Subject: NCC Weekly News: A Prayer for Summer

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From Jim: A Prayer for Summer
Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving

I. O God of the seasons, the fig tree has sprouted; summer is already near. We give Thee thanks for a season of sunshine and long days, for vacations and rest. May days of barbecues, swimming pools, and gatherings with friends and family restore our health and spirits.

We thank Thee for the smell of freshly mown grass, for the squeals of children running through sprinklers, for the cheering of crowds at baseball games, for the mouth-watering taste of homegrown tomatoes, for farmers markets where we gather our baskets of summer fruit.
We look forward to family reunions, summer camps, and church mission trips. Gracious and most holy God, we give Thee thanks for summer, for lazy days of fishing, for sailboats, and for hiking.

This summer, O God, we will attend to the business of Thy church through general conventions, annual conferences, and general synods. Grant courage, vision, and faithfulness to those of Thy disciples who will gather to discern Thy will.

II. And even as we give thanks and praise to Thee for the beauties and rhythms of summer, we know these pleasures are afforded to all too few and we beg Thy forgiveness for our self-centeredness while so many are suffering and Thy very Creation is groaning. 
The summers are growing hotter and the sunlight is more intense because we, Thy people, have spread toxins and poisons throughout the Earth. We mourn the extinction -- as a result of our pollution and misuse -- of entire species of animals, insects, birds, and plants, all of which had a sacred role in Thy ordered Creation.

Grant peace to our cities, O God, where police violence and racial bigotry, discrimination, and tension have brought sadness and bitterness to our collective soul. Strengthen our resolve, Lord, to seek the beloved community.

III.  Let us not take a vacation from Thee this summer. Give us hearts more fully dedicated to Thy Word. We are thankful for the opportunity to serve Thee, O God. 

Give us hearts of gladness. Fill us with the spirit of humility that we may unite with one another as Thou intended. Free us from needless worries and anxieties. Place us on the right path: through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Faith Leaders Launch “Tale of Two States,” Handgun Purchaser Licensing Campaign, at National Cathedral 

New Johns Hopkins Study Finds Connecticut’s Handgun Law Led to 40 Percent Decrease in Gun Homicides

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of over fifty national faith groups and organizations, gathered at Washington National Cathedral today to launch a campaign called “Tale of Two States: Handgun Purchaser Licensing Saves Lives.” The initiative will educate faith leaders and the general public about the effectiveness of handgun purchaser licensing to save lives from gun violence.

“It’s very simple," said The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral and chair of Faiths United. "Handgun purchaser licensing saves lives. If we want to prevent gun violence, we need to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. Background checks do not abridge gun rights, and they do protect those who are most vulnerable to gun violence. Faiths United urges our houses of worship and allied community groups to sign our national Resolution.”  

Hall joined many other faith leaders in touting a new study published today in the American Journal of Public Health by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showing that Connecticut’s handgun purchaser licensing legislation led to a 40 percent drop in gun homicides in the state. Another recent Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research study showed that the repeal of handgun purchaser licensing in Missouri led to a 25 percent increase in gun homicides there. Both studies ruled out other possible explanations for the changes in gun homicides.

"Consistent with prior research, this study demonstrates that Connecticut's handgun purchaser licensing law is associated with a subsequent reduction in homicide rates," the Johns Hopkins researchers note in their study. "As would be expected if the reduction is driven by the permit to purchase law, the policy's effects are only evident for homicides committed with firearms."

As part of the “Tale of Two States” initiative, Faiths United will ask faith and community groups across the county to endorse a new Resolution calling for handgun purchaser licensing across the country. The Resolution can be signed at a new website,, which contrasts the findings of the Connecticut and Missouri studies.

Ten states and the District of Columbia currently have handgun purchaser licensing laws, requiring background checks for all gun sales. Such laws also put the responsibility of conducting background checks on local law enforcement, not gun sellers.

Dean Hall and study author Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, were joined in this announcement by other top national faith leaders, including Rev. Leslie Malachi Watson of the African American Ministers in Action, Rabbi David Lerner of the Rabbinical Assembly and Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. In addition, they were joined by the Episcopal Bishops of Connecticut, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, and Missouri, the Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith. 

The National Council of Churches is an endorser of this campaign.

Police incident stirs North Texas Conference

The North Texas (United Methodist Church) Conference’s annual gathering got spun in another direction by a video showing a police officer manhandling black youth at a pool party dispute in McKinney, Texas.

The incident happened Friday, June 5. The video went viral over the weekend, just as clergy and laity began to meet at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, which like McKinney is a suburban city just north of Dallas.

Bishop Michael McKee spoke twice about the incident at the conference. Black clergy held a press conference and prayer gathering outside the McKinney police department immediately after the conference ended Tuesday afternoon.

Church leaders in South Sudan urge government to stop the war

As the tragic situation of conflict in South Sudan moves into its 18th month, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) continue calling for an end to the senseless conflict. Human rights are being abused at every level, both on the battlefield and in peaceful areas. People are being killed, raped and tortured. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating. South Sudan, a rich and fertile land, should be the bread basket of Africa yet instead is relying on foreign aid.

In a statement issued in Juba on 26 May, the South Sudan Council of Churches spoke of the deteriorating situation in South Sudan: “We challenge the military and political leaders of all sides, most of whom call themselves Christians: why are you not listening to the voice of your church leaders, who echo the voice of the ordinary citizens of South Sudan?”

The statement also said: “Children are being recruited into armed groups. Looting is endemic. People are being arrested for no reason. Security organs appear to be acting as if they are above the law. The space for citizens and civil society to speak out appears to be narrowing.”

We will continue working so Congress eliminates the blockade, says Winkler

(Edited) "We will continue working with people of goodwill in the U.S. so Congress will eliminate the blockade against Cuba and we will normalize relations," said Jim Winkler, President of the National Council of Churches (NCCC-USA).

"It will take time and will need hard work, but we will make our voice heard. Removing the blockade is the right thing to do," he said in an interview with members of the Cuban press who traveled recently to Washington for the third round of talks between Cuba and the United States.

Winkler, who has traveled to Cuba several times, most recently a few weeks ago, agreed to give his view on the change of direction of relations between the two countries.

NEW NCC RESOURCE: Starter Kit for Teaching and Learning on Mass Incarceration

For over six decades, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has not only provided an opportunity for ecumenical cooperation among Christian communions, but also has effectively promoted peace and justice in Christ’s name. In more recent times, as the NCC has reconfigured itself to better address the needs of the twenty-first-century world, two key priorities of focus have been named, mass incarceration and interfaith relations with peacemaking. To address these priorities, Convening Tables have been established, allowing smaller groups of representatives to utilize their time and expertise for the benefit of the whole.

To this end, the NCC Convening Table on Christian Education, Ecumenical Faith Formation, and Leadership Development offers the following Starter Kit for Teaching and Learning on Mass Incarceration. This resource, developed over the past several months, is a toolbox replete with various offerings intended to inform and engage individuals, small groups, congregations, and classrooms alike.
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