Subject: NCC Weekly News: Christian Unity Gathering

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From Jim: The Christian Unity Gathering
This year’s Christian Unity Gathering will be held from May 4-7. Our theme is “Fear Not: God’s Love in an Anxious Age,” an appropriate choice in the atmosphere of racial injustice, gun violence, economic inequality, and climate change. 

Our beginning point is 1 John 4:16-21, in which we are reminded that perfect love casts out fear. I pray this Gathering will strengthen us for the coming months of a fraught presidential campaign in which we are being told we live in the midst of disaster. Interestingly, the NCC's recent call for candidates to refrain from utilizing speech that reflects hatred of others and results in division of society has now appeared on more than 345,000 Facebook pages.

Good news awaits those of you who join us at the Gathering. Our opening preacher will be His Beatitude Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada for the Orthodox Church in America. Last year, I was sitting in an airport lounge in Yerevan, Armenia when the lead singer of System of a Down, a heavy metal band, was introduced to the Metropolitan Tikhon. It turns out Tikhon is a big fan and knew their music well. In other words, the Metropolitan may not be quite you would expect in a senior church leader.

Our Bible study leader will be Rev. Neichelle Guidry, now on the pastoral staff of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where she provides leadership to the young adult and worship and arts ministries. Rev. Guidry is also the founder of Shepreaches, a network that assists and encourages African American women moving into pulpit ministry. An interesting article about her ministry was recently published in the New York Times.

I’m excited, too, that friends and colleagues of mine, Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, and Rev. Joel Dopico, President of the Cuban Council of Churches will join us and speak, as well. Last year, the World Council of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the US National Council of Churches co-sponsored an important evangelism consultation. 

Meanwhile, immediately following the Christian Unity Gathering, I will travel to Havana to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Cuban Council of Churches.

Our music leader for the Christian Unity Gathering will be Mark Miller who currently serves on the faculty at both the Drew Theological School and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University where he teaches music and worship. Mark is wonderfully creative and typically creates a choir from among those attending the Gathering. Please come and join Mark’s choir.

We’ll also show a remarkable movie, “The Armor of Light,” directed by Abigail Disney. Two of those featured in the movie, Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action, and Lucia McBath of Everytown for Gun Safety, will join us for conversation. Not only is the movie great, but Rob and Lucia have powerful and emotional stories of faith to share.

This will be a remarkable Christian Unity Gathering. Please be a part of it.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
ISNA Headquarters Target of Hate Crime

Last week, vandals spraypainted vulgarities on the front wall of the Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) headquarters in Plainfield, IN.

Security cameras on the property show the vandalism was done by three young men. Few people were in the building for morning fajr prayers and witnessed the vandals' vehicle leaving. No one was hurt and the vandals did not attempt to enter the building. ISNA reported the incident to local law enforcement and the FBI as a hate crime.

In a statement, the FBI said:

"The Indianapolis office of the FBI is aware of the incident in Plainfield, Indiana and are in regular contact with local authorities. If in the course of the investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate."

"The recent rise in attacks and acts of bigotry towards Muslims is an indication that anti-muslim bigotry has gone beyond a phobia, it has become a reality that is disuniting our society and moving away from the morals and values of the nation," ISNA President Azhar Azeez said in a statement.

ISNA has also joined Muslims nationwide in mourning the execution style murder of three young men in Fort Wayne, Indiana. No effort should be spared to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Also in the past week 3 mass shootings were reported in Michigan, Kansas and Washington. ISNA sends its sincere prayers and condolences to the families of all the victims and hopes justice will prevail in all cases.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.

A Statement by the CME College of Bishops Regarding the Nomination of a Supreme Court Justice

Today, as never before, our United States Government is facing a critical challenge--the challenge of filling the vacancy in the United States Supreme Court, as the result of the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The College of Bishops of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, after careful reflection and due diligence, go on record in support our President--President Barack Obama--in his constitutional responsibilities and efforts to nominate and fill this most important position before he completes his term as President of The United States of America.

We cannot and will not embrace any partisan politics pertaining to this matter. Furthermore, our contention is that this matter affects justice and the lived realities of all of the American people in and outside of the United States of America.

We believe that the American people should not have to wait for the next president of the United States to make nominations to fill the recent vacancy. As in times past, this matter must be dealt with urgency and immediacy on behalf of all of the American people. The historical record does validate this thinking. Other presidents have had similar situations. President Obama is not the first.
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Church of the Brethren mourns loss of associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury

Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and executive director of the denomination’s Office of Ministry, died this morning at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center.

She had been hospitalized and underwent surgery after having suffered bleeding in her brain on Feb. 21. At the time, she and her husband Mark Flory Steury were driving home to Elgin, Ill., following a visit in Shenandoah District and with family in Pennsylvania.

Her colleagues at the Church of the Brethren General Offices gathered for a service of prayer for her this morning, and in that setting received the news of her passing.

“Your continued prayers for Mark, [their children] Joshua, and Jessica, and for the many friends and colleagues who have been touched by Mary Jo’s ministry are appreciated,” said a prayer request from interim general secretary Dale Minnich.

The Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a group of 35 national faith-based organizations, is mobilizing clergy from all faith traditions to take action on the dangerous intersection of domestic violence and guns.

H.R. 3130, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act, and S. 1520, the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, would close dangerous loopholes in the law, and it is crucial that faith leaders speak up and take action. Currently, federal law prohibits some convicted abusers from buying or owning guns - but not all. Individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking or misdemeanor domestic violence against a current or former dating partner can still legally buy and own guns. We know that guns in the hands of abusers can quickly turn domestic violence into murder; yet the law fails to protect a growing population of victims and survivors. Closing these loopholes in the law will save lives.

Currently, we have over 350 signatures and we hope to reach 500 by the deadline on March 15. Please sign on to the letter and stand up for the sacred right of every person to live free from violence.

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.

Program Director, Environment and Energy Policy, ELCA: The primary purpose of this position is to guide and carry out the church’s public witness on issues related to the environment and energy in the U.S. and globally, and to agriculture, food production and rural development in the U.S. As framed by ELCA social policy, this position coordinates and relates the ELCA’s public voice, members, programs and ministries to national policy priorities. This position informs, equips and encourages ELCA members, congregations and synods to engage in advocacy as a faith practice focused on stewardship of creation, creation justice, energy use and engagement with people living in poverty and struggling with hunger.  Click here for more information.
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