Subject: NCC Weekly News: Brussels, Seeking Peace Amidst Dissention

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From Jim: Terrorism and Violence That Begets More Violence
I awoke earlier this week to the horrible news that at least 26 people died in terrorist attacks at the airport and subway in Brussels, Belgium. Once again, scenes of broken glass, bleeding people, screaming sirens, impromptu memorials, grainy video of potential suspects, and calls for retaliation competed for our attention. Prayers of lamentation were offered and countless tears have been shed.

I vividly recall the events of September 11, 2001. I was in the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill and called staff together to offer prayer and comfort. Quickly, we evacuated the building. I remained behind for the remainder of the day with a few colleagues to offer hospitality to the police who patrolled the locked-down federal buildings.

In the frightening days that followed, the question arose as to what the church of Jesus Christ should say. I contended then, as I do now, that no terrorist attack occurs in a vacuum. There are root causes to be considered and lessons to be learned. Even so, the willingness of individuals and groups to kill themselves along with vast numbers of innocent people must be condemned without reservation. No excuse, in my view, justifies such evil acts.

Terrorism has been around for a long, long time. There are acts of terrorism and genocide in the Bible that are frightening to read and contemplate. Many contemporary acts of terrorism do not make it to the front pages of my daily newspaper in Washington, DC because they occur in Turkey, Nigeria, Honduras, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or other countries our narrowly focused media finds largely unimportant.

Last January, I participated in a conference on the rights of religious minorities in majority Muslim countries and became even more aware of the crisis that groups like the Islamic State represent not just to the West, but within Islam. This is one among many reasons I do not believe Islam is at war with Christianity or with Western countries. And yet, millions of people in the Muslim world deeply resent actions such as the US invasion of Iraq, acts of torture that have been carried out by our secret police, and ongoing drone attacks that have claimed the lives of innocent people. We need a new foreign policy. It is the responsibility of the American people to see to that. 

There's no question that extremist groups that mount terrorist attacks should be broken up and brought to justice. This is the responsibility of police forces. Whether the culprit is Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Klan, or the Mafia, it is the work of justice systems to bring them to heel. But we also must break the cycle of violence, preventing violence that begets more violence. This is the responsibility of everyone, particularly people of faith. 

When I was a boy, Mighty Mouse was my favorite cartoon character. In each and every episode, Mighty Mouse would suffer an initial defeat at the hands of the bad mice, then would rally his strength and heroically beat up his enemies and rescue whoever needed to be rescued. No lessons were ever learned. The next episode repeated the same scheme. And, I loved it.

Mighty Mouse's victories were accompanied by a musical score that made the fighting seem glamorous and dramatic. But, you know what? In real life, reconciliation and forgiveness are actually very dramatic, too. The heart races, tears flow, emotions are raw. But, reconciliation and forgiveness usually follow the strong emotion. Perhaps Hollywood should use the same pounding beat and loud music for reconciliation and forgiveness as it does for violence. There are too many weapons, too much hatred, and too much devotion to violence. 

Meanwhile, you may have read the story from Germany last week of the auto wreck of a Neo-Nazi politician named Stefan Jagsch. His car crashed into a tree, leaving him unconscious. Two Syrian refugees rescued him. They did so because he was a fellow human being in need. Even though Jagsch has not acknowledged their act of kindness (he says that since he was unconscious, he cannot confirm they actually saved him), what they did has captured the attention of countless people. 

As we Christians prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, it is good to remember that he came not just for us, but for everyone. 

Happy Easter.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
UCC leader calls for prayer after bombs in Belgium during Holy Week

A terrorism attack in Belgium during Holy Week, with bombs at the international airport and an explosion at a downtown metro station, is raising terror alerts across Europe, in the United States and around the world.

Immediately following the attack, United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer remembered the victims in a call for prayer, urging – especially during this week of hope and resurrection – that we all be instruments of God's peace.

The blasts, killing over two dozen people and injuring more than 150 people, rocked the city of Brussels during the morning commute, shutting down all public transportation in a city now under lockdown.

CEC grieves loss of life, condemns violent attacks in Brussels

This morning in Brussels rush hour commutes and early morning flights were violently disrupted by multiple attacks. Current reports describe at least 26 deaths as a result of two explosions at Brussels Airport, and further explosions at a metro station in the core of the European Union district.

The Conference of European Churches grieves this loss of life and disruption of peace. We condemn the violent attacks and urge for peaceful responses in the hours and days that follow. We pray for those who have lost their lives, their families and communities, and for the people who risk their own safety for the sake of helping others.

“In this season of Lent and Holy Week, we lament such outbursts of violence,” said CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen. “As we heal together as inhabitants of Brussels and Europe—and brothers and sisters in humanity—we need to find our way anew, and must all contribute to building societies where everyone feels secure and partakes of the common good.”

The Conference of European Churches asks that our Member Churches and all people of goodwill think of Brussels, Belgium, and Europe, and pray for peace.

Episcopal bishops issue A Word to the Church

On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.


With great joy, the Diocese and her children received their newly elevated father and shepherd in Christ, His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion, on Tuesday, March 8 at St. Mark Church in Los Angeles.

