Subject: NCC Newsletter: Churches Confront Divisive Politics, Educate Voters

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Churches Confront Divisive Politics, Educate Voters

NCC Newsletter
September 18, 2020
An Election Fraught With Danger, Divison
The national elections are rapidly drawing near and many feel this will be the most important and consequential such election in American history. I don’t know if that is accurate or not, but it certainly feels to me to be absolutely critical.

We’ve held elections during wars, even a civil war, and depressions and civil strife in the past. I’ve cast my vote during numerous wars and recessions, but never during multiple and simultaneous pandemics (coronavirus, racial injustice, and climate change) and therefore I approach my civic responsibility with more care and prayer than ever before.

Nearly all election campaigns involve some degree of controversy. However, when I learned a few days ago that a particularly incendiary ad titled “Meet Joe Biden’s Supporters” concluded with a photo of Vice President Biden with Black church leaders before the altar in Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, I quickly brought it to the attention of AME Church leaders.

The ad, filled with ominous music and scenes of street violence, ends with Vice President Pence saying, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” AME Church leaders issued a strong response to the ad (see statement below) and requested an apology. To date, they have not received any response at all from the Trump campaign.

I agree with those church leaders who say, “This ad subtly incites white terrorism against people of color and attacks the Black Church and Black people for refusing to bow down to the idol called white supremacy.” And, I wonder if those who produced the ad were aware that five short years ago a white supremacist committed mass murder against Black church members in an AME Church in Charleston, SC. 

I reluctantly confess I believe there will be violence in the streets on and after election day. Further, I strongly suspect this will take place if President Trump is defeated. If it is by a narrow margin, we will hear that it was only possible because of fraud and if it is by a landslide we will hear that such an outcome is not possible without fraud.

In any event, it is the responsibility of Christians, of all citizens, to vote. There are many helpful election resources available. There are links to several useful tools below.

In the few weeks remaining before the election, we should all ask our leaders to ensure a free and fair election is takes place. We must all speak out against efforts to discourage voting.
We should remain patient until all the votes are counted. But, if the results are not respected by one side or the other we must insist that, consistent with the best traditions of our country, a peaceful transfer of power must occur. 

AME Church Leaders Release Statement Condemning Trump Campaign Advertisement
Black people in America have been under attack by the spiritual, political, financial, and cultural servants of American white supremacy since our first enslaved ancestors arrived on these shores over four hundred years ago.

Nations and people of color have been under attack by the global manifestation of white supremacy. First, the sin of colonialism and now in the 21st century, these white supremacist attacks continue through corporate neo-colonialism.

Sadly, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the first Black institutions in this nation, is under attack again.

The servant leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church decry and denounce an advertisement from the campaign committee of Donald J. Trump linking an African Methodist Episcopal Church to violence and implying that those who gathered there are "thugs".

The ad "Meet Joe Biden's Supporters" ends with footage of former Vice President Joe Biden kneeling before the altar in Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, in front of several Black clergy and community leaders. A moment later, "Stop Joe Biden and his rioters" appears across the screen as Mike Pence declares, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America." This ad subtly incites white terrorism against people of color and attacks the Black Church and Black people for refusing to bow down to the idol called white supremacy.

October 12-13 - Online
Breathing New Life into Our Nation: Repentance, Reformation, Reparation
Faith-Based Efforts to Get Out the Vote Kick into High Gear
As Election Day 2020 approaches, churches are ramping up efforts to ensure their members are aware of how to cast their vote this fall. Complicating matters this year is the COVID-19 pandemic. There are extensive and extraordinary efforts around the country to ensure that voters do not become ill just because they wish to exercise their rights. In addition to mask mandates, super sized polling places in stadiums to help ensure physical distancing, and disinfection processes for voting machines, many states have greatly expanded access to main in voting. Unfortunately, in the U.S. there is no central process for federal elections. As a result, each state has its own rules. 

To help navigate the process, churches are creating toolkits to help their members figure what they need to do to vote. Listed below are a few of those resources. Click the links to read through them.

Faithful Democracy - Multi-faith coalition working on election integrity issues. Click the link at the top of their homepage for an interactive tool to find out what you need to do to vote in your state.

AME Church V-Alert Toolkit - A broad range of organizations within the AME Church are partnering to distribute a toolkit to help their members organize their churches to get them to the polls.

