Subject: NCC Weekly News: Fighting for a Moral Budget

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From Jim: Circle of Protection, Protecting the Poor
Last week, the Circle of Protection—which includes the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sojourners, Bread for the World, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and other groups—gathered in front of the US Capitol for prayer and a press conference to oppose proposed cuts in social programs that provide assistance to people in need. We also met with members of the US Congress and their staffs to drive the point home.

NCC leaders who were present included board chair Sharon Watkins, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Elizabeth Miller, Kathryn Lohre, and Angelique Walker-Smith. We were joined by Rebecca Linder Blachly, former general secretary Joan Brown Campbell, Al Pennybacker, Tyrone Pitts, and Jeff Haggray, head of the American Baptists Home Mission Societies.

As I reflect on the width and breadth of the churches represented on March 29, it occurs to me that such a gathering would not have been possible when I was a young boy. The ecumenical movement has contributed significantly to cooperation across the spectrum of American Christianity.

Although Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee cited 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (“Anyone unwilling to work should not eat”) as a basis for his support of reductions in government assistance for the hungry, we believe the tax dollars contributed by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and all others should be used for the common good and uplift of everyone. Besides, the passage quoted by Rep. Fincher is taken out of context: it actually refers to those early Christians who had stopped working in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming.

Millions of Americans have jobs that don’t pay them enough to feed their families: they rely on government assistance to get to the next paycheck. Many thousands of local congregations affiliated with the National Council of Churches have food pantries, soup kitchens, and other feeding programs for those in need. Nevertheless, our help for hungry people cannot fill the gap if billions of dollars of government funds are slashed.

Sharon Watkins put it this way:
“A federal budget that takes away from our neighbors, food, shelter, medicine, schools, air to breath and water to drink – a budget that guts SNAP, Medicaid, health care, the environment, education, diplomacy, and foreign aid - a federal budget that channels those same resources to an unnecessary military spending increase and gives tax cuts for those who already have more than enough – is an immoral budget. It’s not America at our best. We can do better.”

Of course, most people who need assistance need it for only a brief period in their lives. It may be for a time when they are unemployed or their jobs don’t pay enough to meet their families’ expenses or they are dealing with a major illness and unanticipated costs. Because we are all in this world together, a little help can go a long way and inadequate help can set someone back for a long time.

I am grateful to those church leaders who came to Washington last week to speak truth to power. I encourage readers to be in touch with their members of Congress to ask them to have a healing heart for those who heed a little help. And, I would remind all of you: it is likely we will need your voice and witness in the weeks and months and years to come.

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

Episcopal Migration Ministries to reduce network size

As a result of changing U.S. policy that lowers the number of refugees to be resettled in this country annually by more than half, Episcopal Migration Ministries will be reducing the size of its affiliate network by six sites in the next fiscal year. Currently, the Episcopal Migration Ministries network consists of 31 affiliate locations.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of the Episcopal Church, and is one of nine national agencies responsible for resettling refugees in the United States in partnership with the government.

“We are disappointed that we need to take these steps, but the current situation leaves us no choice,” commented the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. “We have reduced our national core staff by 22% due to funding cuts and we are now looking at a similar cut in our network of affiliate partners through which refugees are resettled. While difficult, the decision making process regarding these reductions has been carried out carefully and strategically, with the welfare of refugees at the forefront of our minds.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Easter message 2017

It’s taken me some years to realize it, but Jesus didn’t just happen to be in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. He wasn’t on vacation. He wasn’t just hanging out in town. Jesus was in Jerusalem on purpose. He arrived in Jerusalem about the time of the Passover when pilgrims were in the city. When people’s hopes and expectations for the dawn of freedom that Moses had promised in the first Passover might suddenly be realized for them in their time.

Jesus arranged his entrance into Jerusalem to send a message. He entered the city, having come in on one side of the city, the scholars tell us, at just about the same time that Pontius Pilate made his entrance on the exact opposite side of the city. Pilate, coming forth on a warhorse. Pilate, with soldiers around him. Pilate, with the insignias of Rome’s Empire. Pilate, representing the Caesars who claimed to be son of god. Pilate, who had conquered through Rome the people of Jerusalem. Pilate, representing the Empire that had taken away their freedom. Pilate, who represented the Empire that would maintain the colonial status of the Jewish people by brute force and violence.
Holy work for the Holy Land

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was launched by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 2002 based on an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country. So far, more than 1,800 ecumenical accompaniers have worked to create conditions for a just peace.

