Church Center for the United Nations
What is the Church Center for the United Nations?
The Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN) was established in 1963 to symbolize and strengthen the churches’ dedication to the things that make for peace. Located directly across the street from United Nations (U.N.) headquarters in New York City, this 12-story building has served as a vital hub for the work of the ecumenical and nongovernmental community toward a vision of peaceful and prosperous coexistence among nations while recognizing the human rights and dignity of all people.
How Did it Come to Be?
With great foresight and in a cooperative Christian spirit, Methodists took the lead in the early 1960s to establish CCUN. Born out of dreams to expand their capacity and access to the U.N., increase understanding of the work of the U.N. and give larger voice to the concerns of the churches in international affairs, the center marked an important milestone to years of ecumenical support for the goals of the U.N. as set forth in the U.N. Charter.
At the consecration ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk stated, “We need to hear the voice of enlightened public opinion; we need to feel the pressure for reason in the midst of turbulent events; we need evidence of broad support for our largest goals and purposes. … This new center here on U.N. Plaza is a heartening symbol of your devotion to the U.N. But it is more than a symbol, for it is a place of action and a multiplier of action.”
Thanks to the steadfast determination and commitment of United Methodist Women, who now own and operate the building, CCUN continues to keep faith communities connected to the U.N. Today, CCUN is known to be an ecumenical powerhouse, positioned to exert a positive influence on the affairs of the world’s peoples and nations.
What Does This Building Have to do with the Mission of the Church?
Located in the center of the chapel, Jesus’ exclamation “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace” from Luke 19:42 is etched into the wooden Bible stand. These words in the heart of the chapel serve as a constant reminder of why the faith community is present across the street. In the charter of the U.N. is the deep prayer that its existence would “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Founded by Methodists, today the chapel offers an interfaith space for advancing God’s peace in the world. As a Christian ecumenical space, through action and representation it intentionally welcomes all of the world’s religions including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikh, Hinduism, Shinto and others, building together a common space for reflection and action.
In the 21st century, CCUN continues to focus on uplifting the voices of God’s people before the most representative intergovernmental body in the world. CCUN’s emphasis on people-centered development, peaceful resolutions to conflict and upon human rights continues to express the deep belief that one day swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and nation will not lift up sword against nation, and neither will they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).