Subject: NCC Weekly News: Giving Thanks

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From Jim: I Give Thanks
I give thanks to God for the opportunity to serve the Church of Jesus Christ and the cause of ecumenical unity through the National Council of Churches. In the midst of the pain and terror that plagues large parts of the world, I give thanks that the churches are united as a faithful voice of peace, calm, levelheadedness, and restraint.

I write after a busy stretch during which the board of the Ecumenical Trust, a joint endeavor of the World Council of Churches, Church World Service, and the National Council of Churches came together to recommit ourselves to one another and care for funds we use to provide scholarships and carry out ministry.

Immediately following the Ecumenical Trust meeting, the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches gathered in Philadelphia to worship together, welcome the Assyrian Church of the East into membership, elect officers, issue two powerful statements (one deploring hateful rhetoric during the election year season and another on recent violence and terrorist acts), and to celebrate the leadership of our outgoing board chair, Dr. Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA.

I then attended our Jewish-Christian dialogue which focused on increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Christian persecution and how it affects our congregations. One speaker noted that historically such discussions have centered on the role of Christians in spreading anti-Semitism and pointed out that we have come a long way since then as we are now able to discuss similarities between anti-Semitic and anti-Christian attitudes. A fundamental lack of acceptance of pluralism is a growing problem across and within religious communities and is a matter of joint concern.

I then proceeded to Atlanta to participate in the huge gathering of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. In the course of that conference, the NCC convened a meeting with a number of publishers of the Revised and New Revised Standard Versions of the Bible to discuss the new and more intentional ways in which the NCC is caring for these highly respected translations.

Throughout this journey, I have found good will, a commitment to remaining together, realism, and a determination to break the cycle of violence and hatred. May you find rest and comfort over these Thanksgiving holidays.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

Watkins installed as chair of National Council of Churches of Christ

During a ceremony Nov. 17, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins was installed as the chair of the board for the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC) for 2016. Watkins has been serving as vice chair for the past year. The Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery preached the sermon.

“I am honored to join a long line of Disciples who have been leaders in the Council,” Watkins said. “Recent years have brought fresh initiative and focus. I’m excited for the opportunity to be part of the renewal.”

Watkins served on a task force from 2011 to 2013 that reorganized the work of the NCCC.

Disciples have been an integral part of the National Council from the 1950s to today. Mr. J. Irwin Miller of Indiana was the first layman to serve as president of the NCCC (1960-1963). The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell served as general secretary for a decade (1990–2000). And more recently, Dr. Michael Kinnamon, served as general secretary from late 2007 to December 2012.

Board of General Ministries Elects Interim General Secretary, Recognizes Medley as General Secretary Emeritus

The Board of General Ministries for American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) met November 12-14, 2015, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. At the meeting, the board elected Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies to serve beginning December 1, 2015, and approved a resolution to confer the recognition of General Secretary Emeritus to the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley.

Board of General Ministries President Don Ng opened the meeting and introduced Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, incoming Vice President who will be taking this role for the next biennium, January 1, 2016-December 31, 2017.

During its opening plenary session, the Board of General Ministries elected Susan Gillies to serve as Interim General Secretary. Gillies will begin this new role on December 1, 2015, and will serve in the position until a new General Secretary is named.

Pledge your congregation's participation in the Fall 2015 National Vigil for Gun Violence Victims and National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, December 10-14

Following the great success of the 2nd annual National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend in March 2014 in nearly 1,000 places of worship in 46 states and the District of Columbia AND nearly 200 congregations participating in December 2014, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and the Washington National Cathedral are joining the Newtown Foundation and States United to Prevent Gun Violence in calling all Americans across the nation to keep raising our voices for change by pledging to participate in December 2015!

Join places of worship across the nation, the Washington National Cathedral, the Newtown Foundation and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of more than 50 national denominations and faith-based organizations, to remember those who have lost their lives to gunfire, pray for those whose lives have been forever changed because of the loss of a loved one, and to educate one another on proven strategies to reduce gun violence.

Amid hysteria, a call for hospitality

After President Obama urged the United States to welcome some 10,000 refugees from Syria, more than 20 governors said they refused to welcome refugees in their states.

Following the Paris terrorist attacks on Nov. 12, David Bowers — the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia — urged local governments and nonprofit groups not to accept Syrian refugees. According to the Roanoke Times, the governor appealed to the precedence of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who, Bowers said, “felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

A flurry of protests prompted Mayor Bowers a few days later to express regret for offending people with his remarks. More than apologies for hurting people’s feelings are in order.

If we do not curb such reckless pronouncements from public figures, frightened and angry people will become violent in the war on terrorism. I can attest personally to the costs of such fear and hatred.

Giving thanks across racial lines in Jasper, Texas

Whenever the Rev. Cyndi Wunder frequents the shops and the businesses of Jasper, Texas, she gives thanks for the simplest of interpersonal encounters, which belie—even as they help to heal—a world of pain in the small East Texas town.

Over seventeen years ago on June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old African-American man, was dragged to his death behind a pick-up truck in Jasper by three men who were subsequently convicted of his murder. One was later executed for the crime, which eventually led to the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, named both for Byrd and Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998 outside of Laramie, Wyo.

Wunder, a native of the Northwest, was called in December 2014 through the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Small Church Residency Program to serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Jasper. Well before the congregation extended her the call, its leaders had been engaged in the hard work of defining the church’s mission by acknowledging Jasper’s painful past, its racially charged present and the church’s own history.
UCC Clergy speak out in support, step up to welcome Syrian refugees

Clergy and conference ministers across the wider church are speaking out on behalf of a beleaguered people, responding to the posturing of more than 30 governors who are against resettling Syrian refugees in their states. They are writing letters, pushing phone calls, participating in prayer vigils, organizing press conferences, and appearing on television to proclaim the extravagant welcome of the United Church of Christ.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s words that admitting Syrian refugees is “an unacceptable risk” touched a nerve with Edith A. Guffey, conference minister of the United Church of Christ in Kansas and Oklahoma. In a letter to a local newspaper Guffey wrote that Brownback's executive order prohibiting state agencies from assisting in their relocation is feeding fear and xenophobia.
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