Subject: NCC Weekly News

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From Jim: An Unpredictable, Trustworthy God
Kirchentag Bible study on Genesis 22:1-19

(Ed. note: This is the last of a three-part Bible Study Jim led in Dortmund, Germany last month as part of the Kirchentag festivities.)

Let us consider the mind of Abraham as he embarks on a three-day journey to the site where he believes he is to kill his son. The scripture says God told him to “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show to you.” This very language poses a dramatic situation, and surely Abraham was in a state of agony during these three days. Did Isaac sense this? Did Abraham argue with God? Or was he content to kill the son he loved in order to please God? Did he use the three days to plan the murder?

The consensus view among Jews and Christians is that Abraham made the right choice, that his obedience to God is admirable, that the depth of his faith—his willingness to place God above his own son—is the kind of faith we should emulate, and that if we, too, have such faith then we also will be rewarded.

Perhaps an essential lesson for us to learn from this passage is that there are things worth dying for. There are things so important we are even willing to place our children at risk for them. But how do we tell the difference between the good things worth dying for and the bad things?

I offer to you these suggestions from David Hollenbach, a Jesuit scholar, who wrote in his book, “Claims in Conflict:"
  1. The needs of the poor take priority over the wants of the rich.
  2. The freedom of the dominated takes priority over the liberty of the powerful.
  3. The participation of marginalized groups takes priority over the preservation of an order that excludes them.
When we seek to determine the justness of causes that we are told are based on God’s commands, those three principles may be helpful to us in judging right from wrong.

Perhaps the reason Abraham is willing to go along with what might be described as “God’s Confusing Plan,” is because he and God have already come so far together and it is as if there is no turning back now. By the time this story takes place, many years had passed since God called him to be the father of a great nation. Abraham had gathered up his family and his property and left his homeland.

God had been with him as he made his way from one place to another. Even though it had taken many years, God had fulfilled the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah. In other words, God had been faithful to God’s promise, and in turn, Abraham trusted God. Perhaps the real lesson here is that Abraham acted, not out of blind faith, but out of ultimate trust. First Testament scholar Terence Fretheim says that Abraham obeys because he trusts God, and it is that “trust out of which obedience flows.”

Our overall theme for this Kirchentag comes from 2 Kings 18:19: "On what do you base this confidence?" I would suggest that we can base our confidence on the truth that we serve a God who can be trusted. We serve a God who will never abandon us or leave us alone. It is important to note, of course, that there is a difference between God’s trustworthiness and God’s predictability. We serve a God we can trust, but not one whose every move we can predict.

Jesus tells us that with enough faith we can move mountains. There are those who feel it is wrong to doubt God, so they can only see this passage as a test for Abraham, a test he passes. But doubt is an essential part of faith. This passage raises countless questions — and much reason for doubt.

We have these assurances:

God is in us,
God is with us,
God is for us,
God works through us,
God loves us.


Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Opposes Federal Death Penalty

The National Council of Churches opposes the Justice Department’s decision to reinstate the federal death penalty and to schedule the execution of five persons. We affirm our longstanding view that the death penalty is both a violation of the dignity and worth of human beings and has also proven to be ineffective as a deterrent (see the 21st Century Social Creed and our statement of September 13, 1968).

Additionally, the pervasiveness of systemic racism and classism intrinsic within the criminal legal process means the death penalty is neither fair nor just. In fact, we know that hundreds of people who have been sentenced to death — or actually executed by the state — have been determined to be innocent. In a time when states are ceasing this abominable practice, it is abhorrent that the federal government would seek to revive it.

Our Christian faith is clear that life and the dignity of human personhood are sacred gifts of God and as such shall not be violated.

Faith groups urge State Department to abolish new ‘unalienable rights’ commission

A coalition of 430 human rights, civil rights, foreign policy and faith organizations, leaders and scholars has submitted a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to dismantle his department’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights.

Organized by Human Rights First, the letter’s signatories include 21 American religious leaders and dozens of faith-based organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Jewish World Service, T’ruah, Reconstructing Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Churches, Muslims for Progressive Values and Catholics for Choice, as well as secularist groups like American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“(W)e view with great misgiving a body established by the U.S. government aimed expressly at circumscribing rights through an artificial sorting of those that are ‘unalienable’ and those to be now deemed ‘ad hoc,’” the letter reads. “These terms simply have no place in human rights discourse.”

Faith Leaders Join in Urging Congress to Pass a More Just Budget

“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. 
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy” 
(Proverbs 31:8-9)

Dear Senator/Representative: 

As leaders representing a broad array of religious beliefs and faith traditions, we write to urge you to pass a bipartisan budget agreement that lifts spending caps for non-defense programs and raises the debt ceiling before the August recess. We come from a variety of faith perspectives, but our moral principles and scriptural teachings all affirm the need to enable all people to live with dignity and the opportunity to flourish. Federal nutrition assistance, housing assistance, reentry services, education and job training programs, international humanitarian and development assistance, and environmental protections are examples of the critical role federal funding plays in advancing these fundamental values. Houses of worship and religious organizations participate fully in delivering these services and could not be as effective if funds are reduced. We call on Congress to immediately pass a bipartisan budget deal that lifts spending caps for non-defense spending and then prioritize funding for vulnerable populations and essential human needs programs in appropriations.

