Subject: NCC Newsletter: Seeing Hope

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Seeing Hope

NCC Newsletter
June 26, 2020
From Jim: In the Storm, Seeing God's Light of Hope
Although I grew up in an anti-racist family, have worked my entire adult life in multiracial settings, have participated in and led anti-racism training events, grieve as I listen to the expressions of anger, fear, and despair that arise from African American co-workers, friends, and church leaders, as a white middle-aged man I simply do not experience the racism that suffuses everyday life in the United States.

I have helped lead the National Council of Churches into the ACT (Act, Confront, Transform) to End Racism focus and I usually feel frustrated at the lack of impact we are having. 
Many millions of white Americans are able to live their lives almost entirely removed from the reality of police violence, disproportionate COVID-19 infections, increased infant and maternal mortality rates, lower family net worth, higher poverty and unemployment rates, higher rates of incarceration and arrests, racial profiling, redlining, and countless other aspects of systemic racism that make life extremely difficult, if not miserable, for people of color in our nation.

The closest I come to experiencing discomfort as I go about my daily life is the increased wariness I have felt around police and security forces since 9/11, after which I believe those forces were not only militarized but felt a greater sense of impunity and swagger.

I was raised in a nation and society that told me as a white male that whites were supreme and males were superior and America was exceptional. If you type “what is myth” into Google you discover it is “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” A second definition says myth is “a widely held but false belief or idea.”

Thanks be to God, the myth of white supremacy may finally be in the process of being widely discredited. This is hard for many white people to grasp. It is astonishing for many of them to consider they are part of an evil system that perpetuates racism, militarism, and materialism.

Over the years, I have written and spoken about “angry white males” and each time I have received furious push-back from white males. I can sympathize with them. I’m angry, too. It’s just that I’m angry about racism, injustice, greed, and ecological devastation while many other white males are angry about the exposure of the myths that have enabled them to be the unchallenged masters of the universe.

I’m not without hope. I do believe people want to live holy, just, authentic, spiritual lives. I actually do not think most white people desire to benefit from white privilege and systemic racism, or wear tennis shoes made in sweatshops in Southeast Asia, or drink coffee grown on land in Central America that should be feeding its hungry people, or pump pollution into their own bodies and those of their children. But, we engage in these actions every day.

How do we get out of this crisis? Our solutions must be as practical as possible for ordinary people. Everyone, it’s said, wants to hear three things: supper’s ready, you’re forgiven, and I love you. People desire to affirm and be affirmed.

I believe most people want to live in a just society aimed at ending racism. I believe people are willing to change and to sacrifice if there is a vision of hope offered to them.

Our churches want to be part of this change. The National Council of Churches has pivoted over many years from being a pillar of the establishment to questioning the very direction in which our nation is headed. That has happened because of a deeper understanding of the teachings of Jesus and because the great movements for civil rights, women’s rights, environmental justice, the LGBTQIA+ movement, and the peace movement have challenged our worldview. All of these are moral and spiritual movements. We have changed this nation, but we have so very far to go.

I hold these beliefs and maintain these hopes because I am a follower of Christ and I know Christ confronted systems, such as the Roman military occupation force, that made life for his people so hard. But Christ saw beyond his own circumstances and articulated a gospel of love that lives for us today.

Simultaneously, right now many are hopeful that these protests and this uprising will lead to positive, lasting results while others don’t think anything will really change. I can’t say I know what the outcome will be, but I know God is with us and that it is not God’s will that racism prevails.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Welcomes Supreme Court Decision on DACA

This church urges "flexible and humane ways for undocumented persons who have been in this country for a specified amount of time to be able to adjust their legal status." 
— ELCA social message, "Immigration" (1998)

Today I rejoice in the renewal of dreams and the transformation of heartbreak into hope that today's Supreme Court decision brings to our nation's more than 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, their families and their communities. Today's decision recognizes the American identity of these young adults and values the long and deep contributions that these DACA recipients are making and will make to our nation.