Stakeholders, ecumenical partners and staff of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel are gathered at the annual meeting 27-31 March this week in Geneva to nurture and strengthen a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. As the EAPPI observes its 15th anniversary, it is also beginning to implement findings of a recent evaluation.

“For the sake of the Gospel and the welfare of the Palestinian and Israeli people,” Bishop Munib Younan told the group, “the EAPPI and the whole WCC needs to be a prophetic voice in the region, to lead in the present, remembering the past and envisioning a constructive future for just peace for both Palestine and Israel”.

Younan is an Arab Christian, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president, since 2010, of the Lutheran World Federation.

Joint North-South Korea Easter prayer published

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) have worked together to prepare the “2017 Easter Joint North-South Prayer.”

The prayer expresses the joy of the resurrection and the sorrow of 70 years of separation between South and North Korea.

“We have lost the hopes of ‘becoming one with God’, and have sought after earthly goods instead of peace,” reads the prayer. “Clear away the pain-filled memories of separation, and also the rusty barbed-wires.”

People around the world are encouraged to join in the prayer, which calls for a life of harmony and peace on the Korean peninsula.

“Lord, help us first open our firmly closed hearts, so that we can embrace each other with tenderness,” reads the prayer. “Let us sow the seeds of tolerance, love and service, and with God’s blessings, may that land bear much fruit, and bless our people with a life full of joy and harmony.”

A.M.E. ZION Makes History: The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Established

Working feverishly throughout the last months of 2016, and early into 2017, has brought to fruition the establishment of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park located in Auburn, NY.

The Rt. Reverend Dennis V. Proctor, Presiding Prelate of the North Eastern Episcopal District and Chairman of The Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., joined by the host bishop, the Rt. Reverend W. Darin Moore, led the Washington, DC Signing Ceremony on January 10th at the United States Department of the Interior. Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr. and Retired Senior Bishop George W.C. Walker, Sr., both strong supporters of the Harriet Tubman Home, could not be present on the chilly January day, but the ceremonial room was filled with their spirits and the warmth of their prayers. 

National Park Service Acting Director Michael Reynolds presided over the ceremony. Former DOI Secretary, Sally Jewell welcomed Zionites and friends of the Harriet Tubman Home. Secretary Jewell gave remarks explaining the role of the National Park Service as the nation’s storyteller, and how important it is, now more than ever, for Tubman’s story to be known to all. Sec. Jewell lauded the stewardship of the A.M.E. Zion Church, thanking Bishop Dennis V. Proctor and praised Karen V. Hill, President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, in working with the National Park Service to reach this milestone.

RCC awards excellence in religion communication at Chicago ceremony

Ed. note: NCC Communications and Development Director Steven D. Martin won "Best in Class" for the National Council of Churches Podcast.

The Religion Communicators Council handed out awards recognizing excellence in about 60 categories of communications and public relations Thursday at its annual conference in Chicago.

The annual DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards, given to active members of RCC, are named in honor of the late Victor DeRose and the late Paul M. Hinkhouse, leading lithographers in New York City, and longtime friends of the RCC. Both men shared a strong interest in, and concern for, excellence in communications.

This year RCC received 231 entries. Each entry was judged on overall quality, including concept, writing, design, creativity, style, use of color, appropriateness of material for intended audience, creative use of resources, and effectiveness in achieving its purpose.

Ecumenical opportunities:

The Conference of European Churches has two staff vacancies in the area of communications. The first is a one-year maternity leave cover contract. The second is for a communications assistant. Both are based in Brussels.

Please click here for the PDF version of Staff Vacancy Notice: Communication Coordinator (Maternity Leave Cover)

Please click here for the PDF version of Staff Vacancy Notice: Communications Assistant

The World Council of Churches is looking for a Program Executive of the Ecumenical United Nations Office in New-York.  Click here for more information.

The El-Hibri Foundation is accepting applications for the following:

1. Building and Hospitality Coordinator

2. Executive Assistant to the President

3. Summer Internship Program
  • Outreach and Social Media Internship (FILLED)
  • Events and Programs Internship
  • Grants Management Internship
  • Philanthropic Research Internship
For more information, click here.
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