Subject: NCC Weekly News: The North Korea Crisis

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From Jim: Nuclear War and Christian Faith
At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, I was four years old, living in a tiny village in western Missouri. My father served as the local Methodist preacher. Our backyard was a corn field, and our next door neighbor was a farmer. Scattered in the countryside around us were Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles, presumably aimed at the Soviet Union. 

As I grew older, I heard my parents describe the fear they felt, at that time, of a nuclear war that might take place between the US and the USSR, and their concern that rural Missouri, of all places, was a potential target. Now, all these years later inflammatory rhetoric about a nuclear war is being used by “Dear Respected Comrade” Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Commander of North Korea’s army and Donald Trump, President of the United States.

North Korea has promised to “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of a nuclear war,” and Mr. Trump has promised North Korea a “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to threaten the United States. Both leaders have a history of issuing threats and using provocative language. This is, indeed, a perilous moment.

Adding to the tension, a well known Baptist preacher in Dallas, Texas named Robert Jeffress has said “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un,” and “God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary—including war—to stop evil.”

This kind of irresponsible saber rattling is not what Mr. Trump needs to hear, yet Mr. Jeffress and other right wing Christian leaders hang out at the White House on a regular basis and seem to have his ear. This is most unfortunate.

I write these words on the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb by the United States on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. On that very day, one of my predecessors as general secretary of the National Council of Churches (then known as the Federal Council of Churches), Dr. Samuel McCrea Cavert, sent a telegram to President Harry S. Truman. In this he stated, “Many Christians deeply disturbed over the use of atomic bombs against Japanese cities because of their necessarily indiscriminate destructive efforts and because their use sets an extremely dangerous precedent for future of mankind….Respectfully urge that ample opportunity be given Japan to reconsider ultimatum before any further devastation by atomic bomb is visited upon her people.”

President Truman was not happy to hear these words from Dr. Cavert. In response, he said, among other things, “When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

Dehumanization of the enemy is essential to justify war. Long before Donald Trump assumed the presidency, the United States has laid the groundwork to cast North Korea as the enemy. President George W. Bush placed North Korea in an “axis of evil,” and a Hollywood movie called “The Interview” depicted a brutal assassination of Kim Jong Un. Former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed in his memoirs that the U.S. considered nuclear war against North Korea in 2013, and the media regularly depicts North Korea as a ‘rogue state’ and Kim Jong Un as a ‘madman.’ 

The National Council of Churches will continue to pray and work for peace. Everything I know about Jesus convinces me he was against war. I do not believe for one second that God has ordained Donald Trump or Kim Jong-Un to engage in nuclear war. Now is the moment for sane, peace loving people to speak out.


Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President
Statement Calling for Immediate Cessation of Hostile Acts and Rhetoric Between USA and North Korea

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA calls for an immediate cessation of hostile acts and rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Steps must be taken immediately to avoid the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear war. Increased tension and destabilizing actions and rhetoric by both sides make such a war more likely.

In the past months, we have seen aggressions by both the United States and North Korea.  In May the United States deployed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. This was seen as a destabilizing move by China and other neighbors and a threat by North Korea (see previous NCCCUSA and NCCK letter to President Trump on this matter). Critics point out that THAAD is incapable of countering North Korean missiles with their low-angle trajectory; thus, this so-called defensive system is being used in an aggressive manner.

At the same time, North Korea’s testing of missile technology is well known.  The nation’s development of a miniaturized nuclear weapon brings destabilization unseen since the end of the Cold War, and its apparent new capacity to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles is of great concern.

Recent comments by the leaders of the United States and North Korea threatening hostilities are beyond alarming.  Such threats, of “fire and fury...the likes of which the world has never seen” by President Donald J. Trump, and “all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland” by spokespersons of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, only serve to bring our countries, and the world, to the brink of war.  We therefore urgently call upon both leaders to tone down their similar and mutually inflammatory rhetoric.

Further, the movement of US military assets to the region, including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, places the world on the brink of war. Threats by North Korea regarding an attack on Guam place the US and its allies in a precarious position, bringing the world closer to the possibility that a quick and devastating nuclear exchange will take place.


WCC urges dialogue and engagement - not threats and sanctions - for North Korea

In the wake of new sanctions on North Korea that could reduce the country’s annual export revenues by one third, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed concern over whether those sanctions demonstrate any positive impact in bringing a return to negotiations or preventing its development of nuclear weapons.

Sanctions have, instead, clearly contributed to impeding humanitarian access to North Korea for disaster relief and other aid, Tveit noted.

The latest U.N. resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the numbers of North Korean labourers currently working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.

“It is not at all clear how the new sanctions can be expected to make any more positive contribution to this extremely delicate and dangerous situation,” Tveit said. “We call for a sea-change in the international community’s approach to North Korea, in favour of dialogue and engagement rather than military and political confrontation.”

Emergency Letter To President Moon Jae-In Urging Immediate Dialogue

August 10, 2017

Dear President Moon Jae In,

May God’s peace be always with you, Mr. President.

Upon your inauguration, you have put great effort in supporting the socially marginalized groups and also in ridding the society of its malpractices. We sincerely appreciate your hard work in realizing the desires of the candle light revolution and thus opening a new era for South Korea.

The Reconciliation and Reunification Committee of the NCCK has hoped to see the nation’s long-cherished wish of a peaceful reunification finally come true with your leadership. Recently, however, North Korea has reinforced its nuclear tests and ICBM launches and accordingly, South Korea has made the deployment of THAAD a fait accompli, developed N-subs, strengthened ballistic missiles and intensified KOR-US joint military exercises. This tension has risen within the peninsula, which has caused grave concern to us all. To make matters worse, President Trump has declared that “North Korea would face fire and fury, one never witnessed by the world”. Against such harsh words, North Korea immediately responded by announcing that it will strike Guam and Seoul with its Hwasung-12.