Since 2012, DACA has provided protection from deportation to young people who have grown up as members of our churches and as neighbors enriching our common life. It has allowed them to remain in the only home they have ever known, pursue their educations, and work to strengthen our communities.
PC(USA) Special Committee on Racism Calls for "Season of Repentence", Work for Justice

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24, NRSV)

Once again, the United States finds itself at a crossroads in dealing with racism and white supremacy. Racial inequities have been exposed in the COVID-19 pandemic and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Tony McDade in Florida, George Floyd in Minnesota, and Rayshard Brooks in Georgia. These tragedies have caught the national spotlight, and inequities, racism, and unlawful acts happen to Black, Indigenous, and people of color on a daily basis.

As followers of Jesus Christ, who loves all and calls us to challenge the unjust structures of church and society, we are called to work for justice and peace for all God’s people.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community, Churchwide Antiracism Policy, approved by 222nd General Assembly (2016), affirms the following:

While recognizing that racism victimizes many different racial ethnic groups, we acknowledge its unique impact on the African American community. Given the particular forms that anti-black racism has taken in the United States of America both historically (including slavery and Jim Crow) and today (including mass incarceration, disproportionate policing, economic inequality, and continuing acts of racially oriented violence and hate), we state clearly: GOD LOVES BLACKNESS. Too many have denied this basic truth for too long. Our choice to align ourselves with love and not hate requires both a rejection of racism and a positive proclamation that God delights in black lives.

Metropolitain Serapion, Coptic Orthodox Diocese in Los Angeles, Join Celebration of Juneteenth

Today, we the Coptic Orthodox faithful celebrate the 155th observance of Juneteenth and lift our voices to emphatically condemn all racism, racial superiority, racial insensitivity, aggression and anti-Black violence.

Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865 by General Gordon Granger, almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation proclamation on January 1, 1863. Six months later, the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865 to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude in America. Since that time, June 19 has been called Juneteenth, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Liberation Day.

Our Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is the first church in Africa, established by the Apostle of Africa, St. Mark the Evangelist. Millions of members of the Coptic Orthodox Church live all throughout Africa!not only in Egypt, but in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Togo, Swaziland, South Africa, and many other countries.

As Christians, we believe in equality and reject all forms of discrimination and racism. Although we are many, we “are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:5). We are all many members of this one body, even though we are many, we are one in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12).
What Does the Lord Require? A Statement from David Steele, General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”--Micah 6:8

Our hearts break for the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who have lost their lives due to the color of their skin. Each death represents injustices disproportionately affecting the Black community.

Many across our country have protested in the wake of George Floyd’s death because of the way authorities delayed arresting and charging the police officers involved, but most importantly because his killing is a perpetuation of the injustice, violence, and racism that have devalued and harmed Black Americans for centuries.

Many protests have remained peaceful; violence has erupted in some. What is clear is that the nation, and especially our sisters and brothers from various racial backgrounds are hurting and in mourning.
NCC Collection of Resources on COVID-19 for Churches

NCC has collected numerous resources put out by its member communions and other groups including the CDC to help provide guidance for churches as the try to decide when to restart meeting in person. Click below to view these helpful resources.
Bishop Michael L. Mitchell Begins Term as President of AME Church Council of Bishops
The hand of God has been evident on the life of Bishop Michael Leon Mitchell since he was a young child. Born August 4, 1960, in Perry, Florida to the late Reverend Arthur L. Mitchell, Sr. and the late Mrs. Mary L. Mitchell, he is the ninth of their fifteen children.

Bishop Mitchell is a life-long member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and is a product of Duval County Public Schools. While in high school, he answered the call to the ministry and preached his trial sermon at age 17, on August 28, 1977, at New Saint James AME Church. Determined to achieve God’s purpose for his life, Bishop Mitchell began his ministerial training and study under the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was ordained an Itinerant Deacon in 1979 and an Itinerant Elder in 1981. His first pastoral assignment came in 1985 at the A.M.E. Church of the Master (Jacksonville, Florida). He also pastored Mount Zion (Arcadia, Florida), Saint Luke (Tampa, Florida), and Martin Memorial (Miami, Florida).
Cuban Council of Churches Rejects U.S. State Department Placing Cuba on Watchlist on Religious Freedom
The Cuban Council of Churches issued a statement rejecting the action of the U.S. Department of State to place Cuba on a watch list "for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom." The statement details the long list of activities that the Council engages in with its member communions and also in an interfaith manner. 

