Subject: NCC Weekly News

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Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the NCC, is currently in Cuba meeting with the Cuban Council of Churches.  His regular article will return next week.

Representing Our Church at a National Council of Churches Faith and Order Convening Table Meeting
by Rev. David Fekete, Swedenborgian Church

What does it mean to represent our church at a National Council of Churches meeting? It means dining with your colleagues; it means walking back to the hotel together chatting on the way; it means sharing stories about where you live, what you do, and how your journey took you there; it means reading and writing learned papers; it means letting people meet a real Swedenborgian. 

While many of these activities may not seem profound, they are very important. Surprisingly many Christians have heard of the Swedenborgian Church, and many have preconceived prejudices about, and indeed, against Swedenborgians. This without having met any. There is some interest in our doctrines, church polity, and liturgy. But what I think really matters is for our fellow Christians to meet a real Swedenborgian person. When they do so, and find him or her to be an OK, in fact, normal person, they are relieved and welcome the Swedenborgian into their world. So, seemingly trivial activities may well be the convincing media through which our church is evaluated—not so much our stance on the trinity.

The National Council of Churches is divided into four “Convening Tables.” Convening Tables are groups that are organized according to the task they undertake. The four Convening Tables are:

  1. Education and Leadership Formation
  2. Faith and Order 
  3. Interfaith Relations 
  4. Joint Advocacy and Justice

I represent our church in the Faith and Order Convening Table. Our task is to explore the various issues that the NCCC brings up according to faith and doctrines, and church order.

I don`t mean to give the impression that all we do is socialize at Faith and Order meetings. We put in long hours working on academic and doctrinal papers and books. Faith and Order is divided into 4 study groups. Mine is on Bible as it relates to the issues brought up by the governing board of the NCCC. The study groups met for 12 hours, in three, four-hour sessions over two days. My first night at the NCC Faith and Order Convening Table, I was given four 20-page papers to read through for discussion the next day. My group criticized the four papers, giving each paper two hours of comments and analysis. By the end of the day-and-a-half of meetings, I was exhausted.

I volunteered to write a similar kind of paper. We are looking at what the Bible and our tradition have to say about mass incarceration. I was drawn to write about the prophet Amos. There are deep-seated structural problems with our society, like the society of Amos. In our society, there are whole neighborhoods that generate children who seem fated to jail. There are schools with metal detectors at their entrances. There are children who walk through gang territory to get to and home from school. There are students without computers, which renders them unemployable in today’s world. These and many more details led to the formation of an organization called “The Cradle to Prison Pipeline” which seeks to educate and intervene in issues of this kind. Almost all the problems above are due to poverty and race. They are indicators of our society ailing, failing, showing signs of sickness. Were Amos alive today, his message might be much the same. The prophet saw similar abuses in his society, 

because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of shoes—
they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, ...
Therefore because you trample upon the poor
O you who turn justice to wormwood,

and cast down righteousness to the earth!
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,

They hate him who reproves in the gate,

and they abhor him who speaks the truth.

I attended the very first meeting of the Faith and Order Convening Table a year and a half ago, I believe. As might be expected, things were disorganized and inchoate. At that time I didn’t see the value of my continued participation, given the way things looked then. Now, our Convening Table seems better organized with a clearer idea about what its purpose is, and how to achieve that purpose. I now see considerable value in continuing to work with the National Council of Churches in the Faith and Order Convening Table. 

I think that it is important for Swedenborgians to continue to participate and contribute to the ongoing work of the National Council of Churches. If, for no other reason, The National Council of Churches needs to meet real Swedenborgians.

United Methodist General Conference 2016: The Global Church Gathers

The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body meets at the Oregon Convention Center, the largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest, from May 10-20, 2016.

General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which convenes once every four years.The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.

