About Us

It is the essence of ecumenical work to seek ways of helping all humanity to know the nurturing and continually creating presence of God. Thus the preamble of the New York State Council of Churches includes the following sentences:


"It is fitting that Christians should manifest their unity by joining together to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to show God's good and just purposes throughout New York State. Therefore, we covenant to care for one another, safeguard the presence of vital Christian communities, provide hospitality to all, proclaim the Gospel boldly in each place, and declare God's just will among the powers and principalities."

From this, grows the purpose of the New York State Council of Churches as a statewide organization through which Christians accomplish mission goals that can be achieved more effectively by working together. These mission goals focus on social justice, institutional pastoral care, and ecumenical cooperation in education, worship and action.

History


The New York State Council of Churches (NYSCC) continues the work of its former entities, including the Alcohol Education For Youth, Inc., the New York State Council of Religious Education, the New York State Sunday School Association founded in 1889.
 


The programs and ministries of the New York State Council of Churches are designed to nurture the community of faith and to be the Church in the public arena. These two aspects of ecumenical work in New York are interrelated because only as the community of faith has its own needs met can it be a vital presence in the public arena.

Nurturing the Community of Faith

What an organization such as the New York State Council of Churches can do to be supportive of its member churches includes providing networking opportunities, a forum for addressing common problems and education on issues that affect large segments of the constituency. Some of the ways this is done includes:


Denominational leadership gathers once a year in retreat format. This gives bishops and executives the opportunity to gather around a supportive table where they can share concerns and enrich each's understanding of what it means to be the church in today's world.
 This sharing also informs the pastoral and prophetic ministries of the New York State Council of Churches.

Part of safeguarding the presence of a vital faith community in each place is support for local and regional ecumenical and interfaith organizations across the state. Whether the need is letters of support for activities, assistance with making contacts or requests for information this relationship is a collegial and reciprocal one. New ways of providing resources and linkages are being explored.

The NYSCC supports the community of faith through special events, educational resources and communication on topics of concern to religious community. The New York State Council of Churches has been a conduit for information during disasters and has helped churches understand emerging public policies that affect their ministry (such as child sexual abuse by clergy).

The Church in the Public Arena


For the member denominations of the New York State Council of Churches, being the Church in the Public Arena takes the form of both prophetic and pastoral ministries.

Prophetic Ministry

Prophetic ministry in the public sphere is best seen in advocacy with decisionmakers and education resources about the issues for congregations. At times there are legislative memos of support or opposition, testimony before committees or press conferences. The two groups primarily responsible for the prophetic ministry of the New York State Council of Churches are the Executive Committee and the Social Witness Commission.


The Social Witness Commission is made up of representatives from member denominations and local and regional ecumenical organizations. They act as a link to bring information to and from the body they are representing, recommend issue priorities, oversee and participate in advocacy efforts.


The Executive Committee visits each year with the Governor and legislative leaders. In the fall of 2001 they began to extend their witness to the New York delegation in Congress with a trip to DC and have returned in the spring each year since.

Healing Ministry

Healing ministry in the public sphere is evident in the work of the Chaplaincy Commission which oversees the certification and recommendation of Protestant chaplains in state institutions of the Department of Corrections, the Office of Children and Family Services, the Office of Mental Health,and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. They set the criteria, develop the process by which prospective candidates are certified, serve on certification committees and help develop proposals for more effective ministry.

The Chaplaincy Commission is also made up of representatives from member denominations plus active and retired chaplains from the various state departments that employ chaplains. 

Governance

Representatives  of member bodies plus the chairs of the Commissions, Standing Committees, and other groups make up the legal governing body of the New York State Council of Churches. It is called the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee has responsibility for the spiritual well being and organizational integrity of the organization and for exercising leadership in local, regional and statewide ecumenism.

Standing committees are responsible for organizational oversight in areas of Finance, Personnel, and Nominations. These committees report and make recommendations to the Executive Committee. In addition to usual requirements for a quorum, standing committee meetings must have representatives from at least three denominations.

Funding

Nearly three-fifths of the funding for ministries and programs of the New York State Council of Churches comes from denominational judicatories. Gifts from congregations and individuals are another important source of funding. The remainder comes from investment income and a chaplaincy grant. No monies are received from government or United Way sources.