The reception was attended by almost all of the clergy and many parishioners from the four corners of the Diocese who came to congratulate their father and receive his blessing. After the Prayer of Thanksgiving, there was an Arabic word of congratulations offered by the Hegumen Father Felimon Mikhail outlining the numerous accomplishments of His Eminence in and outside the Diocese and an English word concerning the rank of the metropolitan offered by the Very Reverend Father Dr. John Paul Abdelsayed. In between these words, the blessed deacons of the Diocese chanted hymns honoring His Holiness Pope Abba Tawadros II and His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion.

Proposed House Budget Would Drive Millions into Hunger and Poverty

The $6.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years in the proposed 2017 budget by the House of Representatives will push millions more American working families and children into hunger and poverty. The spending cuts target programs that assist poor and working-class families, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and Medicaid.

“Budget cuts of this magnitude will have devastating consequences for working families and their children, potentially pushing millions further into hunger and poverty,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “Right now, more than 48 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. If these spending cuts are put into place, this number will rise dramatically.”

The 2017 budget proposed by the House of Representatives calls for $3.5 billion in cuts over the next 10 years to programs that provide assistance to poor and working-class families. It also requires lawmakers to find more than $30 billion in savings over the next two years. In addition to proposing deep cuts to SNAP and Medicaid, the House is considering limiting families’ eligibility for the child tax credit.

The proposed budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, and cut Medicaid by more than $1 trillion over ten years. This would push tens of millions of people onto the rolls of uninsured Americans. Currently, one out of three people with chronic medical conditions must choose between treating these conditions or feeding themselves and their families.

The spending cuts would also impact overseas poverty-focused development-assistance programs.

“It has been a long time since our country has made ending hunger and poverty a national priority,” added Beckmann. “If we want this to happen, then we must vote people into office who will do something about it. We need to have members of Congress who will solve hunger and poverty, not worsen it for America's working families and children.”

David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World
Your Voice Mattered: ISIS Attacks Declared Genocide

This week, Secretary of State John Kerry took the important step of calling the attacks by ISIS against the Yazidis, Christians and other minorities a genocide.

This didn’t just happen. Thousands of our supporters sent Secretary Kerry messages. Members of Congress acted. Other human rights groups joined in support. And we won – thank you!

Declaring these attacks for what they are – genocide – is an important step. The truth matters.

But what happens next is more important. Calling these attacks genocide means we should be doing more to protect these innocent men, women and children who are being targeted because of the god they pray to. We must act to hold those responsible fully accountable. And at the very least, we must be taking action now to accept more of these refugees who are literally running for their lives.

It is a bitter irony that while the House of Representatives just voted to declare ISIS’s attacks a genocide, they are also bringing to the House floor a measure to shut our borders to these same refugees who are fleeing a genocide.

Seeking Peace Amidst Dissension: How the Church Can be Both Diverse and One

I recently called a moratorium on political discussions in my house. I had noticed that during debates—whether with family, dinner guests, or my political nemesis on TV—the words uttered imparted fear, anger, and negativity. It seems I’m not alone when I confess that, during this political season in particular, I’ve tended to “wallow in the pornography of pessimism”1 rather than lean into the One who offers hope beyond our dissent.

As the divisiveness of our country reaches a fever pitch, people yearn for more. Not more information or more debates. And certainly not more pessimism. But more compassion, more respect. More openness to metanoia. More hope. Can we, as a church, model these values? Can we show those who are desperate and despairing a more life-giving way?

Session to Explore Theology Behind Fight Against Racism at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Christians gathering at the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in support of those who are oppressed and marginalized because of racism and classism. We only have to be familiar with the headlines of the past two years to know that these two ills are realities in our society, and on the hearts and minds of candidates and voters alike as we head toward the November election. But what is the theological basis for our message when it comes to fairness and justice? This workshop will analyze the Christian foundations of faith when it comes to affirming the political and economic rights of all, so that when we speak truth to power, we can know why our voice can be more than a whisper in the cacophony of voices seeking to influence policy.

This session will take place on Friday April 15 beginning at 1pm in the Wilson-Harrison Room. The panel will include:
  • Dr. Doug Foster – Professor of Church History, Abilene Christian University
  • Rev. Joyce Shin – Associate Pastor for Congregational Life, 4th Presbyterian Church Chicago, IL
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth James – Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church Rochester, NY
  • Moderator – Dr. Greg Carey – Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

Job Opportunities:

Office Manager, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty: This person will provide clerical and general operational support to the Executive Director and the executive staff and administrative support for the BJC office. Click here for more information.

Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst, Episcopal Church: This person will represent Episcopal Church policies to government leaders, devise and execute legislative and communication strategy, propose and monitor federal legislation, write public-policy statements and letters, determine and write public-policy alerts for the Episcopal Public Policy Network, train Episcopalians in public-policy advocacy, and build coalitions to support policy priorities. Click here for more information.

Director of Marketing and Communications, Wesley Theological Seminary:  The Director of Marketing and Communications is responsible for advancing, through strategy and content production, the mission and goals of Wesley Theological Seminary. Click here for more information.
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