Subject: NCC Weekly News: A Time for Optimism?

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From Jim: Optimism and Pessimism
I grew up in an era of optimism both in our nation and in our churches. In the post-WWII era, fascism had been defeated, technology was advancing, incomes were rising, and there was a feeling life was getting better. Churches were full and the future seemed bright. 

Of course, this was not a time free of problems. Racism and sexism plagued our society, and a seemingly never-ending series of stupid wars and military adventures took place, but even so there was a sense our nation was fundamentally good and dedicated to improving life for not only all its citizens but for the whole world and that our professed ideals of equality and democracy would be lived out.

It is more challenging today to hew to such an optimistic view. In retrospect, shouldn’t we have been able to see how this was going to go sideways? 

The growing disaster of climate change is denied by many. Each day, the news reports the coronavirus epidemic is spreading across the globe and may soon reach a tipping point. I thank God for those who are insisting the world change course toward a sustainable future and invest in public health infrastructures that will protect us from disease.

There are other problems we must confront. Loneliness is itself an epidemic. Mental health problems are growing. Just this week, I met with a pastor who holds Bible studies with incarcerated persons. He has discovered the vast majority of those in jails, prisons, and penitentiaries never have visitors and feel deeply isolated, lonely, and hopeless. Unfortunately, their plight is shared by many who walk freely each day through our lives.

Levels of rage and frustration seem to be growing, perhaps evidenced by the growing number of mass shootings, hate groups, and authoritarian governments. Social media trolls and a prevalent sense of outrage make it difficult to carry on civil discourse.

What does the Bible say about all this? It would be simplistic to assert the Bible is optimistic or pessimistic. Many people die in the Bible. God is often angry. Covenants are broken, wars are fought, plagues kill vast numbers. It is not all sweetness and light. On the other hand, God continually renews God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Jesus preaches a gospel of love. There is a promise of eternal life. 

Last year, an evangelical leader told me he had been taught as a young person in church that he was going to hell, that people were sinful, and God was angry. I learned a different form of faith, one which taught that God is love, God is just, God is merciful. I am grateful for my faith. It gives me hope and keeps me going in the midst of much pain and suffering.

I am blessed to serve God through the National Council of Churches. Nearly every day, I meet with people who express gratitude for the presence, the work, and the witness of our churches. This includes government agencies that wish to partner with us to reduce the rising incidence of suicide, Muslim leaders who desire our participation in efforts to counter religious extremism, organizations who desire our support in securing religious liberty, and allies who need our help in ending racism. 

There is so much to do that we cannot afford to be pessimists. 

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen bust at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen in temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Cor.: 4:16-18 NRSV).

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Executive Committee Meets In Nassau, Bahamas

The National Council of Churches Executive Committee met in Nassau, Bahamas, on February 20-21. The meeting was hosted by Bethel Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist church in the Caribbean. Bethel’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Stewart, is president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a member communion of the NCC. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in the Bahamas welcomed the executive committee for dinner and conversation. Other local Christian leaders also joined for prayer and fellowship.
Governing Board Chair Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer remarked, “I appreciate the work Jim Winkler is doing to build critical partnerships with the Council, not just in the US about around the globe. I am grateful to our host, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Stewart of Bethel Baptist Church, for giving us a meeting spot, feeding us, and offering good island hospitality. I am as well grateful to Fr. Iraneus at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church who led us in Compline and whose members feted us one evening while we were there.”

The executive committee considered matters of importance to the Council including the update of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV-UE), the Council’s interreligious dialogues, its racial justice work, and the forthcoming Christian Unity Gathering, set to take place October 11-13.

“The NCC has a wide-ranging ministry and the executive committee discussed all of our work in great depth,” said NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler. “It remains amazing to me just how much we are able to accomplish in this time of limited resources.”

Dorhauer concluded, “The work we did as an Executive Committee was important, but the relationships we built were invaluable.”

Stated Clerk of Presbyterian Church (USA) Calls for Prayer for Coronavirus Crisis

As the novel coronavirus has captured the headlines in recent weeks, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and fear of the unknown have raised anxiety and caused widespread apprehension. Financial markets have wobbled and people of Asian descent in this country and around the world have been unfairly targeted. This virus has exposed the vulnerability and fragility of the global community.

As we all struggle with the horrific impact of the deadly virus that has infected so many people in China and now in a number of other countries, we cannot but call upon our God for help and healing.

Please join me in crying out for relief from this plague.
  • We pray for healing for those who are infected, in China and in all the places where the virus has spread.
  • We pray for all who already have lost loved ones to the illness and those who will yet suffer such loss.
  • We pray for doctors, nurses and aides providing medical care, for insight in their caring, and for their health and well-being.
Moravian Church leaders turn to full communion partner The Episcopal Church for assistance with anti-racism work

Leaders from the Northern Province of the Moravian Church met with Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, in Atlanta, Georgia, as part of a January pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama.