Statement From the Board of Bishops of the AME Zion Church Concerning the Immigration Crisis

“For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing the food and clothing. You shall also love the strangers, for you were strangers in the land Egypt.” 
    – Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NRSV)

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has been known for more than 219 years as “The Freedom Church.” As such, our members, clergy and laity alike have a powerful legacy of
advocacy and action for social justice and the liberation of oppressed people. In fact, one of our heirs, Frederick Douglass, just weeks before his death was asked by a young black man for his best advice, Mr. Douglass said, “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!

As a body of believers of clergy and laity, the A.M.E. Zion Church is called to “Agitate, Agitate, Agitate” against the Trump Administration and its policies that result in the unfair treatment of immigrant children and adults. Additionally, we are appalled by a recent Trump tweet on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, where Mr. Trump stated, “If immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in these detention centers then go home!” This cruel statement is antithetical to our Christian values.

Nominations open for NCC Awards for Excellence in Faithful Leadership

Each year at the Christian Unity Gathering, we hold an awards banquet in which leaders of the ecumenical and interfaith community are honored for their exceptional, exemplary leadership. We hope you will nominate leaders you believe are worthy of these prestigious awards.

Nominations close July 31 at 5:00pm.  Don't wait; nominate someone that deserves an award today.

Join With Christians Against Christian Nationalism 

As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another. As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy. Today, we are concerned about a persistent threat to both our religious communities and our democracy — Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.

Fighting For a Fair and Faithful Census

The 2020 census will profoundly impact the future of our democracy and the health of our communities. Ensuring a complete count is a moral necessity. We must work together to ensure that the census promotes equality, not exclusion.

In past censuses, millions of children, people of color, low-income people and immigrants have gone uncounted -- perpetuating systemic racism, undermining political representation, and underfunding resources we all use, everything from hospitals to roads to schools for the next 10 years.

People of faith like you can help fix that by educating our friends, neighbors and faith communities about how to participate in the 2020 Census -- and why it’s so important.

Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula

The World Council of Churches invites its member churches and all people of good will to observe a Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula on 11 August.

Each year, Christians are invited to join in a prayer for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Prepared by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Christian Federation, the prayer is traditionally used on the Sunday before 15 August every year.

The 15th of August, celebrated as Liberation Day in both North and South Korea, marks the date in 1945 when Korea won independence from Japanese colonial oppression, yet ironically it also was the day when the peninsula was divided into two countries.

Registration opens for once-a-decade Religion Communication Congress

The wait is over! Registration is now open for Religion Communication Congress 2020: Communicating Faith in the Public Square (RCCongress 2020). Join hundreds of your religion communicator peers from various faith traditions in Washington, D.C. At the heart of the nation’s capital, take advantage of the unique opportunity to participate in the phenomenal programming, expansive networking platform, and hands-on instruction that is characteristic of RCCongress events.

Program speakers, panels, workshops and preliminary schedule are on the Religion Communication Congress 2020 website.

Registration is open to all! Each participant must complete a registration form. Special rates are available for students, retirees, and groups that meet the registration requirements. Day rates are also available for those who cannot attend the full conference. Visit the Religion Communication Congress 2020 website for complete registration information.

Let Your Light Shine: Mobilizing for Justice with Children and Youth

A New Resource from Friendship Press

Children face too many tough situations today: broken immigration policies, hunger, school shooting, mass incarceration, human trafficking, failing schools, child soldiers in wars worldwide. Despite the harsh realities, there is still hope! And YOU can play a vital role in keeping that hope alive! Let Your Light Shine challenges readers to engage in their own work of justice for and with children. Inspired by the contributions of leaders like Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, the authors present ways to engage in works of justice that offer life, meaning, and hope to our children and youth.
Oklahoma Council of Churches hosts anti-racism training event

Saturday, August 03, 2019

9:00am to 4:00pm

Oklahoma Conference of Churches
301 NW 36TH ST
Oklahoma City OK 73118

White Privilege: Let's Talk - A Resource for Transformational Dialogue

Come and be trained on how to facilitate conversation on this topic.

Training will include:
  • The Spiritual Autobiography Told Through the Lens of Race
  • White as the Norm: Five Loci of Insights on the Binary of Light/Dark and Black/White
  • The Cash Value of Whiteness or Whiteness as a Tax-Exempt Status
  • On Becoming an Ally
"We don’t promise that this will be easy to discuss. It will challenge basic assumptions about race that help white communities maintain a system of privilege that, while prevalent, often goes unnoticed by even the best-intentioned of white advocates for justice. Nonetheless, the work we do to deepen our awareness of how privilege is made manifest, and the commensurate work of unmasking and dismantling that privilege, is among the most important work we white leaders can commit to."

Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, 
the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions 
and more than 40 million Christians in a common expression of God's love and promise of unity. 
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
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