Subject: NCC Weekly News: A Nuclear Iran, A Day of Ending Racism

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From Jim: 
The first time I was arrested was through an act of civil disobedience on June 14, 1982 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Two days earlier, I had participated in the great march for a Nuclear Freeze in Central Park attended by more than one million people. 

That civil disobedience action took place simultaneously outside the UN missions of the five permanent members of the Security Council—the U.S., the USSR, the United Kingdom, France, and the People’s Republic of China. We called for a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons. 

The commitment to seeking an end of nuclear weapons has been a big part of my life and of the National Council of Churches. This year we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the only two nuclear weapon attacks in human history—those carried out by the United States against the people of Japan in which more than 250,000 people died.

One of my predecessors, Samuel McCrea Cavert, served as general secretary of the Federal Council of Churches during World War II. He incurred the displeasure of President Harry Truman after he wrote to the President on August 9 following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to request of Truman that he, “Respectfully urge that ample opportunity to be given Japan to reconsider ultimatum before any further devastation by atomic bomb is visited upon her people.”

Truman wrote, "Nobody is more disturbed over the use of atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true." 

Indeed, it is and always has been necessary to dehumanize one’s opponents in order to justify mass slaughter. Such has been the case throughout human history.

We must not become complacent about the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere. Regularly, I receive a “Nuclear Calendar” email listing events taking place around the nation. This week, for example, David Culp of the Friends Committee on National Legislation will be speaking in New Mexico on preventing a second nuclear age; a briefing on the current state of nuclear weapons will be held by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center; the Group of Eminent Persons will push for support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and numerous conferences and seminars will highlight the proposed agreement with Iran. 

An intense debate is underway over this proposed agreement. Two former heads of the Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, numerous Israeli generals, scientists, and diplomats have expressed support the agreement with Iran. In the U.S., 340 rabbis have signed a statement of support for the nuclear accord with Iran, as have 36 retired generals and admirals and 29 leading scientists, among many others, including faith leaders. 

Many of the arguments are overheated, such as claims that President Obama is sending Jews ‘to the ovens.’ Others argue that because numerous nations have obtained nuclear weapons over the years without the knowledge of the United States including the Soviet Union, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Israel, and North Korea, there can be no certainty that Iran will not violate the agreement and proceed to develop a nuclear weapon.

Christians have stepped out on faith countless times. Indeed, one of the most famous verses of scripture states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And, as Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.” 

So the agreement with Iran, like all international agreements, I suppose, requires us to step out on faith to a certain degree, but this one is also supplemented by verification measures. Our next step will be to eliminate all nuclear weapons. 

Bishop Cho calls on churches to join Sept. 6 ‘Day to End Racism’

Bishop Young Jin Cho has issued a call for all churches and pastors of the Virginia Conference to join our brothers and sisters in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in observing Sunday, Sept. 6, as a “Day of Confession, Repentance, Prayer and Commitment to End Racism.”

In the wake of the murders of The Emanuel Nine (the senior pastor and eight members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.), the Council of Bishops of the A.M.E. Church has asked every church, temple, synagogue, mosque and place of worship to designate Sept. 6 as a Sunday “to focus on race ... and be reminded that out of one blood, God created all of us to dwell together in unity.”

SPLC: "We've Lost a Champion"

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC's first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC's president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.

With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Jim Winkler: Faith-Based Leaders Support Social Security

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt and Congress established Social Security, a program that has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Three years prior to its adoption, the Federal Council of Churches called for passage of social security legislation.

The Federal Council of Churches later became the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). The NCC comprises 37 Christian denominations, including African-American churches, Orthodox churches, mainline Protestant churches, and peace churches. All told, there are more than 100,000 local congregations comprising some 35 million people in the NCC.

These churches supported the creation of Medicaid and Medicare and anti-poverty programs. To this day, the NCC works to safeguard programs that help the poor and needy. This ministry begins at the local church level and is complemented by public policy advocacy at the national level.

Mary Ann Swenson: It is time to abandon all support for retaining nuclear weapons

“It is time to abandon all support for retaining nuclear weapons. It is time to refuse to accept that the mass destruction of other people can be a legitimate form of protection of ourselves,” said Bishop MaryAnn Swenson, addressing the Anglican-Catholic Peace Memorial Service at the Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima, Japan, on 5 August.

Swenson, from the United Methodist Church in the United States, and vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, is leading a delegation of church leaders currently on a pilgrimage in Japan to commemorate the atomic bombings on 6 and 9 August 1945.

Swenson in her address stressed that the churches have a “witness to make.”

“The church leaders on this World Council of Churches pilgrimage are from seven countries that say they are in favour of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, year after year, decade after decade, our seven governments stand ready to use nuclear weapons. Seventy years after the destruction here, a total of 40 governments still rely on nuclear weapons,” she said.

“It is time to judge armaments and energy use by their effects on people and on God's creation. It is time to confess that our desire for material comfort and convenience insulates us from concern for the source and quantity of the energy we consume,” Swenson added.

The church leaders in the Japan pilgrimage represent member churches of the WCC from the United States, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, the Netherlands and Pakistan. They are meeting with atomic bomb survivors, church members, religious leaders and government officials, working to bring international calls for action home from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The International Council of Community Churches Passes Two Resolutions

A Resolution: One hundred fifty years after the American Civil War ended and slavery was abolished by the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, the stain of racism still infects the nation. During the last year we have seen repeated incidents of violence against persons of color, accompanied by expressions of hatred that encourage cruelty and bloodshed.

As a fellowship of Christian churches and ministry centers, the International Council of Community Churches reaffirms its commitment to justice; to reconciliation, and to Christian unity. These cannot be achieved without individual and societal changes that move our communities away from violence and brutality and by commitment to new paths of understanding and compassion.