The journey was the result of an inquiry from February 2019, when the Northern Province of the Moravian Church was discerning how to make progress in anti-racism training for their clergy. They turned to their full communion partner The Episcopal Church for assistance. The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President of the Provincial Elders Conference, reached out to the Rev. Canon Maria Tjeltveit, co-chair of the Moravian-Episcopal Coordinating Committee, to ask who might help.

Of the pilgrimage, the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller writes:

Leaders from the Moravian Church Northern Province journeyed to Montgomery, Alabama on a pilgrimage toward racial justice and healing that called us toward a lifetime of dismantling the sin that is racism. This trip, designed as a field-test of a much larger pilgrimage, included members of the Racial Justice Team, the Provincial Elders’ Conference, and the bishops of the Northern Province. We were guided on our pilgrimage through the wisdom and grace of Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing and the trainer for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Her insights and invitation for deep inner personal work were humbling and inspiring. We also learned from the Rev. Dr. Frank Crouch, Dean of Moravian Theological Seminary, about the Moravian story of slavery and race. Our week included the important, but difficult tour of the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial, and other sites in Montgomery.

Oppose the Proposed Updates to the National Environmental Policy Act

In mid-January, the Trump Administration released a proposed plan to roll back the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposal would cause great harm to God’s creation and public health. NEPA is a bedrock environmental law which requires federal agencies evaluate the environmental impact of each new project. The evaluation must meet standards that are in place to protect public safety and the environment. 

The plan changes the analysis process to make it easier for federal agencies to move forward with projects such as pipelines and highways without thorough analysis of the environmental impact. The proposal severely shortens the environmental impact evaluation period, limits the length of impact study documents, and limits the discussion on cumulative, indirect, and direct effects of the proposed project. As Christians we have a moral responsibility to care for the health and well-being of the people and the planet. This plan does the opposite. We urge you to submit a public comment to voice your views on opposing these NEPA changes.

Prayer campaign to end 70-year Korean War gains global momentum
A journey of reconciliation leads to an apology

Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy apologizes for ‘the sin of slavery and its legacy’

A formal apology by the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy to African Americans for what the presbytery calls “the sin of slavery and its legacy” occurred this month following a “Journey of Reconciliation” last fall to two institutions in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to telling the stories of enslaved black people and those terrorized by lynching and humiliated by Jim Crow.

The apology, according to an email from Craig Howard, Giddings-Lovejoy’s leader, and Vanessa Hawkins, the presbytery’s designated associate leader, was “widely accepted by our members” during a presbytery gathering Feb. 6.

Last October, 38 presbyters from 12 congregations took a bus to Montgomery to learn at the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, founded by public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. Twenty-three of the travelers are African American, one is a Latina American and 14 are white Americans. The youngest traveler was 15; the oldest was 91.

American Baptist Church National Executive Council Encourages Spiritual Practices Ahead of Lent

The National Executive Council encourages all American Baptists to embrace the upcoming Lenten Season in order to draw close to our Lord, and to pray for our neighbors near and far. Members of the council have committed themselves to a day of prayer and fasting each week during the Lenten Season.

The six-week long season of Lent comes from a word meaning the lengthening of days and has long been highlighted as a season of repentance, reflection, and rekindling our relationship with Jesus. God strengthens as the days lengthen.

Several years ago, ABC pastor Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Savage provided a seminar on spiritual practices for American Baptist national staff in which he emphasized the importance of both practices of omission and practices of commission. Fasting from food and engaging God in prayer encompasses this concept, but is merely one example. Others are encouraged to adopt their own spiritual practices during the Lenten season that begins on Wednesday, February 26 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020

Around the world, the most marginalized communities disproportionately affected by hunger, poverty, and the structural history of colonialism and racism are experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis most profoundly. Women and children in these communities suffer the most.

EAD 2020 will explore the intersection of climate change and economic injustice. This will galvanize our advocacy on behalf of policies and programs to chip away at the systems of oppression that keep people in poverty and push all life on earth to the brink of destruction.

Register today for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020, April 24-27, on re-imagining community for God's earth and people. Come to learn about the intersection of climate change and economic injustice, and to advocate for climate justice.

Faith Leaders Rally Behind the 2020 Census

Are you hearing about the 2020 census in your church? If not, you should be! The “Faith Communities Census Weekend of Action” will take place March 27-29, 2020, around the period when people will be receiving 2020 Census notices in the mail.

Recently, faith leaders from across the country convened at the National Cathedral to discuss what communities are doing to bolster participation in the 2020 Census, a once-in-ten-years event that unfolds nationally. This event was part of the Census Bureau’s outreach to the public to raise awareness of the important role of the faith community in gaining everyone’s participation.

The census is mandated by the US Constitution and is the primary method for equitably allocating resources across the country. The Census Bureau has acknowledged that faith communities are crucial to gaining full participation in 2020. This year, the census goes full-speed on April 1st.

