Subject: NCC Weekly News: If you had asked me...

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From Jim: If you had asked, I would have told you….
Having a grandchild is truly one of the greatest things in life.

The appropriate response to ‘thank you’ is ‘you’re welcome, rather than ‘no problem’.

‘So’ should not be the first word in every sentence.

I’m ready for people to stop overusing the word ‘absolutely.’

It’s hard to tell black and blue socks apart.

It really is all about diet and exercise.

An amazing number of people believe they are the center of the universe.

Pretty much every job requires participating in meetings of some kind.

I am astonished at how many interruptions I experience every single day.

For some reason, when I reached age 60, blue jeans just didn’t fit right anymore.

You should read all the time, both fiction and nonfiction.

There are not enough hours in the day to read all I want to read.

While it’s nice to hear people tell me I work hard, I’m the laziest person I know. But, I don’t even desire to go a single day without working.

I have advocated for economic justice my entire professional life, yet my smart and talented adult children are among the millions who find a hard time making ends meet.

Each time I read through the Bible, I notice things I never saw before.

Every worship service provides largely overlooked occasions for humor, storytelling, and emotion.

I have reluctantly accepted that I’m not ever going to be ‘handy’ and learn how to fix things around the house. 

Popeye’s chicken sandwiches are OK but not worth waiting in a long line for.

Most Netflix comedy specials aren’t funny.

A lot of people seem to think I have more influence and wisdom than I actually possess.

The older you are, the fewer birthday presents you receive.

If you’re not actively part of the struggle for justice and peace, then you’re supporting the status quo.

My children know who John, Paul, George, and Ringo are.

The Beatles are right: “The love you make is equal to the love you take.”

I am blessed to be in one of the most amazing ministries in the world.

God is good all the time.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Stands With National Council of Churches in the Philippines

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA views with the greatest alarm and concern the news that the Department of National Defense (DND) of the Philippine Government has listed the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) as a “front organization of local communist terrorist groups.” This outrageous and unacceptable targeting of the NCCP is reminiscent of the repression during the darkest years of the Marcos dictatorship.

The churches and church members in the NCCP are our brothers and sisters in Christ and their ministry is to witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and assist those most in need in Philippine society. The NCCP has been involved for decades in trailblazing work on human rights, migration, women’s empowerment, HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, and children’s ministry including the protection of children against online sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Christian Conference of Asia General Secretary condemns the Philippine government’s act of ‘Red-tagging’ the National Council of Churches in the Philippines

“Indiscriminately labeling the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) as part of some ‘front organization’ of local ‘Communist Terrorist Groups’ (CTG) is a reprobate act by the Department of National Defense (DND) of the Armed Forces in the Philippines (AFP), and such actions will only create fear among the NCCP staff and their families,” stated the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara.

At a public hearing in the Lower House of the Congress of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence labelled the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) as a ‘Communist Terrorist Group’ front.

The General Secretary of the CCA condemns in the strongest possible terms this accusation against its member council as a direct act of red-baiting, which puts to risk the lives and limbs of NCCP staff members, officers, their loved ones, and friends.

WCC gravely concerned about “red-tagging” of Council of Churches in the Philippines

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed alarm and grave concern over the listing of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, along with 17 other civil society organisations, as being fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

“In the context of current Philippine politics, such ‘red-tagging’ in effect gives a green light to harassment and deadly attacks by security forces and militias against those listed,” said Tveit. “The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has consistently spoken out against Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte's ‘war on drugs,’ which has been marked by extra-judicial killings of suspected drug traffickers and users by security forces, with perpetrators of such killings enjoying almost complete impunity.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has also consistently advocated for the rights of the poor, indigenous peoples, and many other marginalized and vulnerable groups. “Bishops, other clergy and congregation members, along with many other human rights defenders in the Philippines, have already been targeted, arrested and threatened with reprisals,” said Tveit. “In July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council called for a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, against the background of the 'war on drugs', and will examine progress in June 2020.”

Faith Leaders Call for Rodney Reed’s Freedom, End to Death Penalty

Note: Texas issued a stay of execution for Reed after this vigil took place.

A vast coalition of faith groups joined together at the U.S. Supreme Court to call for the freedom of condemned Texas prisoner Rodney Reed. Representatives from Reed’s family, the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, Uri L’Tzedek, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Pax Christi USA, Pax Christi International, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, Death Penalty Action and Witness to Innocence all came to show support for Mr. Reed and to call for an end to the death penalty.

Rodney Reed is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, November 20th, by the state of Texas despite a bipartisan call for his freedom. Reed’s counsel calls him “a demonstrably innocent man on Texas’ death row.”

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Associate General Secretary for the National Council of Churches, began her remarks by saying, “We were told that the Supreme Court will be taking up the question of whether it is constitutional to murder somebody who was innocent? I’m devastated that this is a question.”

New York Diocese Earmarks $1.1 Million for Slavery Reparations

The Diocese of New York has committed $1.1 million dollars of its endowment to reparations for slavery, to redress what Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche described as the diocese’s “significant, and genuinely evil, part in American slavery.”