To that end:

We applaud and encourage religious and civic leaders in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; and other cities and towns, including those of our fellowship, who are working to move their communities beyond the tragedies that have afflicted them and toward “the beloved community” envisioned by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let us all continue "overcoming evil with good." (Romans 12:1)

We decry the rhetoric and action of those who continue to seek division and discord and who advocate an evil vision of apartheid-like separation of God’s children. We firmly oppose violence, regardless of its source, and affirm God’s unifying shalom.

We pray and pledge ourselves to work for a society in which no one is denied her or his God-given rights, in which all individuals are given the opportunity to achieve their full human potential, and in which the weak and vulnerable are given special protection and are strengthened by those who are strong. We pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in our quest.

Done this 16th day of July, 2015

A Resolution: 
The churches and ministry centers of the International Council of Community Churches decry the inter-religious, inter-ethnic and inter-tribal violence that afflicts so many nations of the world. In some cases this violence issues from simple bigotry and ignorance. In other cases terror is being fomented by those in positions of power. Driven by fears that changing demographics and emerging technologies will threaten their control over their constituencies, those who should be showing the way into a bright future of mutual respect are instead encouraging violence and hatred in order to retrain their status.

The strategy is transparent. Religious, ethnic and tribal groups are identified as “the enemy” and are made the targets of discrimination, oppression and warfare. The results are equally well known. Places of worship are violated. Children are kidnapped. Mothers and fathers are murdered. We weep with those of our own faith whose lives have been violated by violence. We weep equally with those of other faiths whose lives have been torn asunder.

In the face of this, the churches and ministry centers of the International Council of Community Churches dare to proclaim the truth that all human beings are children of God; that violence against any part of humanity is violence against all; that rhetoric encouraging inter-religious, inter-ethnic or inter-tribal discrimination and violence is a sin against God, and that as sisters and brothers within the human family, we are all called by our various religious faiths to live in peace. As it is written “you shall love the alien as yourself." (Leviticus 19:34)

We honor those national, religious and ethnic leaders worldwide who are seeking reconciliation and justice. We pray for greater wisdom and greater understanding among all of God’s children.

Done this 16th day of July, 2015

Passed at Annual Conference,

I Believe in Forgiveness
By Ted Lockhart

I believe in the forgiveness of sin
so we say in the Apostles’ Creed.

But spare me the five and dime
forgiveness knock-offs pushed as the real thing!
When death snatched everything of value from you,
When violence scarred your beloved’s beautiful face,
When your only child or wife or mother was raped and left for dead,
What did you do with your grief and her off-spring?
Where did you go with your anger, revenge, guilt, and shame
On your way to forgiveness?

I believe in forgiveness.
I believe forgiveness is a gift to the heart and soul
birthed through the hard work of prayer and meditation
by the wounded and brokenhearted.

Call it a spiritual gift; or a gift from and through The Spirit.
Because some lonesome, wounded soul dared to present
his anger-filled argument
her whole uncompromising passionate case,
as his or her own counsel
in the courts of and
before the Lord God.
Just like Job yearned to do.
Just like Job.

I believe in the forgiveness of sin.
Like Jesus, all the time praying,
He was prayed up and ready
in the hour of his hanging
to say the unbelievable words,
“Father, Forgive them
For they know not what they do.”

How many daily prayer-times,
meditation-times, fasting-times,
and cussing-times did it take
to rise to that mount of The Presence?
How much of doing “That” does it take for us to rise
to that spot,
Just like Jesus?
Voicing forgiveness as a prayer
to his Father
for those servants of death,
even our own death.

I believe in forgiveness.
Just like those Great Ones who walked this way singing,
on the one hand, but remembering on the other:

“I prayed and I prayed!* (Right after the Massa whipped me!)
I prayed all night long (Cause the Missus sold my only child!
I prayed and I prayed (To be an Avenging Angel for all the
Until my head got sprinkled (“buked, and
with the midnight dew; (scorned, and talked about and..”*
I prayed until I found the Lord” (let the church say, Amen
There on the Mount of His Presence (Amen and
Just like Jesus did. (Amen and
Just like Jesus. (Amen!)

*Lines from two Traditional Negro Spirituals

July 9-12, 2015

Ted Lockhart, St. Petersburg, Florida native, BU CLA ’65, STH ’68,is a retired Clergy member of the New England Conference, The United Methodist Church. His recently published volume of poems, Before Blackness, Lying After Truth, In Rabbitude & Other Poems, is available at

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture seeks an individual to be the NRCAT Human Rights Fellow. This exciting new fellowship will involve full-time work for one academic year (October 2015-May 2016), and will involve working directly with NRCAT staff and interfaith partners, gaining first-hand knowledge of the education, organizing and communications work necessary for policy change and social transformation in an interfaith context.

Jubilee USA is looking to immediately hire a Policy Director and a Communications Director in our Washington, DC office. We are also hiring regional field organizers in multiple locations around the country this Fall. Please see the link below for job descriptions and application instructions for the positions of Policy Director, Communications Director, and Regional Field Organizers.

OXFAM AMERICA: In our continued mission to end poverty, hunger and social injustice, we constantly strive to hire the best possible talent. Our people make a difference on a global basis every single day, and you have the opportunity to join our remarkable team.

Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns: Communications manager

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC) represents the Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Lay Missioners and works closely with the Mayknoll Affiliates. Our aim is to bring Maryknoll mission experience to public policy debates on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations, to educate about issues related to social justice, peace and integrity of creation and to advocate for social, environmental and economic justice. Our goal is to influence positive change in the areas of systemic poverty, human rights violations, conflict, and environmental destruction. Our offices are located in Washington, D.C., at Maryknoll, New York and across from the UN in New York City.

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
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