WCC expresses deep sadness, concern over mob violence in India

The World Council of Churches (WCC), along with its member churches in India and the fellowship of Christians all over the world, expressed deep sadness and concern over the ongoing communal mob violence in the northeast district of Delhi, which since 23 February, has led to more than 20 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and destruction of properties, with places of worship being desecrated and destroyed.

“In a context where religion is being wrongly invoked as a basis for violence, we pray that hate-mongering and hostility will be replaced by peace, justice, reconciliation and healing,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “Our thoughts and prayers are with communities and families who have lost their loved ones or have been hurt, in this violence.”

Tveit continued: “It is our prayer that at this point in history India, which has a long history of peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, will uphold its secular and democratic foundations and the much cherished values of harmony and 'ahimsa' (nonviolence), which have sustained its social fabric,” he said. “In the midst of the escalation of violence, we pray that the authorities, lawmakers and police can govern justly, maintain the rule of law, and protect the vulnerable people and their livelihood.”

Christian Faith and Earth Day Sunday

The Bible is full of beautiful language and theology for celebrating God's creation. Yet sometimes, in the rhythm of the liturgical year, it can be challenging to find a specific time in the Spring to focus as a church community on the theme of God’s creation. Earth Day Sunday provides just such an opportunity. Since 1970, communities have taken one day each year to be especially mindful of the Earth and its many gifts: April 22, Earth Day. Soon after, churches started celebrating God’s creation on the Sunday closest to Earth Day. This day has ecumenical and bipartisan roots.

Get Involved

Do you want to plan an Earth Day celebration in your congregation? Consider using the 2020 theme materials for this year, which focus on “The Fierce Urgency of Now.” The theme comes from a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

To connect with others who are planning Earth Day Sunday activities, join the Earth Day Sunday 2020 Facebook event. Use the social space to share what you are doing and interact. You can also find a treasure trove of Earth Day Sunday resources from previous years covering various themes on Creation Justice Ministries’ education resource page.

Faith communities are committing to spread the word
about the 2020 Census to ensure all people are counted

Lifting Up Faith Voices
We believe that all people, regardless of race, religion, or immigration status, are made in God’s image. Our divinely granted dignity demands equal recognition. When we respond to the census, we claim our God-given dignity and declare that we are here.

We are one year out from the census. Throughout the month of October, faith leaders will begin preparing their communities for the upcoming 2020 Census. The census only happens once a decade and determines critical funding and representation for our communities to flourish. Let us celebrate our dignity through spreading the word about the census to ensure all of our communities gets counted.

The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington will be a generationally transformative gathering on June 20, 2020 at the US Capitol in Washington DC. 

The Poor People's Campaign is marching to Washington DC from across the nation to demonstrate the collective power of poor and low-wealth people. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.

10:00 AM on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at the northeast corner of the National Mall in Washington DC on Pennsylvania Ave NW extending west from 3rd St NW.

Beware of the ADOS Movement: A Threat to Social Justice and Black Collective Activism

The year 2020 is pivotal for the Black community. This is a year of change but it’s also a year of deception. Back in 2016, African American communities were targeted by disinformation campaigns that sought to weaken the Black vote and infiltrate unified social justice movements. Unfortunately, it appears that this is happening again.

A fringe movement called “American Descendants of Slavery” has emerged to systematically fracture Black communities and directly attack unified social justice efforts among the U.S. Black population. The term “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) was created in 2016 to describe and distinctly separate African Americans from Black immigrant communities (Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Latinos).

ADOS leaders say they’ll use the moniker “ADOS” as part of their legal justice claim for reparations. Instead, it will likely be used to influence policies that would further marginalize and oppress Black communities.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

Bread for the World is seeking a Senior Domestic Policy Analyst.  Click here to learn more.

The Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), a Washington DC based non-profit Pan-African organization has an immediate opening for a talented Communications and Development Coordinator.  To learn more, please send a thoughtful cover letter and resume to with subject line: Communications and Development Coordinator.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) seeks a National Organizer & Faith Network Manager. This position will execute strategies and develop tactics to mobilize AU members, supporters, faith leaders, communities of faith, and faith-based organizations to move them up the ladder of engagement to become leaders and help meet our organizational goals.  Click here to learn more.

Faith in Public Life (FPL) seeks a talented, self-motivated, detail-oriented person to support our Vice President of Development in realizing FPL’s fundraising goals. Click here to learn more.

Faith in Public Life seeks a talented, self-motivated organizer to provide ongoing engagement in legislative and voter education and mobilization programs to support the repairing of democracy in Florida and the nation.  Click here to learn more.

Faith in Public Life seeks an Organizing Associate to play a key role in advancing our advocacy and organizing work on immigration, voting rights, LGBTQ non-discrimination, racial justice, and our various other issues areas. Click here to learn more.

Do you have a job posting you'd like listed in this section?  Please email Rev. Steven D. Martin with details.
Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, 
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