On Friday, January 16, 2015 the Ecclesial Relations Committee of the National Council of Churches USA met with representatives of the Assyrian Church of the East. The cordial, all-day meeting took place at the rectory on the campus of St. Mary’s church, in Roselle, Illinois. The Assyrian Church of the East was represented by His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of California and the President of CIRED (Commission on Inter-Church Relations and Educational Development), and His Grace Mar Paulus Benjamin, Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern USA. The National Council of Churches was represented by Jim Winkler, the General Secretary and President of the NCC-USA, Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, the Associate General Secretary of the NCC-USA, and other members of the Ecclesial Relations Committee.
The meeting began with a general overview of the goals, mission and mandate of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, founded in 1950 in the US in order to foster ecumenical cooperation among the various member Churches and to address social issues and concerns in the United States. There are 37 member Churches or communions who are members of the NCC-USA thus far, which include the various Orthodox, Protestant and Historical African Churches which have a notable presence and membership in the US. Then a deep exchange took place during which questions regarding the history, theology and ecclesiology of the Assyrian Church of the East were posed to the bishops by the attending members of the NCC. An amicable and informative exchange of information and clarifications on both parts took place during the course of the all-day meeting. The bishops extended the prayers and paternal benediction of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch for the success of the meeting. At noontime, all those attending the meeting took a tour of the inside of St. Mary’s church in order to get a feel and understanding for the liturgical architectural and ethos of the Assyrian Church of the East. An informative yet informal question-and-answer period ensued as the delegates of the NCC were introduced briefly to the liturgical set-up of the Assyrian Church. Then, the entire group shared in a fraternal meal together, prepared by the ladies committee of St. Mary’s parish.
The present application of the Assyrian Church of the East for membership is under formal consideration and study by the NCC and will be voted on in the near future.