Subject: NCC Weekly News

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From Jim: It's been a good year.
I know that very soon I will be receiving a lot of email and paper mail fundraising solicitations. These arrive every holiday season. I’ll look at some of them and I’ll delete most of them, not because I am uninterested but because I can’t afford to give to every organization.

I’m not annoyed to receive these solicitations. There are a lot of worthy groups and most, if not all of them need money. I give each week to my church and I contribute to boards on which I serve and, periodically, to other organizations, as well.

I also give each month to the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and, as president and general secretary, I’m happy to invite you to give to the NCC, too. A one-time gift is fine, but I pray you will consider following this link (click here) and committing to a weekly or monthly gift, no matter how small it might be.

The NCC depends on contributions from member denominations, but we also receive regular gifts from individuals and local churches. These are crucial to helping us continue our ministry. Periodically, we receive a bequest. I hope you’ll consider putting the NCC in your will.

I pay very close attention to the income and expenses of the Council and am happy to report to you that in 2015, as in 2014, not only will we not dip into our reserves, we will not even take a rolling average payout from our tiny NCC Legacy Fund. The money you contribute will enable us to sustain this ministry for many years to come.

In 2015, we have held sessions of our Jewish-Christian dialogue and our Muslim-Christian dialogue. Next year, we hope to begin Buddhist-Christian and Hindu-Christian dialogues. Our Faith and Order table is developing a publication tentatively titled, "Thinking Theologically about Mass Incarceration: Biblical Foundations and Justice Imperatives," to be published next year.

In 2015, we held our second Christian Unity Gathering at which Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit were featured speakers. Along with the Armenian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, we co-sponsored a service of remembrance on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

We will welcome into membership of the NCC next month the Assyrian Church of the East. Other churches have expressed interest in joining in the coming year.

We continue to work for an end to mass incarceration. I testified to the President’s Commission on 21st Century Policing in January. The NCC was present in Ferguson on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. We celebrate the bipartisan legislation on sentencing reform recently introduced in Congress and work for its passage.

I attended the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston this summer and we worked closely with the Black Methodist Coalition to hold a major gathering in Washington, DC in early September. We continue to work with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence to call for sensible gun violence prevention measures.

I traveled to Burma in February with an American Baptist leadership delegation to celebrate 200 years of witness in that nation, to meet with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and to worship with Christians from all over the nation. We continue to work for peace around the world through our interreligious partnerships.

We started this newsletter in January and each week it reaches more people. I hope you find it useful.

These are but a few highlights of the ministry of the National Council of Churches. We need your help.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

Generation to Generation

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur

On August 10, the day after the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, I was arrested along with more than 50 other protesters outside of the Department of Justice in St. Louis in an act of civil disobedience. As I shared a cell with 15 other women, I was captivated by a t-shirt worn by one of the women that said, “This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Civil Rights Movement.”

I wasn’t born when Rosa Parks inspired the longest sustained act of protest of the 20th century after she was arrested for not moving to the back of the bus in Birmingham, Ala. I have watched the multi-shades of gray film clips from the era and wondered what role I might have played in it. Would I have been one of those on the front line or remained on the side? If I did participate, what would have been my limits? Would I continue protesting after being beaten, bitten by dogs, or being spit on and pummeled by rocks thrown by racist observers? My short stint of seven hours in a holding cell did not solve this backward reflection for me and frankly, I think different circumstances and historical contexts make the analogy an exercise in futility.
WCC expresses concern over renewed violence in Jerusalem

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed deep concern over the renewed wave of violence in Jerusalem.

In a letter to WCC member churches in Palestine and Israel issued on 19 October, he expressed solidarity with the churches and peoples of the land, and affirmed WCC’s commitment to justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.

“We are following with increasing dismay events throughout the region and especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which we hold in our hearts and prayers as an open city of two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians) and three faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam),” wrote Tveit.

“We continue to work and pray for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, promoting respect for the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem as an important contribution to reducing current tensions.”

Tveit went on to say that “as Christians, we must all seek an end to violence against any of God’s children, just as we seek an end to occupation and the injustices that present such formidable obstacles to peace in Israel and Palestine.”

“Violent attacks are an unacceptable and counter-productive means of seeking justice. Proportional security measures and the rule of law are the appropriate instruments for responding to such attacks, not extra-judicial killings,” he added.

“The WCC stands firmly with Christians in the Holy Land in our conviction that the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories must be brought to an end – not as a pre-condition for an end to violence, but as an essential foundation for any long-term, sustainable and just peace in the region,” Tveit stressed.

