Subject: NCC Weekly News: Health Care, Jerusalem, and Fixing the Plumbing

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From Jim: Justice, Waters, and the Plumbers
This morning, I read once again the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. You’ll recall that following the death of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech the Ephrathite, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, accompanied her back to her home in Bethlehem.

Naomi’s kinsman on her husband’s side, a rich man named Boaz, gave assistance to Ruth even though she was a foreigner. Eventually, Boaz sat down with the elders of the city at the gate and announced he wished to purchase the land Naomi wanted to sell. The purchaser of the land, according to custom, also took possession of Ruth.

It is written, “then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; and through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’

Now, as you know, from the union of Boaz and Ruth came a son name Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of King David.

I recount this story to you because it shows to us that from ancient of times an ethic of care for the community has been in effect. This was not conjured up via the Affordable Care Act. Remember, too, that Boaz reminded his kinsman who had first right of purchase of Naomi’s land that he would also be required to care for Ruth. At that point, the kinsman surrendered his right of purchase because it would damage his own inheritance. How it would do so, I am not sure, but he acknowledged that the purchase did indeed carry with it various obligations.

The kinsman who surrendered his right to purchase did not seek to repeal and replace the custom and ethic of care for the people of the land! He understood we are woven together in a web of creation, and we are all responsible for one another.

How that responsibility plays out is important. When Ronald Reagan sought to reduce government assistance to people living in poverty, William Sloane Coffin told him, “Mr. President, it is up to us as religious leaders to proclaim that ‘justice shall roll down like mighty waters, and righteousness as an everflowing stream.’ It is up to you to work out the details of the plumbing.”

That’s true. And when we observed that Reagan’s plumbing system did not ensure justice and righteousness, we spoke out. Now, some say that religious leaders are not capable of, are not expert enough, to understand the details of the plumbing system. That may be.

However, we have engaged the services of experts, and we have studied the details, and most importantly we know that when widows, orphans, and strangers are left on their own, then you have violated the ethic of the community. We know that when decisions are made to favor the wealthy and the healthy at the expense of the many and the sick, then you have violated the teaching of holy scripture. These things and many others we do know even if we have not designed the plumbing system.

So we’re praying tonight that those we have elected and given the responsibility of caring for the community will design a system that ensures everyone will be provided for in a fair and just manner and we’re ready to call to account those who fail to do so.

If the plumbers can’t do the job right, we’ll call for new plumbers. We’ll revoke the license of the those who have messed up the plumbing and find others who understand that it is God who wants justice to flow like a mighty water and righteousness to be an everflowing stream.

These waters and streams are not to be trifled with. They are not to be dammed up. They are not to be diverted for the benefit of the few. These are God’s waters, and these are God’s people, and we are all responsible together for it whether we are prophets or plumbers.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President
Message by Presiding Bishop (ELCA) Elizabeth Eaton on Health Care Debate

Throughout the debate on the effort to “repeal or repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Lutherans have joined me in calling on their members of Congress to improve access to health care. 

"We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and support health care for all people as a shared endeavor. Our commitment comes in grateful response to God’s saving love in Jesus Christ that frees us to love and seek the well-being of our neighbor" (ELCA social statement “Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor,” 2003). 

The Senate is now debating health care reform. In the strongest possible terms, I urge senators to oppose any effort to cut funding to Medicaid that eliminates essential health care for seniors, veterans, children and low-income working families.  

I ask all Lutherans to pray for our leaders and to be advocates with me. Our collective voices make a difference, and we should raise them to call on our senators to stand with the most vulnerable members of our communities. It is time for Congress to work together to find solutions that ensure health care for all in our nation of God's great abundance.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton 
Presiding Bishop
Catholic Charities USA expresses deep disappointment in Senate vote that could potentially repeal and replace the ACA

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) President and CEO Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, expressed disappointment in response to the Senate vote yesterday to move forward on a bill to potentially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“CCUSA is deeply disappointed that the Senate has voted to move forward on a bill to potentially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act without a clear plan to protect access to affordable health care coverage. Throughout the health care reform discussions, CCUSA has insisted that any reform must protect the millions who have access to health care coverage, or gained access to health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and must provide access to health care coverage to the millions still living without affordable health care.

“As the chamber moves into the amendment process, we urge Senators to work together to reject dramatic cuts to Medicaid coverage and provide a health care bill that truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respects human life and dignity, especially for those who are most in need.”

WCC reiterates plea for dialogue and open access to worship at Holy Sites

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is calling for global prayers tomorrow for just peace in the Holy Land, and for all barriers to places of worship to be removed.

The WCC is again joining with church leaders in Jerusalem in making an urgent plea for peace and dialogue between Israeli authorities and Palestinians. Their plea comes in the context of spiralling violence in response to security measures imposed restricting access to Holy Sites in the city, following a recent attack in which two Israeli security officers were killed.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said, “We pray and plead for both sides in this precarious situation to try to talk with one another and find a solution for unfettered access to the places of worship for all believers in the city and region that can allow peace to prevail. This is the only way forward to halt the violence and to promote coexistence at a time of particularly high tensions.”