The reparations fund, representing 2.5% of the diocesan endowment, was approved without opposition on November 9 at the annual diocesan convention. The previous day, the convention also approved an 1860 resolution condemning the ownership and trafficking of enslaved people in the diocese. The resolution had been tabled for 159 years.

The Diocese of New York now joins the Episcopal Virginia Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian Princeton Theological Seminary as religious institutions that have pledged significant funds to atone for their ancestors’ roles in the slave trade.

The 1860 resolution was on the advance agenda for the convention, but the reparations fund was disclosed for the first time in the bishop’s annual address. He plans to appoint a task force to consider how to use the funds and report back to the 2020 convention.

Trump advisor calls Pompeo’s West Bank decision an answered prayer

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday (Nov. 18) that the U.S. is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, rejecting a 1978 State Department legal opinion that concluded Israeli settlements in the region are “inconsistent with international law.”

Speaking to reporters during a press conference, Pompeo said the reversal of the decades-old position “recognized the reality on the ground.” Pompeo added that he sees the settlements as “ill-advised” — a term once used by Ronald Reagan — rather than illegal “per se.”

The decision was met with mixed reactions from religious leaders and faith-based advocacy groups.

Mike Evans, founder of The Jerusalem Prayer Team and a member of Trump’s informal group of evangelical Christian advisers, praised the move. In an interview with Religion News Service, Evans said Pompeo called him shortly after the press conference while en route to meet President Trump.

“I told (Pompeo) it was a tremendous answer to prayer from evangelicals,” he said, asking the secretary of state to express gratitude to the president.

A representative from the National Council of Churches, which operates on behalf of 38 Christian groups that collectively claim roughly 45 million people, told RNS via email that it “stands by its long-stated position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are clear violations of international law.”

Cuban Council of Churches “United to Serve”

Under the slogan "Revive your work in our own time" (Habakkuk 3: 2b), the Cuban Council of Churches meets in its Study Assembly on October 30 and 31, 2019 at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas, the historical capital of the province of the same name, in which the first Protestant congregation of Cuba was founded, in 1883, by the patriotic missionary Pedro Duarte, under the name "Faithful to Jesus."

We declare:

That our faithfulness to Jesus Christ is unwavering, that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and his gospel compels us to proclaim the holistic mission, the good news for the poor, for all humankind and all creation, the gospel of peace, love, faith and hope, that there is no other Lord we should serve except Him.

That as the Cuban Council of Churches, "We are a fellowship of churches, ecumenical movements and other Christian institutions that confess the Lord Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior, in accordance with the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and seek to fulfill their common vocation, the glory of God: Father, Son
and Holy Spirit.”

"Our Mission is to promote spaces for meeting, celebration, reflection and formation of churches, ecumenical movements and other Christian institutions, as a visible expression of the unity to which God calls us in Jesus Christ, in service to our people."

Today in pain we look at how our people, our families, our congregations are affected by measures that intensify the economic, commercial and financial blockade, the longest in history, illegally imposed on our country by the government of the United States of America.

Old Point Comfort, The National Council of Churches, and How to be an Antiracist

I grew up in Tidewater, Virginia, and am the product of Virginia public schools. I remember many of the field trips I took growing up. I remember visiting the battlefields of Yorktown where I learned Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in the American Revolution. I remember visiting Jamestown where we learned about one of the first English colonies of North America. I remember visiting Colonial Williamsburg to learn about colonial life.

I don’t remember visiting Old Point Comfort, the site where “twenty and odd” Angolans were transported on the White Lion to be sold as slaves to Virginia colonists 400 years ago in 1619.

This year, the National Council of Churches (NCC) met from October 13-16 in Newport News, Virginia, to visit Old Pointe Comfort and remember this haunting and historic event. I had the privilege to attend the NCC’s Christian Unity Gathering as a representative of the Alliance of Baptists.

On the gathering’s final day, the collective gathered for the meeting held a service of remembrance that ended underneath the Algernourne Oak. This tree of more than 470 years bore witness to the first Africans reaching the shores of Virginia. It witnessed the birth of what some scholars and activists have referred to as “America’s Original Sin”—the sin of slavery.
United Church of Christ Council for Health and Human Services Ministries joins UCC medical debt abolishment effort

The United Church of Christ effort to relieve thousands of low-income families of medical debt just got a generous boost from the Council for Health and Human Services Ministries, UCC.

The CHHSM Board of Directors voted unanimously Nov. 5 to support the UCC’s campaign to forgive medical debt around the country, an effort which began with a $38,000 buy in Chicago that abolished $5.3 million in debt, affecting 5,888 families on the city’s south side. During an announcement of this collaboration between the UCC, the Illinois Conference and several local churches at Trinity UCC on Oct. 20, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, associate general minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries, stated the denomination would continue debt forgiveness in partnership with a New York-based nonprofit, RIP Medical Debt. Through funds collected on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 3, and gifts from UCC Conferences, Associations, congregations and other organizations, the denomination plans to make quarterly buys to abolish medical debt into 2021, in partnership with those groups.

