Subject: NCC Weekly News: Jim's Annual Reading List

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From Jim: My Annual Reading List
I’m a big believer in and user of the public library system. Previously, I was a dedicated book collector, but I don’t have enough space for all the books I want and, if I have to read them in the three weeks allotted to me by the library, it concentrates my mind. This past year, most of the books I’ve read came from the library. Others did not.

I read scripture each day with, of course, the New Revised Standard Version being my preferred text! Here are other books I read and recommend:

“American War: A Novel,” by Omar El Akkad. A dystopian novel set in the future in which climate change, sectional anger, and racism lead to the Second American Civil War. An all too realistic scenario which serves to warn us of the fragility of our nation if we do not take action to repair our broken reality.

“The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement” by Rev. William Barber. Rev. Barber situates his compelling personal story within his fearless efforts to confront racism and economic injustice. He is now building a Poor People’s Movement and is a hero of mine.

“The Late Show,” by Michael Connelly. Connelly introduces a new character, an L.A. police detective named Renee Ballard who has to battle the misogyny of fellow detectives while trying to solve several interrelated crimes.

“The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade,” by Charles Dew. Dew reflects on his Florida upbringing in a middle-class white family where casual, everyday racism was the norm. He weaves his personal history with that of his research into the slave trade.

“Camino Island,” by John Grisham. Grisham’s latest thriller explores the world of thefts of rare books, how they are sold and recovered. An enjoyable read.

“Abducted in Iraq: A Priest in Baghdad,” by Saad Sirop Hanna. The moving story of faith told by a Chaldean Catholic priest kidnapped by Islamic extremists during America’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.

“Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World But Changed America,” by David Hollinger. Dr. Hollinger examines the Protestant missionary movement, particularly that in Asia, and how those missionaries were transformed by what they witnessed and experienced. Many of the stories are familiar to me. For many years, missionaries were the best link between American churches and the realities of what was taking place in the “Third World.” It's an essential contribution to church history.

“Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” by Nancy MacLean. Dr. MacLean uncovers the story James Buchanan, a libertarian economist who conducted no real research but managed to build a pseudo-intellectual framework for anti-government activists. He also played a significant role in transforming my graduate school alma mater, George Mason University, into a dangerous right-wing outpost.

“Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein,” by John Nixon. Nixon, a CIA officer who spent many hours interrogating Saddam Hussein following his capture. He reveals the incompetence of the CIA, the appallingly low level of knowledge possessed by the US government about Hussein and Iraq, and the fact that in the last years of his reign Saddam Hussein spent most of his time writing bad novels and was uninterested in governance.

“Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” by Kay Tur. Tur was assigned to cover the bizarre presidential campaign of Donald Trump. On a regular basis, for reporting what was happening she experienced Trump’s wrath and the hatred of the crowds who followed him across the country.

“White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America,” by Joan C. Williams. Professor Williams cogently explains why the white working class despises the professional managerial elite, mourns the passing of the American Dream, and possesses a strong class consciousness.

On my to read list: “Thinking Theologically About Mass Incarceration,” edited by Antonios Kireopoulos and Mitzi Budde. This new collection of essays is produced by the Faith & Order Convening Table of the NCC and promises to be an essential contribution to the church’s understanding of this terrible plague that afflicts our society.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
UCC Southern California congregation vows to 'Be the Church' in wildfire recovery process

As wildfires continue to rage across large swaths of Southern California spewing smoke and ash across the landscape, the people of the UCC congregation in Ventura are making every effort to get back into their building for worship on Sunday, Christmas Eve.

"Our church was spared, but our property is damaged, and fire came within five feet of our front door," said the Rev. Kris Bergstrom, pastor of Church of the Foothills in Ventura, Calif. "We have a lot of smoke and ash involvement which is nothing to what others are dealing with.

"It is overwhelming to stand in our parking lot and look up the hill," she continued. "This grief is going to last a long, long time. We are up to 20 families who have lost everything. We probably have another 40 families who were displaced and are waiting to get back in. On Sunday we have 150 people in worship, so that's a high percentage of folks directly impacted. It seems that everybody knows someone who has lost everything."

Churches unite in support of migrants

As United Methodist congregations prepared for the coming of the Christ child on the first Sunday of Advent, many also recognized the importance of welcoming the stranger.

Churches around the world celebrated Global Migration Sunday on Dec. 3 with a day of prayer and a special offering to aid migrants and refugees.

Today, more than 65 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to conflict, persecution or natural disasters. Over 22 million of those are refugees.

“Our church needs to continue (to provide) ways we are the home for strangers and we are the friend for the migrant, and we need to open up the landscape so that the church can be outfacing, engaging with those in such a critical situation today,” said Wisconsin Area Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, president of United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

While it’s too soon to know full participation numbers, Jung estimates that at least half of the churches in his episcopal area, roughly 250, participated on Global Migration Sunday through liturgy sharing, prayers or a special offering.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Traditionally the week of prayer is celebrated between 18-25 January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul. In the southern hemisphere, where January is a vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate it, for example around Pentecost, which is also a symbolic date for unity.

The theme for the week of prayer in 2018, "Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power" is inspired by Exodus 15:6. The resources for the week have been prepared by members of different churches in the Caribbean.

A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees and Displaced People


We live in a time of upheaval and uprootedness – a world in which each year millions of people cross borders in search of more secure and sustainable lives, while white supremacist ideologies continue to impede the fight for justice and peace for all of God’s people. As we witness historically high levels of migration, we also find that racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination are also on the rise in our communities and used for political gain. At the root of this global upheaval and migration are the push factors of violent conflict, climate change, and corruption which often intersect with one another. At a time when there is such need around the world, we grieve that the U.S. has greatly reduced its refugee admittance numbers while smaller, poorer countries are stepping up to welcome and provide refuge for those in need. As people of faith, we know we can do more. We believe God is with Dreamers, the migrant and the outcast and calls us to create places of sanctuary; to offer hospitality to the stranger, to welcome all – regardless of faith, race, gender or nationality – and to break down the dividing walls that separate us.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2018 will focus on the uprootedness of our world. We will analyze current policy and envision ways to more fully and justly respond to the global and local needs of displaced communities. Through prayer, worship, advocacy training, and networking, we will seek policy changes that advance hope and overcome the devastating impacts of conflict, climate change and corruption on God’s people.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a nonpartisan Quaker lobby based in Washington, DC, is seeking an experienced communications professional who will drive FCNL’s national narrative and lead our communications team to tell the story of our impact to Quakers, donors, advocates and the media throughout the country.

Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty: The mission of the Education and Mobilization Assistant is to expand the base of support for religious liberty. Education is key to building a sustainable and ever-increasing core of religious liberty advocates who can inform themselves and others about religious liberty. Mobilization is key to providing opportunities for religious liberty advocates take timely action and play an active role in their communities and houses of worship. The Education and Mobilization Assistant supports the BJC’s education and mobilization work.

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the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions 
and more than 40 million Christians in a common expression of God’s love and promise of unity. 
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