Host a Screening of "The Armor of Light" at Your Church

One of the highlights of this year's Christian Unity Gathering was a screening of Abigail Disney's powerful film, "The Armor of Light," which tells the story of an Evangelical minister's exploration of the problem of gun violence.  The film was received by the CUG participants with a standing ovation.  In the wake of this screening, many have asked how they might urge churches to view the film and hold a discussion of its themes.  Please consider hosting such a screening and spread the word about this powerful film.
THE ARMOR OF LIGHT follows an Evangelical minister and the mother of a teenage shooting victim who ask, is it possible to be both pro­-gun and pro­-life?

In what calls “one of the years’ most powerful documentaries” and The Christian Science Monitor describes as a “gripping portrait of courage,” director Abigail E. Disney tracks an Evangelical minister trying to find the moral strength to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. 

In THE ARMOR OF LIGHT Reverend Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. Rev. Schenck is shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue. Along the way, he meets Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida. McBath, also a Christian, decides to work with Schenck. Lucy is on a difficult journey of her own, trying to make sense of her devastating loss while using her grief to effect some kind of viable and effective political action. ARMOR follows these unlikely allies through their trials of conscience, heartbreak and rejection, as they bravely attempt to make others consider America's gun culture through a moral lens.

UCC takes aim at gun violence in May

The United Church of Christ has long advocated for sensible, responsible policies to end gun violence. More than 20 years ago, in July of 1995, the General Synod passed three resolutions dealing with guns and violence in our society. This May, the church is amplifying the call for change, encouraging advocacy around stricter gun laws with a sharable video message from one of our congregations forever changed by a shooter with a gun. A new 5-part Bible study will also be introduced.

The Rev. Matthew Crebbin, senior minister of Newtown (Conn.) Congregational UCC, and his community experienced heartbreak and grief after 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School were lost to "a horrific event of gun violence" in one of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history.

"For people of faith, this is not a Second Amendment issue; it is a Second Commandment crisis," said Crebbin. "The near infatuation with the gun is moving dangerously close to becoming a full-blown worship of a false idol. We live in a time when common sense gun safety legislation –– like the strengthening of our national background check system –– cannot pass Congress, even though nearly 90 percent of our citizens support such a law.

Happening in Flint: ‘We are all connected’

Flint, one of the biggest cities in the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan, is in the midst of a crisis. A couple years ago, under leadership of an emergency manager, the water supply in Flint was switched from a Detroit source to one out of the Flint River. Mismanagement and improper treatment led to dangerous amounts of lead being leached from the pipes that carry the water into the homes of Flint residents. It wasn’t until just months ago that the state recognized the issue and Flint broke into national headlines.

To continue to keep the story of Flint in the hearts and minds of people throughout the church and in our communities, the “Happeners” asked other Happening communities around the globe if they would send in small bottles of water from their various natural sources.

Bottles came in from as close by as just up I-75 and as far away as Haiti and the Jordan River.

Banners to Oppose Anti-Muslim Bigotry

To counter anti-Muslim bigotry, Interfaith Action for Human Rights joins with Shoulder to Shoulder and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Justice to call on U.S. religious communities to display banners signaling their support for the Muslim American community. 

The campaign follows in the tradition of similar banner campaigns, such as Save Darfur, Stand with Israel and Black Lives Matter. It aims to demonstrate that faith communities stand together with the Muslim American community.

There are three banner options:
  • Honor God: Say No to anti-Muslim Bigotry
  • We Stand with our Muslim neighbors
  • [Organization Name] stands with Muslim Americans
Banners come in two sizes: 2’ x 6’ - $140 or 3’ x 9’ - $200. 

Banners are weatherproof vinyl and have mounting grommets for easy hanging or posting. Price includes UPS Ground shipping and handling. Allow 14 days for delivery. Sorry, No PO Boxes Allowed.

Job Opportunities:

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) seeks an Executive Director to lead the organization. IWJ has been a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the United States since 1996. IWJ educates, organizes and mobilizes people of faith, workers and advocates in support of economic justice and worker rights at the local, state and national levels.

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