Military tension is at its height in the Korean peninsula and there is fear of war spreading among the people. We understand that you are also deeply concerned, but the lives of the people in South Korea should not be threatened by the provocative acts of the US and North Korea.

The road to peace is a difficult one, but the harder it gets the more important it is that we keep the principle. Dialogue is meant to resolve such extreme situation, which is why its affect is so highly valued. We cannot start sincere dialogues when we place blame for the opponent’s extreme actions or when we insist various pre-conditions for dialogue.

We sincerely ask of the President that you swiftly take matters into hand. We ask that through unconditional dialogues, the two Koreas pave way to independently resolve the neo-Cold War crisis in the Korean peninsula. The NCCK is ready to take active participation.

In order to transform the present crisis into an opportunity and open the door for dialogue, we humbly ask you to immediately dispatch a special envoy to North Korea.

Our prayers will be with you always, as you are desperately struggling for a better future of our country.

Rev. Kim Young Ju
General Secretary

Rev. Rah Haek Jib
Chair of the Reconciliation and Reunification
National Council of Churches in Korea

Charlottesville, Virginia Call to Clergy and Faith Leaders

To our Colleagues in Ministry and Friends in Faith,

We need your help. On August 12th we call for 1,000 clergy and faith leaders to show up in Charlottesville, VA to confront a national white supremacist rally.

On August 12, will you please join us in prayer and in person in Charlottesville, Virginia? We call on white clergy, especially, to join us in person. This is a call for partnership in direct, nonviolent action on a crucial day for our city, and in a critical moment for our country. We need your prayerful presence.

On August 12, hundreds of white supremacists from around the country will rally with white nationalist leaders for hours in our most prominent public park. From information that these groups are presenting and sharing online we have concluded that there is an extremely high potential for physical violence and brutality directed at our community.

We need your help - we don’t have the numbers to stand up to this on our own.


UCC clergy answering the call to oppose Alt-Right rally in Virginia

Hoping to gather 1,000 clergy and people of faith in Charlottesville, Va., next week, a group of anti-racism organizers joined by a national officer of the United Church of Christ will stand against racial hatred opposite a white supremacist rally in the city on Aug. 12.

The pastoral presence is a loving response to a "United the Right" rally for members of what has been called the Alt-Right, or Alternative Right, a group of far-right conservatives that favor white nationalism. Though the event is local, organizers are raising awareness that white supremacy is a national issue — one that progressive people of faith can confront.

"The Charlottesville Clergy Call (#CvilleClergyCall) is seeking to make visible the liberating love of God and to walk in the action of that love here in the world," said the Rev. Tracey Howe Wispelwey, who is minister of congregational and community engagement for the UCC. "As people start to see and understand and join, we begin, together, to transform the story we are all living in, which is critical to overcoming white supremacy and all the ways it is institutionalized in our world, systems and history."


Ecumenical Opportunities:

The American Baptist Churches USA Office of the General Secretary is searching for persons to fill two Associate General Secretary positions. Originally announced on July 14, 2017, the positions include Associate General Secretary for Missional Initiatives and Partnerships and Associate General Secretary for Congregational and Pastoral Effectiveness. The deadline for applications is August 15, 2017.


Church World Service is seeking a creative and visionary leader to fill the position of Media Associate. The ideal candidate will live and breathe a commitment to immigrants’ rights and a coalition approach to advocacy, and thrive in a creative environment in which no day is the same. This team member will join and be at the intersection of the CWS Advocacy, Communications, and Immigration and Refugee Program staff teams.


Church World Service is seeking a savvy digital media intern to support our communications work.This internship offers valuable real-world experience in digital media outreach, online organizing, and graphic design.


The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) seeks a full-time Director of U.S. Prisons Program to coordinate national interfaith organizing and strategic state and federal advocacy for its interfaith members working to end the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. Strong preference for the position to be based in NRCAT's Washington, DC office, though open to possibility of remote work.


Does your vocation include obtaining resources to support your ministry’s mission?
Then you're invited to attend the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Mission Funding Forum.

Ecumenical Stewardship Center Forum Groups provide those engaged in similar stewardship-related vocations gathering places for networking, support, and learning. 

Come to the Forum

The Mission Funding Forum Group Gathering will take place September 19-20 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Participants consider the current trends, best practices, challenges, and opportunities unique to serving faith-based organizations in an informal roundtable format.

There is no registration fee for the Forum: participants care for their own transportation, lodging, and meal expenses. 

Stay for the Conference

The Everence Development Conference immediately follows the Forum at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, ending on September 22. Featuring a variety of workshops and keynote speakers including Jim Wallis and Susan Schultz Huxman, "Bridge to a Shared Tomorrow" is a quality learning opportunity. Mission Funding Forum participants interested in attending need to register for the conference. 

Learn More and Register for the Mission Funding Forum

Learn more and register for the Everence Development Conference

Register today! Forum registration ends August 31. Conference early-bird registration ends July 24, and closes August 28.

Questions? Contact the Ecumenical Stewardship Center
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855-278-4ESC (4372)

About the Ecumenical Stewardship Center: 
As a Network for Growing Stewards, the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) provides resources that encourage faithful stewardship and generous giving as transformative spiritual practices for faith communities. Nineteen denominations and several stewardship-related organizations in the US and Canada are partners in ESC's mission and ministry. You can find them on the ESC website at stewardshipresources.org. 
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