American evangelical leaders Samuel Rodriguez and Johnnie Moore have announced the founding of a new interdenominational body called the Congress of Christian Leaders, which they say will seek to foster unity and serve growing Christian movements across the globe.
Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Moore, a well-connected evangelical public relations executive who regularly travels overseas to visit international Christian communities, founded the new body as a nonpartisan avenue to help independent global Christian leaders and their churches.
Moore, who is CCL’s founding president, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the organization seeks to bridge a “gap between evangelicalism in the United States and around the world.”
Members of the organization will include Christian organizations, pastors, denominational heads, business leaders, thought leaders and other notable Christian figures.
“The fact is that the majority Church around the world is a Church that is growing exponentially. It is incredibly diverse,” Moore, a CP senior editorial adviser, explained. “There are these pastors around the world that have massive, massive churches and massive, massive movements. Some of them have been around for five or six years, some have been around for 10 years. Most of those leaders somewhat operate entirely independent without the support structure of peers serving them from an organization that exists just to serve them.”
The two conservative Christian leaders, both of whom serve as informal advisers to the Trump administration, have not released full details of the congress’ mission statement or statement of faith. However, they assure that the purpose of the new body is not to “politicize anything.”
“In times of rapid change and upheaval as we’re experiencing today, it is imperative for the Church to respond with bold, fresh thinking that is capable of bridging the establishment and the emerging,” Rodriguez, CCL’s chairman, said in a statement. “Our aim at the CCL is to say ‘yes’ to all willing partners, private, denominational and governmental, and then apply uncompromising Christ-centered advocacy in support of uniting, growing, strengthening and empowering the entire Church.”
According to Rodriguez, the CCL will be “uniquely positioned to help bring unity to the evangelical and Christian movements that have too often been disparate, uncoordinated and unnecessarily contentious at times.”
“The CCL is the embodiment of our conviction that we are more powerful when we stand together for righteousness and justice,” Rodriguez, the senior pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California, said. “It is through our common bonds of faith that we will magnify our collective reach and impact for the cause of Christ on this Earth.”
Moore said that the organization is not intended to subtract from or replace other international religious bodies such as the Lausanne Movement, the National Association of Evangelicals or the World Evangelical Alliance.
Both Rodriguez and Moore serve on NAE’s board of directors. Moore said he suspects CCL will seek memberships in those groups.
“These are all great organizations and this is not meant to be a substitute for them or compete with any of them,” Moore said. “We want to cooperate with them in response to what I feel we are being asked and called to do. The Congress of Christian Leaders will not be exclusively for evangelicals. That is a key defining factor.”
Moore and Rodriguez will embark on a listening tour over the next six months to recruit potential members and participants. The CCL will convene its first formal meeting in the fall and will then announce its inaugural membership.
Moore stated that one reason for the creation of the organization is because he and Rodriguez had each been asked several times over the last year-plus by other Christian leaders to create such a body. Moore said that any vagueness in the initial details released about the organization is because many details still have to be hammered out during the listening tour.
Moore said the listening tour will consist of a lot of face-to-face meetings and small group meetings.
“This is the listening posture of the organization from the beginning,” Moore explained. “If we are doing this because people are asking us to do it, then we need to do it with an open ear so that we are truly serving the Church.”
Moore said he expects there will be announcements throughout the listening tour regarding leaders who join as members of the congress.
“We have already talked to several people about joining the board. We are not going to announce those folks yet,” Moore said. “We might announce one over the next week or two and we might spread them out over the summer as we talk to more people. It is going to be diverse in a way to reflect the global church.”
Moore explained that the organization’s statement of faith will likely mirror the conservative theology that exists in many of the growing church movements across the globe.
Considering that one of the goals for the congress is unity of the Christian community, Moore said that a question that still needs to be answered during the listening tour is what relationship theologically liberal Christian leaders will have with the congress.
“I definitely believe that we will be in conversation with those leaders,” Moore said. “In terms of the membership of the organization, I think that is a key part of our listening tour around the world. The leaders that are asking us to form it to fill a gap need to speak into that piece of it.”
“I see a place for those leaders in the conversation, but I suspect there will be certain theological parameters that will maybe exclude them from membership but will not exclude them from meaningful relationship with the organization,” Moore added. “I don’t know details on that. We’ve got to go around and we’ve got to listen and we’ve got to figure it out.”
Despite their involvement in the congress, Rodriguez and Moore will continue serving in their positions at other organizations they are involved in.
As the announcement of the organization’s creation comes just weeks after about 50 evangelical leaders met at Wheaton College in Illinois to discuss the state of evangelicalism during the Trump era and evangelical engagement with the Trump administration, Moore assured that the CCL is in no way a reaction to the Wheaton College meeting.
“The discussion about this organization superseded all of that,” Moore explained. “We were planning on announcing it weeks ago. In fact, we were planning on announcing it that very week, but the meeting came out and we decided to delay it for that reason. We didn’t want it to be perceived as some kind of reaction to exacerbate division or something. This is an intentional effort to do the exact opposite — to bring unity during a divisive moment.”
Moore was asked if he expects any pushback to the congress given that he and Rodriguez have ties to the Trump administration and he is largely viewed as the spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board.
“I hope there won’t be. In my personal opinion, that would not be justified,” Moore said. “While there is kind of a media obsession with our relationship with the Trump administration, our relationship with the Trump administration represents, in the big picture, an extremely small piece of what we focus on and what we do around the world.”
“Sam and I both have the same point of view, which is that any time a political leader asks you for advice, you have an obligation to give that advice whether or not it is received,” Moore continued, adding that they would have advised Hillary Clinton had she won and asked for their advice.
“People who would try to be divisive around this announcement for that reason are either uninformed or they have other intentions. It doesn’t affect the reality of our actual reputation and work and our intentions.”