Subject: NCC Weekly News: A Busy Ecumenical Week

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From Jim: A Busy Month for Ecumenism
I write this week to update you on some key events and developments in the life of the National Council of Churches:

First, we just wrapped up Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for 2017. This weekend event, in which nearly 1,000 Christians gathered, is a signature event of the ecumenical movement, and the NCC is proud to be a leading cosponsor. I am grateful to Rev. Doug Grace for his leadership of EAD, and to Rev. Aundreia Alexander and Mr. Keith Swartzendruber, NCC staff who participated in the planning committee. Many, many others who are part of the NCC family were involved in EAD and hundreds of our local church members traveled to Washington to participate in this great event.

This year’s theme, “Confronting Chaos, Forging Community,” was drawn from the title of a book written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago. That same year, on April 4, 1967, Dr. King addressed the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism,” spiritual forces of wickedness against which we continue to struggle today.

The NCC’s Faith & Order Convening Table held a workshop immediately prior to the opening of EAD, “A Time to Break Silence,” which analyzed the Christian foundations of our common work to create the “Beloved Community.” Presenters included Rev. Dr. Kenneth Q. James, Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church (Rochester, NY); Rev. Dr. Reginald D. Broadnax, Pastor, Mt. Olive AME Zion Church (Durham, NC), Professor and Chair of Religion, Clinton College (Rock Hill, SC); Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell, Professor of Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; and Rev. Dr. Leslie Dawn Callahan, Pastor, St. Paul's Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA). If you missed this rich conversation, you can download a recording and listen at our podcast feed.

Our board chair, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, brought greetings to EAD on Friday night, April 21. Rev. John Dorhauer and Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, both members of the NCC Governing Board, were major presenters. Many of our member communions held denominational gatherings during EAD. If you have never participated in EAD, I do hope you will help plan to do so next year.

Second, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Korea, Rev. Kim Young Ju, and two colleagues, Dr. Ki Ho Yi and Dr. Jong Sun Noh, arrived in Washington last Friday for important meetings with NCCUSA leaders and US government leaders in light of the present and growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula. We arranged meetings for them with the U.S. State Department, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Council on Foreign Relations.  We pray that their call for peace is heard by American leaders too eager for war with North Korea.

Third, I depart this week for Cairo to speak at an important peace conference convened by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. Pope Francis, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, will also be presenters.

Fourth, the NCC Governing Board will gather on May 9-10 in Norfolk, VA for our spring meeting. On the afternoon of May 9 we will spend time with the board of Creation Justice Ministries, formerly the Eco-Justice Program of the NCC, in order to share Christian fellowship together, and to witness the reality of rising sea levels which directly affects several local churches in Norfolk.

Finally, please make sure you have our November 8-10 Christian Unity Gathering in Silver Spring, MD on your calendar. Our planning team is hard at work under the direction of Rev. Rich Tafel. More details will follow.

Grace and Peace,
Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President

Traci Blackmon, other faith leaders arrested in D.C. opposing 2018 budget proposal

The UCC's Rev. Traci Blackmon was one of seven religious leaders arrested in the Hart Senate Building Monday afternoon during a peaceful protest aimed at drawing attention to a federal budget proposal that makes deep cuts in programs that address human needs in order to increase defense spending.

Blackmon, acting executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, was kneeling and praying in the atrium of the building with the other advocates when they were taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police officers.

The faith leaders, in Washington, D.C., for the 2017 Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice(EAD), are calling on Congress to reject President Trump's proposed 2018 budget which calls for more money for the Pentagon, and less for the vulnerable people in our country.

"Jesus told the truth about the powers and principalities of his day, and his suffering, death and resurrection was an expression of resistance against those powers and for God's vision of a just, abundant life for all," said Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC Washington, D.C. office. "In our witnessing today on Capitol Hill, we are trying to be faithful to that call."

Trump’s pledge to allow churches to support candidates may be part of tax bill

As Republicans struggle to craft a sweeping tax package — a process already rife with political land mines — they are preparing to add another volatile element to the mix: a provision that would end a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.

The repeal of the “Johnson Amendment” is being written into tax legislation developed in the House of Representatives, according to aides. President Trump has vowed to “totally destroy” the provision at the behest of evangelical Christians who helped elect him.

