Subject: NCC Weekly News

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From Jim:
I traveled to Ferguson, Missouri in the fall of 2014 to prepare for the governing board meeting of the National Council of Churches. I reached out to numerous faith leaders in the community, including Rev. F. Willis Johnson, pastor of the Wellspring Church. Willis’ congregation is located just down the street from the police department, the site of many protests and demonstrations following the unjust killing of Michael Brown, a local teenager.

In the midst of a fantastic crush of events and an unending stream of visitors, Willis graciously received me. He invited me to speak the following evening at a conference for young black men. We hit it off and have remained in touch ever since. He is a brilliant strategist, a gifted preacher, and an excellent writer. 

Now, Willis has written a book, “Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community,” published by Abingdon Press. The title is derived from Mark 2:1-12 in which four unnamed people took up the mat of a paralyzed man and tried to bring him to Jesus. Because the crowds around Jesus were so great and because they were so determined, they not only lifted the paralyzed man onto the roof of the house in which Jesus was staying, they dug a hole in the roof and lowered him into the room where Jesus healed him. 

It would have been understandable if Willis had recounted the events following Michael Brown’s murder, including the protests, the organizing, the trial and the legal maneuvering. I’ve heard a very few of his stories and they are mightily interesting. 

While he does set the stage briefly by recounting a bit about the days after Brown’s death, Willis Johnson has chosen to do something perhaps more lasting with this book. He outlines his Empathic Models of Transformation (EMT)—acknowledgment of another’s existence, affirmation of another’s experience, and acting by being present with another, particularly when we respond to their pain. 

Willis emphasizes there is no simple path or set of action steps to addressing injustice or dealing with racism. He insists such work is messy and potentially dangerous. It may frustrate and alienate friends, parishioners, and co-workers and it will most certainly require courage and reallocation of time and priorities. I know for certain this blunt honesty alone will discourage some from even reading this valuable book. That would be a shame.

This book is theologically grounded, speaks hard truths, and does not ask of anyone what they cannot give or do. It is sensitive to a variety of personal, community, and congregational realities, and full of practical suggestions. Even the most defensive white person can read “Holding Up Your Corner” and find useful tools for dealing with their own racism and taking action to make their community a more just place.

Willis includes suggestions for leading a guided conversation about race, as well as a valuable guide to terminology about race, and a privilege quiz. Don’t just read this book. Invite Willis to help your congregation take the next step.

Yours in Christ,
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches

ELCA presiding bishop responds to attacks on Jewish community

These famous words attributed to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller have been on my lips in recent days: "Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. … Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me."

In the face of anti-Semitism, we are called to speak out – as an expression of our love of neighbor and as our faithful response to the love of God in Jesus. In doing so, we become ambassadors of hope in the face of despair, imitators of Christ.

Our Jewish neighbors are once again living under threats, fearful for their safety and security. Over the weekend, a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated, and on Monday, another wave of bomb threats was made to Jewish community centers across the country. This was at least the fourth round this year alone. As Christians, we affirm that Jews remain "beloved of God" and that an attack on them is an attack on those whom our God – the one God – has called "my people."

In many places, with leadership from across this church, we are reaching out and showing up with our Jewish neighbors, often with ecumenical and inter-religious partners. We can and should continue and expand these important ministries of presence.

Statement on recent anti-Semitic incidents

The National Council of Churches denounces recent anti-Semitic incidents and condemns rhetoric that has fueled such acts. We stand firmly with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this difficult time. As a community of 38 Christian communions in the United States, the National Council of Churches continues to pray and work for a nation in which all persons may freely worship as they wish without fear. In this, we are not alone.

For months now there has been a sharp rise in threats made against synagogues and Jewish community centers.There have been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the beginning of 2017. This week, bomb threats were called in to Jewish organizations across the nation, and a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, was vandalized.

Hispanic pastor assures immigrants, 'You don't have to live in fear'

The chapel at St. John United Methodist Church was packed Wednesday night. The faces of immigrants from at least five Spanish-speaking nations showed stress, strain, concern — and perhaps weariness from a long day’s work.

However, on this night, the Broadway Avenue church was a place of safety and reassurance. After the free community dinner that happens every Wednesday evening at St. John, the Rev. Daniel Castillo led a 75-minute session on immigrant rights.

“Do not sign anything,” Castillo said in Spanish. “Do not say anything … Ask for a lawyer.”

State of Appalachia: Gathering faith voices for a thriving Appalachia

March 31 - April 1
Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia

Over 50 years ago, the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) formed as a voice for justice in the mountains. The Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) did historic, ground-breaking work to organize faith leadership.

Many of us who continue to echo its message feel that NOW is an especially meaningful and critically important time to come together once again to examine the economic, environmental and spiritual conditions of our region, to problem solve, and to organize.

Today, in the spirit of CORA, the State of Appalachia conference will examine the spiritual, economic, and ecological situation of our home.

Together, we will chart a path forward.

We're Hiring! Operations Manager and Executive Assistant

The Operations Manager and Executive Assistant is responsible for providing administrative and organizational support to the General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and overseeing all office management, computer networks and systems, office equipment, contracts administration, and human resources administration. This position will be located in the NCC’s Washington D.C. offices and is non-exempt and non-bargaining unit.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the position of Chief Legal Officer, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. The Chief Legal Officer will be responsible for assuring the reliable and timely provision of high quality legal advice and services to the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Executive Office of the General Convention, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and Executive Council. The Chief Legal Officer reports to, and is accountable to, the Presiding Bishop and will serve as a senior member of the Presiding Bishop’s leadership team. Candidates must be a member of, or have the ability to become a member of, the New York bar within 18 months of hire.

The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the position of Director of Human Resources, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. The Director of Human Resources position is based at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City and is a full-time position. The Director of Human Resources reports to the Chief Operating Officer and will be responsible for providing organizational development strategies and direct human resources management to partner and support the mission and ministry goals of the Episcopal Church; managing every aspect of employment needs; overseeing the talent acquisition process and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and in-house regulatory requirements and procedures; and benefits administration.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is hiring a Communications Associate: the Communications Associate assists the Director of Communications in implementing the strategic communications program of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, working to convey the importance of religious liberty for all people and the separation of church and state.

Religions for Peace USA is hiring an Executive Director: Religions for Peace USA envisions a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice. Religions for Peace USA's mission is to inspire and advance common actions for peace through multireligious cooperation among our nation's religious communities. Religions for Peace USA seeks an Executive Director to be the organization's primary organizer and administrator, working to coordinate a bold, shared witness for peace and justice among our member religious communities and to provide a moral compass in the religiously pluralistic context of the United States of today and the future.

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