reunification, and resisting the “armsrnrace” (i.e., U.S. military readiness).rnA film to commemorate the NCC’s 50rnyears claimed that the NCC’s “dialogue”rnwith the Russian Orthodox Church hadrnprecipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall.rnThe accusations of collaboration withrncommunist regimes were dismissedrnscornfully. As vindication, the film includedrna clip from a recent Charlie Roserninterview with Sixty Minutes producerrnDon Flewitt. Hewitt laughingly recalledrnthat he had been proud of his 1983 exposernof the NCC’s Marxist hes unfil hernstarted receiving congratulatory lettersrnfrom “every redneck bishop” in America.rn(How many redneck bishops are there?)rnLeftist groups such as the NCC missrnthe Cold War struggles almost as muchrnas right-wingers, neither side havingrnfound an equally energizing replacementrncrusade. For the NCC, environmentalismrnis the most promising vehiclernfor promoting a newly repackaged globalrnsocialism. Jay Lintner of the NCC’srnWashington office cited the need for anrn”international environmental authority”rnto enact “global regulation of the environment.”rnLintner also listed universalrnhealth care, gun control, and campaignrnfinance reform as key issues for the NCC.rnBut none of these is likely to re-igniternthe NCC’s activist flames or refill its depletedrncoffers. The NCC’s non-reliefrnspending last year totaled about $16 million,rnwhich supported 122 employees inrnNew York. The anniversary event addedrnanother $150,000 to the almost four millionrndollar deficit; to erase it, the NCCrnwants an additional two million dollarsrnfrom its member churches and $1.45rnmillion from its relief agency, the morernpopular and better funded ChurchrnWorld Service. As many as 34 positionsrnat the NCC might be eliminated.rnOutgoing NCC General SecretaryrnJoan Brown Campbell tried to jusfify herrndeficit spending, arguing that the NCC’srnheart is “too empathetic” not to be inrndebt:rnYou are right that I value couragernand imagination more than caufionrnand eflFiciency .. . Our deficitrnis not in dollars but in our failure tornsee in one another the moral forcernthat ends poverty as we know it andrnthat challenges racism.rnChallenging racism was to have beenrnthe NCC’s chief post-Cold War crusade.rnAn NCC initiative in 1995 to compel thernUnited Nations to investigate “humanrnrights” abuses in the United States basedrnon racism flopped when only China andrnSudan gave their support. Far more successfulrnwas the NCC campaign thatrnclaimed an epidemic of racist-inspired arsonsrnof black churches.rnThere was never any firm evidencernthat black churches were more vulnerablernto arson than other churches, andrnwe now know that only a small numberrnof fires at black churches were the workrnof white supremacists. But burningrnchurches seduced the nation’s imaginationrnduring the 1996 presidential electionrnyear, and the NCC raised over $9.1rnmillion in cash for its Burned ChurchesrnFund. Of that amount, the NCC spentrnonly $6.4 million on actual church reconstruction,rnwith the rest going to overheadrnand programs aimed at the “rootrncauses” of racism.rnIn Cleveland, the NCC’s fiery rhetoricrnabout racism sometimes implied thatrnAmerica in the 1990’s is little differentrnfrom America in the 1890’s. Recollectionsrnof the NCC’s role in the civil-rightsrnmovement provided the rare moments ofrngenuine celebration there. At a specialrnNCC service in the Roman CatholicrnCathedral of St. John the Evangelist,rnJesse Jackson made a surprise appearance.rn”We are winners,” he cried as hernrecalled earlier civil-rights rallies inrnCleveland. Fresh from a vigil at Decatur,rnIllinois, Jackson likened that schoolrnboard’s expulsion of seven brawling highschoolrnstudents to lynching.rnEnlivened by Jackson’s oratory, a cavalcadernof colorfully festooned clergyrnmarched out of the cathedral singingrn”We’re marching in the light of God.”rnThey processed to a banquet at the nearbyrnRenaissance Hotel, where an encouragingrnmessage from Dwayne Andreas ofrnArcher Daniels Midland awaited them.rnHe is contributing $100,000 to the NGG.rnApplause, followed by a few aniens. Thernmoney would at least help pay for therndinner.rnAs I write, the Presbyterian and EvangelicalrnLutheran churches are consideringrnhelping with the bailout, while thernMethodists have reluctantly renewedrntheir funding. Bob Edgar, the NCC’srnnew general secretary, had called thernMethodist cutoff a “sledgehammer.” Hernis a former United Methodist ministerrnwho, after 12 years in Congress, led arnMethodist seminary out of difficult financialrnstraits. Calling himself a “salvager,”rnhe hopes the NCC will develop closerrnties with Roman Catholics, Pentecostals,rnand evangelicals. Andrew Yoimg alsornhopes to win the Church of Cod inrnChrist, a black Pentecostal denominationrnwith over five million members, asrnthe NCC’s next member.rnBoth seem unlikely. Edgar and Youngrnoffered words of support at a breakfast forrnthe Interfaith Assembly of Lesbian, Gay,rnBisexual, and Transgcnder Caucusesrnand Affirming Organizations. The caucusesrnhave been demanding that thernNCC accept the predominantly homosexualrnMetropolitan Community Fellowshiprnof Churches. That acceptancernwould precipitate a walkout by the EasternrnOrthodox communions and possiblyrnothers. But there is no doubt with whomrnthe NCC’s staff sides. Many wore rainbowrnbuttons of solidarity, and the NCCrnalready protects “sexual orientation” in itsrnhiring practices and offers domestic partnerrnbenefits for its employees.rnBesides a midtitude of other controversiesrn—fiscal, political, and theological —rnthe issue of homosexuality is probablyrnsufficient to keep evangelicals. Catholics,rnand Pentecostals from joining. In anrnNCC panel discussion with representativesrnof these groups, the president of thernNational Association of Evangelicals wasrnnearly alone in spelling out the problem.rn”We can’t have unity at all costs,” said thernNAE’s Kevin Mannoia. “We can’t have arntheology of the lowest common denominator.rnItleads to relativistic mush. Therernare absolutes.”rn”We’re like an aging city with a crumblingrninfrastructure,” Joan Brown Campbellrnadmitted in her farewell remarks inrnCleveland. “The infrastructure is sadlyrnin need of repair, and it is not cheap to repairrnit.” Wlien mainline churches catchrna cold, the NCC gets pneumonia, she explained.rnYet despite their shrinking membership,rnmainline churches are flush withrnfunds, thanks to their centuries of prominencernand prestige. Will they resuscitaternflie ailing NCC? They may not resort torneuthanasia, but neither will they administerrnlife support forever.rnMark Tooley is a research associate at thernInstitute on ReUgion and Democracy inrnWashington, D.C.rnE-mail yourrnletters to the editor to:rnrokmuMChronidesMagazine.or^rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn