Subject: NCC Weekly News: Cuba, Christian Unity Gathering, and more

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From Jim: Joint Declaration on Normalization Between Cuba and the United States
(Note: Jim Winkler is currently in Cuba for the Assembly of the Cuban Council of Churches. At a press conference at the Episcopal Cathedral on the morning of April 8, the joint declaration below was released.)


“God shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4:3)

We leaders and representatives of the Cuban Council of Churches, the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), the National Council of Churches USA, the United Church of Canada, and the World Council of Churches, gathered in Havana for the Assembly of Study of the Cuban Council of Churches, April 7-8, 2015, utilize this opportunity to speak together a word of thanks, appreciation, and encouragement for the ongoing negotiations of the governments of Cuba and the United States to normalize relations.

Recognizing Presidents Castro and Obama will meet this week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, we urge them to break bread together and to have fruitful conversations in a spirit of mutual respect and equality that will accelerate the process of normalization. We recognize there are details that must be addressed, but we emphasize it is of the highest importance that progress continue and that the Presidents remain in communication and personally involved in the discussions.

We commit ourselves to continuing to bring together members of our churches and councils and citizens of our nations to reconcile after the many years of estrangement caused by the disruption of relations. We have long supported normalization of relations and note that love, affection, and understanding is growing daily between our peoples.

We further commit to continue our advocacy to encourage the United States of America to remove Cuba from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism, to terminate the embargo that has created so much suffering in Cuba, and to normalize relations between the two nations.

There must be no turning back from the process of negotiation and diplomacy. In this season of Pentecost, we feel the Holy Spirit at work and know that God desires peace between Cuba and the United States.

Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, Powerful Voice for Civil Rights, Dies at 96

The Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, a grandson of slaves who took over a Baptist pulpit in Brooklyn in 1948, when overt racism defined much of American life, and became an influential voice for civil rights and one of the nation’s most eloquent churchmen, died on Sunday in Durham, N.C. He was 96.

Mr. Taylor died at the Duke University Medical Center after attending Easter services at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Durham and a luncheon with his wife, Phillis Taylor. She said the cause was apparently a heart attack. Mr. Taylor, who had retired 25 years ago and moved to Raleigh, N.C., in 2004, had lived at the Hillcrest Convalescent Center in Durham since 2011.

WCC celebrates the life and witness of Rev. Dr Philip Potter

A special tribute was paid by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to the Rev. Dr Philip Potter, the third general secretary of the WCC, who served in that office from 1972 to 1984. A global ecumenical leader known for accompanying churches around the world in their struggles for unity, justice and peace, Potter died on 31 March at the age of 93 in Lübeck, Germany.

Born in Roseau, Dominica, in the West Indies on 19 August 1921, Potter began his ecumenical involvement as part of the student Christian movement in the Caribbean. He was a youth representative to the first two assemblies of the WCC at Amsterdam (1948) and Evanston (1954).

He was the first person from the newly independent countries in the world to be elected as general secretary of the WCC. Among the most memorable achievements during Potter’s tenure were the theological consensus document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry and the continuation of a courageous campaign against apartheid in southern Africa and against other forms of racism throughout the world.
What can Christians learn from Judas?

Portraying one of the most notorious villains in the Bible can get a man thinking about his faith.

David Berger did that a lot when he played Judas Iscariot in Lake Harriet United Methodist Church’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The musical’s Judas is not so easy to write off as history’s greatest monster. Instead, he comes across as a man agonized about his decision to betray his friend, even as he rationalizes that it is for his friend’s own good.

“I am more inclined to cut Judas some slack,” said Berger, a member of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

“But I think his own self-righteousness, his sense that ‘I know what’s right,’ really got him into trouble. Of course, it got Jesus into trouble. too.”
WCC congratulates new general secretary of the Anglican Communion

The newly chosen general secretary of the Anglican Communion, Rev. Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the bishop of Kaduna in Nigeria, has served on the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee and has worked with the Council on interfaith dialogue.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit sent a letter to Bishop Idowu-Fearon on 2 April congratulating him after the announcement of his appointment by the Anglican Consultative Council and offered him the WCC’s support in his work.

“This is a role demanding great responsibility and leadership as you impart a vision for the diversity of Anglican provinces. You are called to serve the communion’s needs, lifting up causes for hope and celebration, and discerning strong responses for its challenges,” said Tveit.

Registration open for 2015 Christian Unity Gathering!

The 2015 NCC's signature event, the annual Christian Unity Gathering, will again be held outside of Washington, DC at the Hilton Washington Dulles International Airport. This year's gathering will continue our focus on Mass Incarceration as well as spend significant time examining NCC's second priority area, Interfaith Relations with a Focus on Peace. In addition, there will be a special service of commemoration for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide held at the Washington National Cathedral. This service will include visitors from around the world and from many levels of government as well.

Thursday's keynote address will be given by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. During the Liberian civil war, Gbowee organized Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Gbowee's part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This will be a powerful event you will not want to miss!
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