Episcopal Office of Government Relations Series on Election Process Integrity - A reflection on voting in the U.S. and links to useful information to plan your vote.
PC(USA) Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Sen. Chris Coons Discuss Faith & Politics
Senator calls U.S. "deep racial inequalities sinful"
U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and a longtime Presbyterian, doesn’t hesitate to share his faith — even in front of a pair of Presbyterian pastors and an online audience containing dozens of his fellow Presbyterians.

On Thursday, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., hosted Coons for about 35 minutes, touching on topics that were personal, political and theological. Hear their conversation here.

For Nelson, the conversation afforded him a chance to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and the PC(USA). He told Coons and Hawkins he’ll never forget the sight of a young white girl who took two rubber bullets while protesting police actions on the streets of the nation’s capital.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Most Rev. Michael Curry Offers Pastoral Message for Election
This November, the people of the United States will elect a president and many others to public office. This election occurs in a time of global pandemic, a time when there is hardship, sickness, suffering and death. But this election also occurs in a time of great divisions. Divisions that are deep, dangerous, and potentially injurious to democracy. So what is the role of the church in the context of an election being held in a time such as this? What is our role as individual followers of Jesus Christ committed to his way of love in such a time as this?

Allow me to offer a text from the Acts of the Apostles. The introduction to the Acts from the first chapter. Luke writes, “In the first book,” referring to the Gospel of Luke:

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up into heaven.

“In the first book . . . I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught.” All that he did, all that he taught.
Global Ecumenical Community Convenes to Address Ongoing Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines, Issues Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines
We are Church people from around the world, responding to the call to stand with the Filipino people in light of the deteriorating situation of civil liberties and human rights in the Philippines. Filipinos have been under quarantine and various forms of “lockdown” for more than six months. They are a witness to a militarized response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has unraveled lingering social inequalities and has further deepened economic misery in the country. The 45 percent of the Philippine workforce is now unemployed. The worrisome heightening of human rights violations and intensifying curtailment of civil liberties are unduly facilitated by restrictions put upon democratic discourse, including legitimate assemblies to express grievances, in a civil space so severely shrunk.
A Call for Jubilee for the Earth and Renewal of the Original Norm
Sermon from Rev. James Bagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches
I am very grateful for the invitation to share a reflection on the theme jubilee for the earth as we mark the beginning of the 2020 Season for Creation. I bring greetings from your sisters and brothers across the Pacific Household of God.

Today we mark the 31st year since Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for creation for the Orthodox Church, which coincides with the start of the Orthodox church year, which begins with a commemoration of how God created the world.

Over the years the Season for Creation has grown to a month-long celebration for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to come together to care for our common home. The theme for the 2020 Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope.” The global steering committee wrote the following words to introduce the theme: “This year, amid crises that have shaken our world, we’re awakened to the urgent need to heal our relationships with creation and each other. During the season this year, we enter a time of restoration and hope, a jubilee for our Earth, that requires radically new ways of living with creation.”

UMC Civil Rights Pioneer Rev. Gil Caldwell Dies at 86
The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell called himself a “foot soldier” in the U.S. civil rights movement. But many across his beloved United Methodist Church remember him as a general for justice. He died Sept. 4 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in hospice care. He was 86. Caldwell, who went by Gil, pushed to end discrimination throughout a ministry that spanned more than 60 years and churches in at least five conferences. He tirelessly and nonviolently advocated for both racial and LGBTQ equality — even when doing so put him at odds with prevailing state and church laws. As Caldwell saw it, he was following the call of Jesus to be inclusive. Caldwell participated in many of the civil rights movement’s landmark events — the March on Washington in 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Summer voter drives in 1964, the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965 and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. Within his denomination, Caldwell — a co-founder of Black Methodists for Church Renewal — also took an activist role.
PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer Program Goes Virtual; Application Deadline Sep. 29
Young Adult Volunteers will have two options. Option A is to take part in a virtual YAV year (2020–21) — Commit to participating in training modules (six hours each week) focused on social justice, advocacy and the Matthew 25 invitation related to dismantling structural racism. As a one-time exception, the virtual year also will be open to 18-year-olds who are interested in exploring the YAV program. Option B is to take part in a two-year YAV journey (2020–22) — commit to participating in the virtual year (2020–21) and the in-person year (2021–22). This option allows YAVs to begin fundraising for their in-person YAV year early.
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