Subject: NCC Weekly News: Is Our Social Fabric Fraying?

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From Jim: Is Our Social Fabric Fraying?
Last week, the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches adopted two statements, one on recent Middle East violence and acts of terrorism and the other on keeping our elections free of hateful rhetoric. These two statements have come together through the false controversy over accepting Syrian refugees into the United States.

We have seen presidential candidates calling for the registration of Muslims in the US and equating Syrian refugees in the US with rabid dogs. Fortunately David Bowers, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, apologized for comparing Syrian refugees to Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps in the U.S. during World War II. However, well over half of our state governors succumbed to the hysteria and said they would not accept any refugees—people who are fleeing a horrific war in their country.

Tragically, there have even been some Christian leaders who have spoken against Syrian refugees entering the US, most notably Franklin Graham, who predicted that permitting the immigration into the US of Muslims will lead to terrorist incidents such as the attack in Paris.

Meanwhile, mass shootings in the United States such as recent incidents at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and a center for people with developmental disabilities in California (which was described by the San Bernardino police chief as a ‘domestic terrorist incident’) continue. Would that as much concern was raised by presidential candidates and faith leaders over such tragedies.

Personally, I resist the temptation to view these and other calamities in an apocalyptic light. The human race has survived plagues, world wars, and deadly diseases, but it does feel like our social fabric is badly fraying all around the world.

Here are some items that have caught my attention in recent days and weeks that indicate to me growing intolerance and fundamentalism:

  • In certain areas of Israel, movie posters of the most recent installment of the “Hunger Games” movie cannot portray the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, because a female image is considered licentious.
  • A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a poet to death for renouncing Islam.
  • African bishops of the United Methodist Church issued a statement defining the two greatest challenges facing their denomination to be global terrorism and gay and lesbian people.
I resist following the example of many others to purchase guns, declare war on Islam, or define entire categories of people as enemies. I choose not to do so, because Jesus wouldn’t do that.

I pray for those who are involved in the Paris climate talks, both government officials and activists, because we need the Holy Spirit's help to secure an agreement that will safeguard God’s good creation.

Patient, sustained ministry continues among the member churches of the NCC to build a just and peaceful world. There are setbacks along the way, but as followers of Christ we can be sure a new heaven and a new earth await us.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

Screen "Armor of Light" For Your Congregation or Group- Free DVD if you sign up TODAY!

"Thought provoking. Good means to promote ecumenical dialogue on gun violence prevention and the theology of guns." - Jeffrey, University Congregational UCC

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"It is so good and a great way to begin conversations and work on (the) prevention of gun violence." - Rev. Michelle, Woodland United Methodist Church

Thanks to the positive reception from most during the film preview period for 'Armor of Light', the filmmaker has agreed to make the film fully available to clergy, lay leaders and other allies of Faiths United for the upcoming National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekend, December 10-14.

But not just the streaming version. Understanding that technology issues happen, Abigail Disney is allowing you to fully download the film in advance and is also going to directly mail you a DVD of the film so you can either play the film digitally or using the DVD. To get the DVD, you must sign up by the end of the day on Friday, December 4.

The filmmaker has also created study guides to aid with hosting a group discussion about the film. You will have immediate access to the guides after signing up.

And, if you haven't already done so, it's not too late to pledge your congregation's participation in the upcoming National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekend, December 10-14.
Advent 2015
by Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick

We are in the Season of Advent 2015 … the beginning of the Christian Year. As this new Christian Year begins, many are afraid to travel as freely as they have in the past, corporate boards are wrestling and negotiating issues of profits versus earnings of those in their employ, people are protesting violence in the streets and in the courts, racism has shown itself as deeply entrenched in America as it was a century ago, refugees are fleeing their homes and countries in the name of “something better,” there are still hungry people in the world … and many of God’s churches are yet silent as if blinded from seeing the world’s blighted plight.

Advent 2015 … the season of hope, of expectancy, of waiting and watching … but the season that reminds us that those who received the good news of the birth of Jesus did not simply hope or expect or wait or watch idly … they moved toward Bethlehem to take part in what God was doing in the world. “Let us go even unto Bethlehem ….”

Black Church Climate Change Statement

On October 29, 2015, the Black Church Climate Change Statement was released. Statement drafters include Dr. Samuel Tolbert, Jr. (President, National Baptist Convention of America), Dr. Jessie Bottoms (Vice President, National Baptist Convention USA), Bishop Seth Lartey (AMEZ), Bishop Ronald Cunningham (CME), Dr. Carroll Baltimore (Global United Fellowship), and Dr. Leonard Lovett (COGIC).

The statement reads, “As leaders in the Black Church, we view climate change as a moral issue and one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, particularly for black and other marginalized communities. Breathing dirty, carbon-polluted air, that causes climate change contributes to thousands of asthma attacks, hospital visits, and premature deaths every year. Black and lower income communities are often hit the hardest by climate change in the United States. In Genesis, breath is declared a God given right, yet, almost 40 percent of the six million Americans living in close proximity to a coal power plant are people of color.”

Bishop DeWitt, workers’ advocate, dies at 96

As a young man, Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt worked in a plant that built Packard automobiles. He moved on to a long, fruitful United Methodist ministerial career, but never forgot the working class.

“I remember Bishop DeWitt as a man committed to social justice with a special passion for labor issues,” said the Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, former top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. “He was indefatigable in his pursuit of worker justice.”

DeWitt died Nov. 26, just nine days short of his 97th birthday. He had been under hospice care in Dexter, Michigan, near Ann Arbor. His wife, Annamary, died in 2010.

Statement on Recent Terror Attacks

Numerous terrorist attacks worldwide in recent months have resulted in many deaths. The shocking news reports and graphic images related to the recent multiple attacks in Paris, France, were deeply disturbing and continue to affect us. As we absorb the tragedy of the attacks, we are heartbroken and outraged at such senseless violence.

While not receiving as much news coverage, recent terrorist attacks resulting in similar or even greater loss of life have caused suffering and grief around the world. Earlier this year 100 university students were killed in Kenya. The explosion of the Russian jetliner over Sinai killed 224 people. Bombings in Lebanon and Nigeria considerably contributed to the mounting death toll of innocent victims. As this statement was being written, terrorists attacked a hotel in Bamako, Mali, and 19 people from around the world were killed.

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