Beliefnet
DALLAS, March 6 (RNS) -- The National Association of Evangelicals has decided toreconsider its recent membership rule permitting church bodies of themore theologically liberal National Council of Churches to hold dualmembership with the evangelical organization.

Bishop Kevin Mannoia, NAE president, said the board of theorganization Monday asked its bylaws committee to restudy theissue after a representative of the Presbyterian Church in America madea motion that the new rule be rescinded.

"The position of the NAE remains unchanged as it relates tomembership," Mannoia told reporters at a news conference after theclosed board meeting. "But we will probably be going back and makingsure that that's the position that we mean to take."

The Rev. Roy Taylor, clerk of the General Assembly of thePresbyterian Church in America, told Religion News Service hisdenomination views the NAE's move as "inconsistent with the uniquenature" of the evangelical organization.

"The uniqueness of the NAE in its founding was to be an evangelicalassociation in contrast to the more theologically diverse andpluralistic NCC mainline denominations," he said.

Taylor said the PCA assembly, held last June, directed itsinterchurch relations committee to request that NAE reverse its action.

He said other reasons for the request included concerns about"doctrinal integrity" and the possible departure of some denominationalmembers of NAE if member denominations of the NCC join the evangelicalumbrella organization.

"This does not seem to us to be a clear witness in our post-modernculture where the emphasis is on relativism rather than our standingvery clearly for the uniqueness of the Christian faith," Taylor said.

The Presbyterian Church in America began in 1973, splitting overtheological differences from one of the precursor denominations thatmake up the current, more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), which is anNCC member.

"For us to go back into a situation where we would be related againto the National Council of Churches is disconcerting," Taylor said.

The bylaws change, approved at the 2000 meeting of the evangelicalorganization, allows for denominations that are members of otherecclesiastical bodies, including the NCC, to beable to hold membership with the NAE. Any denomination that joins wouldhave to adhere to the NAE's statement of faith.

"Evangelicals know who they are," Mannoia said, defending the changein the bylaws. "We don't have to define ourselves based on who we'renot. ... We are committed to the statement of faith that has been forgedover 60 years. We are committed to the identity of the evangelicalwitness."

Mannoia said the restudy will occur to "honor one of our own," buthe does not expect it will result in the deletion of the bylaws from theNAE's books.

"The chances are not great that it would be altered," he said,noting the process to change the bylaws began over two years ago andinvolved discussion by NAE committees and its board before more than a2/3 majority of the board approved the move.

The bylaws committee is expected to report on its study of thematter at next year's meeting of the association, which currently has 51member denominations. This year's meeting concludes on Wednesday.

Asked if the PCA might leave the NAE if the bylaws remain unchanged,Taylor said: "It's a possibility -- certainly not a threat -- but wewould make the decision based on whatever changes are made or not made."

In response to questions raised by some of its members, the NAEboard passed a resolution Monday clarifying its views on ecumenism.

"We shall not seek out or respond to any overture of any body thatwould seek to subsume the NAE into the contemporary ecumenical movement,while continuing to partner with groups as appropriate to advancesingular social issues," reads the resolution, described as a "sense ofthe association."

The board of the evangelical National Religious Broadcasters recently voted todrop its long-term affiliation with NAE. Mannoia said one of the reasonscited for that decision was a concern on the part of the broadcastersthat the NAE was "merging with the NCC," which he said is not the case.

"The NAE as a whole, and I as its president am not in any wayinterested in compromising our statement of faith or our identity," saidMannoia, bishop emeritus of the Free Methodist Church of North America. He said the NRB also disputed other bylaws changes, including oneregarding NAE's theological oversight of its affiliates.

The NRB said in a statement that the two organizations "have grownapart" and "have differing purposes in our work." The "sense of theassociation" resolution adopted by the NAE board also addressed theNRB's departure: "We regret the action of the NRB to sever its ties withthe NAE and hope that they might reconsider this action in the future."

Mannoia said he intends to write to NRB board members about theirconcerns and hopes the two organizations can find ways to continue tohave "a good working relationship."

There was no immediate response from the NCC.

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