Subject: NCC Weekly News: Animal Life in Decline?

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From Jim
In the midst of the ups and downs of presidential election polls, continued racist and sexist acts in our nation, and awful reports of violence in the Middle East, the news that did not receive the attention last week it deserved was a report by the World Wildlife Fund that within the next three years our planet will have lost 67% of all vertebrate wildlife since 1970.

The Living Planet Index indicates organisms living in freshwaters such as rivers, streams, and lakes, have declined by 81% and 36% of marine life. In other words, we are killing the animals and the fish in alarming numbers, and it is highly unlikely life, as we know it, can continue without them.

Somehow, Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, finds hope. He writes, “Yet, I am optimistic for our future. In the 20th century we solved some of the biggest challenges in our history. Many diseases have been eradicated. Child and maternal health is improving. Poverty is decreasing. And the ozone hole is beginning to stabilize.”

I travelled all the way across the United States and back this summer. I saw amazing scenery, especially out West and fantastic landscapes. I saw grizzly bears, eagles, buffalo, and more cows than can be counted. I am grateful to God for the opportunity to savor the breathtaking beauty of this nation.

I drove past enormous factory farms that have replaced the family farms I grew up around in rural Missouri, and through small towns that are barely hanging on. Although rural America is emptying out, there are 100 million more people in this country than when I was a young person. The global population has more than doubled in my lifetime, and may have tripled by the time I pass away. 

Billions more people means less room for animals, birds, and fish. Common causes for this decline in animal populations are unsustainable practices by us: agriculture, logging, transportation, residential or commercial development, energy production and mining. Where is it going?

Meanwhile, where animals do have room to live and move, we are hunting and poaching or harvesting them for subsistence or for trade. A huge amount of marine life perishes as bycatch in fisheries. Pollution is also a huge problem: oil spills, for example. Invasive species can turn out to be predators or spread diseases.

As temperatures change, some species will need to adapt by shifting their range to track suitable climate. The effects of climate change on species are often indirect. Changes in temperature can confound the signals that trigger seasonal events, such as migration and reproduction, causing these events to happen at the wrong time (for example, misaligning reproduction and the period of greater food availability in a specific habitat). 

Massive changes are needed right away. I know it’s possible. For me, for example, I know I have to stop eating red meat. Tonight’s meal at my house is soup and salad. I’ve been complicit in the depopulation of wildlife by enjoying an unsustainable lifestyle. May God and those who come after me forgive me for my sins of indulgence and carelessness. 

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

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On October 21, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) welcomed Rick Steves, America’s most respected authority on European travel and host of the popular public television series “Rick Steves’ Europe,” for the Chicago premiere of his new documentary, “Rick Steves’ Luther and the Reformation.” The 60-minute film will air on public television stations in 2017.

Steves, an active member of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation, created the documentary in anticipation of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The film shows the significance and world-changing effects of Martin Luther’s questioning of church doctrine and practices. Steves and his crew filmed on location at Luther sites in Germany, Austria, and Rome. It makes heavy use of artwork from the period to illustrate how both Luther and the Roman Catholic Church used the media of their time to promote their ideas.

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Almost since the founding of the World Council of Churches (WCC), there has been a permanent delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the WCC offices in Geneva. Since November 2015 the task of representing the highest authority within the Eastern Orthodox Church in Geneva is in the hands of Archbishop Job of Telmessos, who is convinced: churches need not only to speak, but also to listen to each other.

Archbishop Job answered questions about the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, church unity, and the ecumenical movement.

It has been almost a year since you were appointed as a permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC. Please describe your path to this quite responsible task in Geneva!

Archbishop Job: I was born in Canada and did my undergraduate degree there, then I came to Paris for my graduate studies in St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute and the Catholic University of Paris, where I graduated with my doctorate degree in 2003. Since that time I have taught at St Serge and also the Catholic University of Paris, where I am still teaching. In 2010, I was appointed as a professor at the Institute of Postgraduate Studies of Orthodox Theology in Chambesy, where I still teach liturgical and dogmatic theology.

Between the WCC assemblies in Porto Alegre and Busan, I was a member of the WCC Central Committee. In 2013, I was elected as an archbishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, responsible for Russian parishes in western Europe for two years. Since last November, I have been a permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC. Besides that more recently I became a co-president of the International Commission of Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and I am also co-president of the St Irenaeus group of Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians who meet every year in order to help the dialogue between the two churches.

ELCA presiding bishop calls for Veterans Day prayers

In honor of Veterans Day (Friday, Nov. 11), the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is calling on the church to pray for members of the armed services, veterans, chaplains and their families.

“Let us pray for an ordered civic life and respect for the dignity and worth of every person,” Eaton wrote. “In worship on these days, please remember the impact of family separation and mobility for veterans and those currently serving, many of whom are members of our congregations and communities.”

In her letter, Eaton refers to a memorial adopted by the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which asks “the Office of the Presiding Bishop to establish a Sunday of prayer and action closest to Veterans Day each year to unite this church in prayer and encourage practical assistance for military members, veterans, ELCA chaplains and families.”

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2017: Confronting Chaos, Forging Community

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice (EAD) is pleased to announce the theme for its 2017 national gathering, April 21-24, 2017. The theme is titled, "Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism and Militarism." The theme builds open Dr. Martin Luther King's final book and the fiftieth anniversary of his historic, final speech at Riverside Church in New York City.

The gathering marks the 14th annual event where nearly 1,000 Christians come to Washington, DC to learn, network and advocate before Congress on federal policy issues that the ecumenical community is concerned. This year, perhaps more than ever, EAD calls on participants to come and make a loud, faithful witness to a new Congress and a new Administration.

The gathering will again be held at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA -- just across The Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol Building. The event concludes with EAD's Lobby Day where a prepared legislative "Ask" is taken to members of Congress by the gathered participants. "We expect Christian advocates from across the country to attend the gathering," said Douglas Grace, director of EAD. "Registration is now open at, along with the young adult scholarship application process, so plan now to be in Washington next April!"

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