Subject: NCC Weekly News: Christianity in South Korea

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From Jim:
I have just returned from my first visit to South Korea and am still recovering from jet lag. I went there at the invitation of the National Council of Churches of Korea and their general secretary, Rev. Kim Young Ju. Last year, the NCCK sent a peace treaty delegation to the United States. We were honored to host them while they were in Washington and arranged meetings with US church leaders and with the Obama administration.

Subsequently, there have been significant developments in both of our nations. The president of South Korea, Park Gyun-hae, has been impeached on corruption charges and faces trial. Gigantic, repeated, and sustained demonstrations against her rule and the systemic corruption in South Korea have taken place for months. 

The NCCK has been deeply involved in the effort to seek President Park’s removal from office. Last month, the Council called for her resignation and confessed, “Blinded by greed, the president and the ruling forces are shaking the identity of Korea, a country built with the sacrifices of the democratic martyrs; the former have also severely violated the democratic republic's constitution. We repent of the history of the Korean church which has distorted the gospel by parasitically living off the powers of the unjust.”

I not only arrived in a nation in the midst of a domestic spiritual and political crisis but one caught between great power struggles: the United States, China, Russia, and Japan have all intervened in South Korea’s affairs for generations. Further, tensions with North Korea remain a key dynamic of the reality the NCCK must address.

At the same time, huge crowds were demonstrating against the president of the Republic of Korea, similar demonstrations were being held against the new American president. As President Trump issues orders on immigration, refugees, Muslims, interrogation, detention, and health care, the faith community in this nation is mobilizing to respond. 

So, I find that the role of the church is similar in South Korea and the United States. In the past, there were regular consultations between our two councils and during my time in South Korea we lamented the fact we have not remained in close contact. I hope a delegation of NCC leaders can visit both North and South Korea by the end of next year. 

I was fortunate to meet with the outgoing US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, on his final day in office. As boxes were being packed around us, Ambassador Lippert reflected on his tenure as ambassador. His biggest regret was the inability to reach an agreement with North Korea. He felt the Obama administration had made repeated attempts to do so. 

While I sympathized with the ambassador’s genuine desire to find peace, I am also aware our nation has done its share to create challenges and obstacles to peace including holding regular military exercises aimed at North Korea and installing THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), an anti-ballistic missile system which has created problems between the US, South Korea, and China. 

While there, I was blessed to preach in a local congregation formed out of the Minjung people’s theology.  This movement emerged in the 1970s from the experience of South Korean Christians in the struggle for social justice and against the military dictatorship. Although I understood nary a word, the flow and rhythm of the worship service was deeply familiar to me. 

I love Korean food and its spiciness and enjoyed meals with church leaders. Seoul is a technologically advanced city, arguably more so than many US cities. South Korea has become an affluent nation in just a few decades, as hunger and poverty were prevalent in the 1950s and 60s. One church leader told me that as a boy his family would scavenge meals from US military leftovers. In fact, one of his favorite meals was "budae jigae (army base stew)."

Korean Christianity flourished because of the devotion of American missionaries. The fate of our nations and our churches is intertwined. I am grateful our two national councils of churches have been fearless in witnessing on behalf of Christ for justice and peace. Our commitment will be needed - and tested - in the future.

Yours in Christ,
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Presiding Bishop, other Episcopal leaders call on Trump to maintain refugee resettlement efforts

Church ‘shows the face of God through the care and compassion in that work’

The presiding bishop and the director of Episcopal Migration Ministries both spoke out Jan. 25 in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s actions on immigration.

In addition, the Episcopal Public Policy Network issued a policy alert offering Episcopalians ways to become advocates on immigration and refugees.

Those efforts came on a day when Trump signed executive orders to begin construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting “sanctuary cities.” The Washington Post reported that Trump, in an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, also signed the first of a series of directives to put new restrictions on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of Three Hierarchs and Greek Letters Day - January 30, 2017

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our commemoration of the Feast of the Three Hierarchs represents a strong and holy tradition in the Orthodox Church of affirming that these three saints, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, are exalted examples of persons who were filled with the knowledge of God and great spiritual wisdom. In the major hymn for the feast we sing of them as “the honey-flowing rivers of wisdom, who flooded all creation with streams of divine knowledge,” acknowledging the witness that they offered through tremendous service as compassionate pastors, skilled teachers, and masterful theologians.

Today, their examples and teaching guide us in living in a changing and challenging world. They show us how faith and service, grounded in our knowledge of God and our trust in His divine wisdom, can help us navigate our lives and the complexity of the world around us while keeping our focus on our relationship with God and His promises of abundant blessings and salvation.

Religious organizations condemn Trump’s expected orders on refugees

Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders gathered at the national headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to condemn expected orders by President Trump that would stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States and impose travel restrictions on visitors from several other Muslim countries.

CAIR co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad said that such action, which Trump has yet to formally announce but which he repeatedly endorsed during his presidential campaign as a national security measure, “does not make our country safer.”

Rather, Awad said, “it will hand a propaganda tool to our enemies who promote a false notion of an American war on Islam.”

Trump signed two executive orders Wednesday, which included provisions to begin construction of a wall along the southern border, increase detention facilities to hold more illegal border crossers, give border agents more power to enforce immigration laws and cut federal funding to cities that offer sanctuary to certain undocumented immigrants.

Rev. Steven Martin of the National Council of Churches offered solidarity with the Muslim community as well as other immigrants who will likely be affected by Trump’s policies.

“I cannot believe that state sponsored persecution against a class of Americans is taking place,” he said. “Even though I’ve been watching it grow, I cannot believe it.”

Standing Rock Sioux to fight Trump’s pipeline order

The Rev. David Wilson, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference superintendent, had just arrived home from visiting the Oceti Sakawin Camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, this week when he heard that President Donald Trump had signed a series of executive orders that included the advancement of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“There is great disappointment over President Trump’s executive order, which was made with no consultation with the tribe,” said Wilson, who had traveled with conference members to the campsite over the weekend to deliver 60 thermal coats donated by the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas. The group also purchased food for one of the kitchens at the camp.

“Unfortunately, many of us are not surprised by the action. We know our work is far from over,” he said.

We're Hiring! Operations Manager and Executive Assistant

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Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NAE Calls on President Trump to Continue Resettling Refugees

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) commends President Donald Trump for signing an executive order earlier this week directing that federal funds not be made available to organizations that provide or promote abortions outside the United States. This order ensures that U.S.-supported international health programs assist efforts to save lives rather than end them.

In the same spirit, the NAE urges President Trump to continue the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which in partnership with churches and volunteers has saved lives and restored the futures of more than 3 million refugees since 1980. Many of these refugees have rebuilt their lives with courage and distinction.

“Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We don’t want to stop now,” NAE President Leith Anderson said.

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