CHHSM leadership decided they would make one of the first contributions to the UCC Giving Tuesday campaign, with a gift of $15,000.

Religious fundamentalism is a ‘plague,’ pope says

Interreligious dialogue is an important way to counter fundamentalist groups as well as the unjust accusation that religions sow division, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with members of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue Nov. 18, the pope said that in “today’s precarious world, dialogue among religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in the dialogue of God with humanity.”

Recalling a scene from the 11th-century poem, “The Song of Roland,” in which Christians threatened Muslims “to choose between baptism or death,” the pope denounced the fundamentalist mentality which “we cannot accept nor understand and cannot function anymore.”

“We must beware of fundamentalist groups; each (religion) has their own. In Argentina, there are some fundamentalist corners there,” he said. “Fundamentalism is a plague and all religions have some fundamentalist first cousin.”

Confederate symbols workshop guides priests in confronting past by reexamining it truthfully

When the Rev. Hannah Hooker traveled last week to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, she brought along her thoughts of a specific stained-glass window back home in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she serves as associate rector of Christ Episcopal Church. The window depicts Bishop Leonidas Polk preaching at the church’s dedication in 1839.

It’s not a conspicuous window – located to one side of the nave, overlooking a breezeway where little light reaches its panes. Only after a longtime parishioner pointed it out did Hooker examine it closely and consider what Polk’s legacy means for her congregation at a time when The Episcopal Church has called on its dioceses and congregations to research and tell the full stories of their historic complicity with slavery, segregation and other systems of racial oppression.

Polk, as missionary bishop to the Southwest and later bishop of Louisiana, was a key figure in the founding of Sewanee by Episcopal dioceses in 1857, but he died before the opening of the university, killed in battle during the Civil War while serving as a general for the Confederacy. Today, he has become a problematic figure in the churchwide reexamination of Confederate symbols and memorials in worship spaces.

Should Orthodox Christians Care About the Climate?

While the Orthodox Church has gained a reputation internationally as a “green” church, largely due to the environmental initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the reality is much more complicated on the ground. The science behind the human causes of climate change and its catastrophic consequences is settled, but the issue unfortunately remains a sharply divisive one among Orthodox Christians in the United States. American Orthodox acceptance of climate change falls largely along familiar dividing lines—liberal and conservative—as they have come to be defined in 21st-century US politics.

The political divisions among us are toxic, not only for church unity, but also because they allow us to be complacent, remaining stuck in intractable debates about the legitimacy of scientific data and the shadowy powers supposedly funding climate science, hurling accusations of “fake news.”

But the Orthodox tradition does not permit us to stand on the sidelines of the climate debate. Rather, it demands that we accept responsibility for the plunder of creation, work to restore equilibrium to our environments, and hold accountable those responsible–ourselves included–for the current crisis.

Church must fight fear and racism with organized love, UCC leader advises German partners

The United States is in danger of abandoning two long-held commitments – welcoming the stranger and struggling for civil rights – and replacing them with fears of immigrants and people of color. The church should be a leader in preventing that.

Dorhauer in Dresden 2019Those were the central messages from the Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, in recent speeches to two partner-church audiences in Germany.

Dorhauer spoke Nov. 7 in Dortmund to a gathering of some 50 staff and pastors at the Protestant Church of Westphalia's Office of Mission, Ecumenism and Global Responsibility, and Nov. 8 in Dresden to some 200 church leaders at a Union of Evangelical Churches Synod meeting. The guest speeches were part of the German churches' effort to reckon with a fear of immigrants and a rise in neo-Nazism in their own country.

Positive narratives in danger of disappearing

"The America I grew up believing in and falling in love with is disappearing," Dorhauer said. "This is less about Donald Trump than it is about a re-emerging racist American population." He went on to express concerns that the racism and homophobia that America has worked for decades to rid itself of has been growing since 2016. Positive narratives – for example, that racism should be overcome with civil rights and that welcoming immigrants is part of America’s strength – are in danger of receding.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020

Climate change affects everyone and disproportionately affects those struggling to overcome poverty. 2020 will be a pivotal year for the United States and the world with a general election that will set the course for the next four years – with an enduring impact on climate and economic justice.

Save the Date for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020, April 24-27, on re-imagining community for God's earth and people. Come to learn about the intersection of climate change and economic injustice, and to advocate for climate justice.

“As the indigenous people of Colombia we are part of . . .the environment created by God. Therefore, we ask that the mistreatment of ‘Mother Earth’ cease.” Guaviare indigenous leader quoted in Instrumentum Laboris: The Amazon: New Path for the Church and Integral Ecology.

“We look for -- and speed the coming of -- the new heavens and a new earth, where justice is at home” (2 Pet. 3:12,13).

Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, 
the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions 
and more than 40 million Christians in a common expression of God's love and promise of unity. 
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