The statement reads in part:

"The present administration of the United states has strengthened the policies of blockade, discrimination against, persecutions and sanctions that are part of a long list of actions designed to asphyxiate Cuba and to topple its political-economic system, violating its sovereignty. 
One of the most recent attacks is related with the topic of religious freedom. They have falsely accused Cuba of restraining religious freedom, by placing our country in a list of countries where – according to them – there is no religious freedom. Moreover, they have approved 50 million dollars to this end, with the justification that there is a serious situation in Cuba in this matter and paying individuals and groups to articulate such false discourse. 

All these manifestations and actions completely ignore the reality of the society and of religions in Cuba."
Pacific Conference of Churches: Justice and Righteousness , Not Brutality and Oppression, for the Pacific
God, give the king your justice; your righteousness to the royal son. He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. The mountains shall bring prosperity to the people. The hills bring the fruit of righteousness. He will judge the poor of the people. He will save the children of the needy, and will break the oppressor in pieces… He will have pity on the poor and needy. He will save the souls of the needy. He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence. Their blood will be precious in his sight. (Psalm 72: 1-4 , 12-13)

There is no excuse for violence.

In recent months we have witnessed across the Pacific, the use by governments, of police and security forces, to deprive the people of their right to speak freely and without fear.

From the West, where 63 people have been jailed by Indonesia for speaking of freedom in West Papua and the Moluccas Islands, to the east where a police officer was imprisoned on brutality charges in Samoa.
But perhaps it is in Papua New Guinea and Fiji where the security forces – especially the police – are so often used as an extension of the ruling party to quell dissent among the populace.

When it is possible for politicians to use the police to arrest political rivals and private citizens, who voice concern about State policy, an injustice is committed.

When police are used by politicians, to selectively enforce public health laws, to stop a group of peaceful demonstrators at an institution of learning, an injustice is committed.

If people convicted in a court of law for killing citizens are released a week later by relatives or friends who hold political office, an injustice is committed.

We have seen the violence in the United States after the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

Our people have been quick to condemn this incident, thousands of miles from the Pacific. Yet they remain silent on the same issue in their own countries, fearful of a police force and its political masters who react swiftly and mercilessly on those who dare speak out.

Injustice of any kind and anywhere is wrong.
Joint message calls for healing wounds and a shared future for the Korean Peninsula
A Joint Ecumenical Peace Message for the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War was publicly delivered on 22 June during a live-streamed event. Co-sponsored by churches and councils of churches around the world, especially from countries that participated in the Korean War, the message describes the Korean War as an “appallingly destructive conflict” after which no peace treaty was ever concluded.

“Seven decades after this war began, it is time to acknowledge that it ended long ago,” the message reads. “New challenges to peace and stability in the region have arisen in the meantime, but we do not believe that the resolution of those challenges will be facilitated by keeping that 70-year-old conflict open.”

Job Announcement: Church World Service Opening for Executive Assistant

CWS is looking for an Executive Assistant who will provide executive-level support to the Senior Vice President, Senior Director for Resource Generation and Director for Policy and Advocacy, as well as the Resettlement and integration team. The incumbent will manage expenses, answer routine correspondence, and assemble and manage highly confidential and sensitive information (including legal documents and attorney-client privileged materials). The incumbent will deal with a diverse group of important external callers and visitors as well as internal contacts at all levels of the organization. Independent judgment is required to plan, prioritize and organize diversified workload. The candidate recommends changes in office practices or procedures. The incumbent will exercise independent thinking and decision making.

The ideal candidate will have several years of experience in handling a wide range of key administrative, research, and executive support related tasks, be exceedingly well organized, flexible, and scrupulous with time management. The incumbent must be able to function effectively, and within a timely manner, in a dynamic, fast-paced environment under minimal supervision. The Executive Assistant will report to the Senior VP.
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