCC member communions working together despite their diversity.
Cooperation and Shared Concern
The NCC enables cooperation between its member communions on issues of common concern. The early Jerusalem church provides a biblical model of this kind of cooperation:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32)
Like the Jerusalem church, the member communions of the NCC pool resources and expertise to address shared concerns like poverty, injustice and environmental stewardship.
Working for the Common Good
The NCC advocates for biblical values in the public sphere. Christians are called to be salt and light in the world:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
The NCC works to bring Christian witness to bear on public policy decisions. The prophet Jeremiah gave a vision for seeking the welfare of the cities in which God’s people live:
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
The NCC seeks to be a prophetic voice of biblical values speaking truth to power for the common good of American society.
Serving the Least of These
A major focus of the NCC’s advocacy is caring for the poor and vulnerable. God calls his people to show compassion to those in need:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matthew 25:34-36)
The NCC acts on this biblical mandate by calling for policies that care for the poor, the sick, immigrants and the incarcerated. The council gives a unified voice to this biblical priority on behalf of its member communions.
Racial Justice and Reconciliation
From its beginning, the NCC made racial justice a priority. The Bible teaches that all people are made in God’s image:
“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
The NCC has advocated for civil rights, worked to end racial discrimination in the church and wider culture, and promoted interracial collaboration. This upholds the biblical vision that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.
The NCC has been active in promoting environmental stewardship and care for God’s creation. Psalm 24 proclaims:
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” (Psalm 24:1-2)
As God’s stewards, Christians are called to exercise wise dominion over creation. The NCC advocates for public policies that protect the environment based on this biblical teaching.
At its core, the NCC embodies ecumenism – the principle of promoting unity among the world’s Christians. Jesus proclaimed that all who believe in him would be united:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
The member communions of the NCC have diverse histories and traditions. By coming together in the council, they give witness to Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity and buttress the church’s witness in the world.
In sum, while the National Council of Churches is not mentioned in Scripture, its work embodies and advances many biblical principles and teachings. The NCC provides a platform for its member communions to manifest Christian unity, champion biblical values in public life, and give prophetic witness together for the common good. The council’s legacy over more than 70 years has demonstrated the power of ecumenism rooted in shared faith in Jesus Christ.