“The WCC had previously warned that measures impinging on the continuity and integrity of access to the Holy Sites could easily lead to serious, unpredictable and unwelcome consequences in the present dangerously tense climate. Unfortunately, the correctness of this warning is being confirmed. To avoid further escalation of violence, the electric gates infringing on the rights of worshippers to access the Holy Sites must be removed” said Tveit.

Five members of interfaith group barred from boarding plane for Israel

The moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was among five interfaith leaders denied access to a passenger jet headed for Israel this week. Rick Ufford-Chase was part of an interfaith delegation of 23 Muslims, Jews and Christians boarding a Lufthansa Airlines jet at Washington Dulles International Airport for Israel on Sunday.

Rick Afford-Chase was among five interfaith leaders denied access to a commercial jet headed for Israel.

“All five of us are well-known for our commitment to nonviolent direct action on behalf of Palestinians living under the grinding daily reality of military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank,” said Ufford-Chase. “We suspect that we were the first to feel the impact of the Knesset’s recent declaration that they will deny entry for anyone who has supported nonviolent strategies to force Israel to end the Occupation.”

Earlier this year, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, made changes to the Law of Entry preventing leaders from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement from being allowed in the country. Israeli officials have said the entry ban is strictly for those who are involved with significant, ongoing actions to promote and advance a boycott in Israel.

The five who were barred were from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine. Their plan was to join the larger interfaith group and visit with human rights activists in Israel and the West Bank.

RCA Mourns the Loss of Tony Campbell

The Reformed Church in America is mourning the loss of Tony Campbell, the denomination’s associate general secretary and director of mission engagement. Campbell passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday evening, July 18.

“Tony’s death is a painful loss for the RCA—as a pastor, as a friend, as a partner in the gospel, as a leader,” said former general secretary Tom De Vries, who worked closely with Campbell until De Vries’s departure last month. “His passing impacts our denomination on so many levels: personally, missionally, transformationally, and as we seek to live out God’s call for the RCA to live and love like Jesus. Tony was a continuous example of how a leader served and loved others, and how to tangibly live out one’s faith in our world today.”

A member of the executive leadership team, Campbell joined the General Synod Council staff in 2013 as coordinator for African American/Black ministries. He soon took over leadership of the RCA’s mission priority area and in 2016 became the director of mission engagement. In this role he coordinated the work of the mission initiatives within Transformed & Transforming: Global Missional Engagement, Local Missional Engagement, Volunteer Engagement, Missional Mosaic, Church Multiplication, and Disability Concerns. He also served as coordinator for the RCA’s African American Black Council (AABC).

“Tony established a grander vision of mission for the RCA that did not stop with words, but demanded action,” said De Vries. “He pushed us to see mission that was tangible and love that was real.”

Conservative evangelicals revel in their ‘unprecedented’ presidential access

Squeezed among two dozen other evangelical supporters of the president, Southern Baptist Richard Land added his hand to the others reaching to pray for President Trump.

The July 10 Oval Office prayer session, which has been panned and praised, is just one example of the access Trump and his key aides have given to conservative Christian leaders — from an hourslong May dinner in the Blue Room to an all-day meeting earlier this month in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door.

“This is unlike anything we’ve experienced in our career or ministry — unprecedented access, unprecedented solicitation of opinions and viewpoints,” said Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., and a veteran at the intersection of religion and politics.

But while religious conservatives are getting such intimate contact with the chief executive that they can literally “lay hands” on him, other faith leaders are being kept at arm’s length.

Steven Martin, the communications director for the National Council of Churches, a group that includes mainline Protestant, Orthodox and historically black denominations, declared: “I’d absolutely say we’re frozen out.”

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) seeks a full-time Director of U.S. Prisons Program to coordinate national interfaith organizing and strategic state and federal advocacy for its interfaith members working to end the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. Strong preference for the position to be based in NRCAT's Washington, DC office, though open to possibility of remote work.

Does your vocation include obtaining resources to support your ministry’s mission?
Then you're invited to attend the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Mission Funding Forum.

Ecumenical Stewardship Center Forum Groups provide those engaged in similar stewardship-related vocations gathering places for networking, support, and learning. 

Come to the Forum

The Mission Funding Forum Group Gathering will take place September 19-20 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Participants consider the current trends, best practices, challenges, and opportunities unique to serving faith-based organizations in an informal roundtable format.

There is no registration fee for the Forum: participants care for their own transportation, lodging, and meal expenses. 

Stay for the Conference

The Everence Development Conference immediately follows the Forum at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, ending on September 22. Featuring a variety of workshops and keynote speakers including Jim Wallis and Susan Schultz Huxman, "Bridge to a Shared Tomorrow" is a quality learning opportunity. Mission Funding Forum participants interested in attending need to register for the conference. 

Learn More and Register for the Mission Funding Forum

Learn more and register for the Everence Development Conference

Register today! Forum registration ends August 31. Conference early-bird registration ends July 24, and closes August 28.

Questions? Contact the Ecumenical Stewardship Center
855-278-4ESC (4372)

About the Ecumenical Stewardship Center: 
As a Network for Growing Stewards, the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) provides resources that encourage faithful stewardship and generous giving as transformative spiritual practices for faith communities. Nineteen denominations and several stewardship-related organizations in the US and Canada are partners in ESC's mission and ministry. You can find them on the ESC website at 
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