Subject: NCC Weekly News:

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From Jim: Help us extend our vital ministry
Today I ask you to consider supporting the National Council of Churches financially. And, I am happy to let you know I do not do so because of a financial crisis at the Council, but so our vital work by be strengthened and extended. 

The NCC was in difficult straits several years ago. Although we are on the right path now, that does not mean we are where we want to be. I contribute each month to the NCC and I invite you to follow this link and make a contribution, no matter how modest. I hope you will consider a recurring gift, but I want you to rest assured we will be grateful for anything you can give.

I consider the ecumenical movement as manifested in the NCC as a gift from God. The unity exhibited by our many churches is a visible sign of Christ in our world today. 

I have just returned from Cuba where I preached on Easter morning at Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary and at the Assembly of Study of the Cuban Council of Churches. Deep and profound words of gratitude were repeatedly expressed to the National Council of Churches USA for the many years of solidarity exhibited during the long years of estrangement between our nations. 

Many of the member communions of the NCC have also traveled regularly to Cuba and provided support in a variety of ways to the churches in Cuba. Worship, solidarity, and financial assistance has been crucial and our mission has been mutual.

Yesterday, I participated in a meeting between Finnish Church Aid and Shoulder-to-Shoulder, the US interreligious campaign to support Muslims who face discrimination and persecution. The Finns desired to learn more about our work so as to combat religious extremism back home.

Also, yesterday I joined with other leaders of the Circle of Protection, an ecumenical group seeking to protect government programs that assist people living in poverty in the US, in a meeting with senior staff of Sen. Harry Reid, the US Senate minority leader. We expressed opposition to tax breaks for the wealthy and support for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

This weekend, I will bring opening greetings to Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Nearly 1000 Christians, many from NCC member communions, will focus on the crisis of mass incarceration in America. The NCC and Church World Service are the lead sponsors of EAD.

Next week, I travel to Armenia for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I will accompany my good friend, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church and past president of the NCC.

My colleagues maintain a similarly active calendar of events. When you take into account the many facets of Christian life that take place through and with the National Council of Churches you will find a vibrant and crucial ministry. 

Your gift will help the NCC to grow stronger and more secure.


Report of the National Muslim-Christian Initiative

A meeting of the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, a major dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders, took place in late March, gathering together nearly 40 Christian and Muslim senior representatives from around the country to engage issues of concern to both communities, including deliberate discussion of Islamphobia in the US and religious extremist ideology abroad. The meeting included a public evening program with more than 100 people present, on the intersection of religious freedom and respect for what others hold sacred.

The initiative, begun in 2008 and having last met in 2011, is an integral part of the 30+ years of relationship between Christian communions connected through the National Council of Churches and Muslim organizations. The pause in meetings was due to organizational and programmatic factors in both communities.
Faith-Leaders Urge End to Family Detention

"As faith leaders representing churches, synagogues, and faith-based organizations in the United States who are deeply committed to upholding this country’s moral leadership to protect children and the sanctity of the family, we call on you to end the harsh policy of family detention and employ alternatives to detention where deemed necessary. We believe this practice to be inhumane and harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of this vulnerable population.

"We also believe that it is inappropriate and unjust to seek to deter anyone, especially a woman and her children, from fleeing violence in their homeland to seek safe haven in the United States. A recent decision by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which issued an injunction halting the detention of families, agreed with this assessment, concluding that a strategy of deterrence does not warrant the deprivation of individual liberty."

Presbyterian social witness policy group advocates tax and economic reform

Presbyterians in the United States file their annual tax returns, it is useful to reflect on how the tax system works and improvements to the tax code recommended by the General Assembly. A recent report by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), “Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age”, provides a framework for engaging in discussions about the large and growing concentration of income and wealth in U.S. society and about the tax structure as part of an agenda for addressing economic inequities.

The study looks at the U.S. tax system through the lens of five principles built on General Assembly policies: progressivity in allocating the tax burden across households at different wealth levels, transparency that fully informs democratic decisions, social solidarity supports our life together as a community, ecological and fiscal sustainability that take a longer term view of systems that fuel the economy, and adequacy in raising revenue to fund appropriate and necessary government activity.

Pakistan’s Christians faithful and resilient in face of persecution

Pakistan is one of the world’s most troubling epicenters for terrorism where minorities are targeted by religious extremists for having different beliefs or affiliations. Yet the persecuted Christian community – 1.5 percent of 180 million people – remains steadfast in faith despite the daily persecution they face.

Last month, two bomb blasts in a Christian neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore killed 17 people and wounded more than 70 as worshipers attended Sunday Mass at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church, a Church of Pakistan church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

“Messages of love and support have flooded in, and churches and agencies around the Anglican Communion are working together to ensure an effective and coordinated practical response as well as continued prayer,” according to a news release from the Anglican Alliance, which connects and strengthens the development, relief and advocacy activities of churches, agencies and networks of the Anglican Communion.

Register for the 2015 Christian Unity Gathering!

The 2015 NCC's signature event, the annual Christian Unity Gathering, will again be held outside of Washington, DC at the Hilton Washington Dulles International Airport. This year's gathering will continue our focus on Mass Incarceration as well as spend significant time examining NCC's second priority area, Interfaith Relations with a Focus on Peace. In addition, there will be a special service of commemoration for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide held at the Washington National Cathedral. This service will include visitors from around the world and from many levels of government as well.

Thursday's keynote address will be given by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. During the Liberian civil war, Gbowee organized Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Gbowee's part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This will be a powerful event you will not want to miss!