The inclusion of the repeal in broader tax legislation could bolster its chances. A stand-alone bill would almost certainly face a filibuster in the Senate, where opponents fear the measure would effectively turn churches into super PACs.

But the prospects for comprehensive tax reform also remain far from certain given differences in priorities among House and Senate Republicans and an array of business groups prepared to fight provisions that would hurt them.

Blessing the Peace-Makers: A Call to Faith Instead of Arms

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2:14, NRSV)

Too often, United Methodists define themselves by what they are against – we stand against war, against bullying, against racial and economic injustice, against police brutality, against terrorism. The focus on what we are against sometimes causes us to lose sight of what we are for – United Methodists are for peace, for justice, for diversity and equality. We are for reconciliation and restoration, for harmony and unity. Now is a crucial time for United Methodists to communicate what we are for, as we witness the growing tensions and political maneuvering concerning North Korea.

Our 2016 Book of Resolutions has a clear statement of The United Methodist Church position concerning the situation on the Korean peninsula. Resolution #6135 – “Korea: Peace, Justice, and Reunification” states a compelling vision for what is possible to bring an end to division, and to pave a path toward healing and wholeness. Our vision is a commitment to set aside differences, and not make excuses, but to clearly communicate our desire for the war in Korea to end – the 1953 Armistice never formally ended the war – and to work toward reconciliation, reunification, and restoration of families and bloodlines from North and South. The United Methodist vision is grounded in a Christian witness for the glory of God to overcome the worldly powers and principalities. We oppose sanctions and military responses to difficult and complex global realities. We seek faith over force, and a mature collaboration beyond threat and bullying.

How Progressive Nonprofits Can Navigate Conservative GOP Washington

With the turmoil in American politics, progressive nonprofits and social ventures have been left scratching their heads, trying to figure out whether to engage the new GOP-controlled Hill and White House—and if so, how. Some have decided their strategy is to resist; others realize they must find ways to work with the federal government if they are to successfully serve their constituencies. The good news is that with the right approach, a progressive policy agenda can thrive under GOP control. To see how, we need only look back to the Republican Revolution of 1994, when the GOP took control of Congress for the first time in decades. 

A year earlier, I had opened the doors of Log Cabin Republicans—a group dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies—with the goal of educating Republicans on Capitol Hill about gay and AIDS issues. The November election threw progressive groups into a tizzy, and no group was more concerned than advocates fighting against the spread of AIDS. I found myself tasked with translating between progressive activists and GOP lawmakers, none of whom had much respect for the other side.

What I learned back then still has resonance today. Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of social change organizations seeking to accomplish policy goals through conservative governments, and many have met with amazing success. For organizations facing this challenge today, here are 10 strategies that can help.

Commentary: GOP’s Health Reform Strategy Amounts to Repeal Without Replacement

Republican congressional leaders plan to move quickly in January to repeal the bulk of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without enacting a replacement plan to prevent the millions of people who have gained coverage through the ACA from becoming uninsured. Instead, the repeal bill will likely delay by two years or more the elimination of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies that help low- and moderate-income people buy marketplace coverage. But GOP leaders’ claim that they will enact a replacement plan in the meantime that will be available when the ACA’s coverage provisions expire isn’t credible.

Republican leaders have had six years to put forth a replacement plan that matches the ACA’s coverage and protection from financial risk, and they haven’t done so. The proposals to date from President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans are vague in key respects and would do little to help the millions whose coverage is at risk under ACA repeal to obtain affordable, comprehensive health care. Moreover, many people likely would lose coverage before any Republican health plan was fully implemented.

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Ecumenical opportunities:

The Religious Freedom Center has an opening for a part-time position as program assistant working with the Director of Recruitment and Admissions. This is a summer position working 20 hours/week for 10 weeks over the summer starting in May 2017. The ideal candidate should have an interest in Higher Education Administration. Learn more details by visiting the job and fellowship postings on the website.

The Conference of European Churches has two staff vacancies in the area of communications. The first is a one-year maternity leave cover contract. The second is for a communications assistant. Both are based in Brussels.

Please click here for the PDF version of Staff Vacancy Notice: Communication Coordinator (Maternity Leave Cover)

Please click here for the PDF version of Staff Vacancy Notice: Communications Assistant

The World Council of Churches is looking for a Program Executive of the Ecumenical United Nations Office in New-York.  Click here for more information.

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