With the vision of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace” as promoted by the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013 at Busan, Tveit promised the member churches, “we are committed to moving together with you on this difficult path.” The primary focus of the “pilgrimage of justice and peace” for 2016 will be the Middle East, with an emphasis on Israel and Palestine.

Full text of the WCC general secretary’s letter to churches in Israel and Palestine

WCC calls for prayers so that “wall will fall” between Israelis and Palestinians (WCC news release of 18 September 2015)

WCC programme "Churches in the Middle East”
Anglican and Oriental Orthodox churches reach historic agreements

Historic agreements have been signed between Anglican and Oriental Orthodox churches helping to heal the oldest continuing division within Christianity.

An Agreed Statement on Christology, published in North Wales last week by the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC), heals the centuries-old split between the Anglican churches within the family of Chalcedonian Churches and the non-Chalcedonian churches over the incarnation of Christ.

In addition, the Commission has made substantial progress on issues concerning the Holy Spirit, which have continued to keep the churches apart over the centuries.
Traci Blackmon to lead UCC Justice and Witness Ministries

A prominent community leader, a gifted preacher and a much-loved pastor and teacher has been appointed as the acting executive of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries.

The Rev. Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ The King UCC, in Florissant, Mo., called by the United Church of Christ General Minister and President and the UCC Board chair and vice-chair, and appointed to the position by an enthusiastic and unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, looks forward to beginning her work with the national offices.

"I am extremely excited, a little overwhelmed, and honored by this new opportunity for ministry," said Blackmon. "I have chosen to accept the challenge of Acting Executive Minister of Justice and Witness at this time because I believe the United Church of Christ is uniquely positioned to reimagine the welcoming table of Christ in ways that create space for all voices to be heard."
Scholar left mark with `Stages of Faith’

James W. Fowler was a preacher’s kid who himself became an ordained United Methodist minister, but it was as a scholar and author that he exerted considerable influence.

Fowler’s 1981 book “Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning,” has gone through more than 50 printings in its U.S. edition and remains required reading in many college and seminary courses.

Through his books, teaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and directing Emory’s Center for Ethics, Fowler would help shape the thinking of many pastors and others.

He died Oct. 16 in Atlanta, at age 75, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
2015 Annual Conference
Lord, Let Our Eyes Be Opened: 
Breaking the Chains of Mass Incarceration
October 23-26, 2015 
Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg East
4751 Lindle Road
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

REGISTRATION IS OPEN! Please join us for Lord, Let Our Eyes Be Opened: Breaking the Chains of Mass Incarceration at the Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center in Harrisburg beginning the evening of Friday, October 23 and running through Sunday, October 25. The event will be followed on Monday, October 26 with a day of action at the Capitol. This is a relaunch of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches' annual conference (formerly the Pennsylvania Pastors’ Conference).

The event is aimed at educating people of faith (clergy and laity) about America’s system of mass incarceration. We’ll look at:
  • the religious, sociological, and economic foundations that support why the faith community must be involved in criminal justice reform efforts;
  • how race, inconsistent sentencing guidelines for drug offenses and mandatory minimum requirements have placed a disproportionate number of poor persons and persons of color behind bars;
  • treatment of incarcerated persons, and how (if at all) they are prepared for reentry into the community;
  • barriers for returning citizens, issues for communities as they welcome them, and resources to support them; and
  • what congregations can do on all of these fronts.
We are thrilled that we will be joined by Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, nationally acclaimed founder and director of Healing Communities USA, Glenn E. Martin, Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA, and Dr. Michael Rowan, Assistant Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for our foundational sessions. See biographies below. Presenters in our panel discussions will include a number of returning citizens as well as criminal justice experts who can speak with authority about the topics they address. John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, will speak at lunch on Saturday, October 24.

Those attending the conference will be eligible for 1.0 CEUs (continuing education units) made available by Lancaster Theological Seminary at a cost of $25.

We will continue to provide further information about the program as it comes together. Watch our Facebook page for updates, or call or write to Sandy Strauss at (717) 545-4761 or for more information. We will also post the full program here once it is closer to final.

TO REGISTER, go to the Registration Page. Note also that there is a very good special rate available for lodging at the Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg East (4751 Lindle Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111) as well—$105/night plus 6% Occupancy and 5% County tax--same rate for single or double occupancy. We encourage participants to stay on site to take advantage of evening events, including films focusing on this issue and fellowship with other participants. Reserve your room by calling the Red Lion at (717) 939 7841.

If you’d like to be on a mailing list for updates, send an e-mail to Linda Shenck at

Please mark your calendar for what promises to be a stimulating and informative event!

A Hymn: I Cried to God
A hymn lamenting gun violence

Last week the link provided to this hymn was incorrect (our apologies!).  Please download this hymn using the corrected link below.
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