Subject: NCC Weekly News: My Report to the Governing Board (part 2)

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From Jim: My Report to the NCC Governing Board
May 9, 2017, Norfolk, Virginia

Continued from last week

Last month, I spoke to the international peace conference in Cairo convened by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. Pope Francis, His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a representative of Pope Tawadros were among the other speakers. This peace conference is another example of serious efforts underway in the Muslim world to counter extremism, build closer relationships with Christians, and respect the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority nations.
In recent years, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Prof. Ahmed el-Tayeb, has visited Canterbury, the Vatican, and the World Council of Churches. He and I had a long conversation about the possibility of a visit to the United States. There are many details to work out, but we envision a peace conference here and a gathering of young Christians and Muslims. I believe we must seize such opportunities not only in the midst of hate and intolerance but because our nation is becoming rapidly more diverse. There is no turning back. We must build understanding and foster love among all people.

Following the issuance on Jan. 27 of President Trump’s executive order, the NCC and Church World Service convened a meeting of church leaders in Chicago on Feb. 10 and issued an “Ecumenical Declaration: Protecting Welcome, Restoring Hope” in which we stated that we seek to join our efforts to those of other religious communities striving for the same sacred purposes, and officially declare our strong opposition to the executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.”

On behalf of our joint membership of 38 national member communions constituting more than 30 million Americans, we stand united in our resolve to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God in fellowship with the vulnerable, the outcast, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and all persons in need. As Americans we are a nation of displaced persons.

This executive order drastically reduces refugee admissions, temporarily suspends the entire U.S. resettlement program, ends the resettlement of Syrian refugees, indefinitely bans individuals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan from entering the United States, and preferences religious minorities. We have already witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of this executive order. Refugees who had waited years to be approved for resettlement to the United States, who had sold their belongings and given up their shelter in preparation to finally find safety, had their flights abruptly canceled and hopes of being reunited with their families in the United States dashed.

Subsequently, we became a party to legal efforts to halt implementation of the executive order and we have formed an executive committee along with CWS which includes Sharon Watkins, Darin Moore, and myself. We have also held meetings with ecumenical officers and state ecumenical executives to help build congregational and denominational support for this effort to protect the strangers in our midst.

The NCC is part of the Circle of Protection, a vital grouping that includes the USCCB, the NAE, Sojourners, Bread for the World, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and a number of other organizations. We came together 7 years ago to form a circle of protection around federal anti-poverty initiatives. At this time, the Circle is needed more than ever. On March 29, a number of NCC heads of communions came together around the biblical mandate to protect the poor and most vulnerable. We spoke against the new American Health Care Act making its way through the Congress; and many of the potential budget cuts to vital programs that protect the poor--both domestically and internationally.

We believe the AHCA does not represent the values we are called, as Christians, to hold. In fact, the legislation as currently written contradicts Jesus’ call for us to care for ‘the least of these.’ According to the Congressional Budget Office, 24 million people will lose health coverage because of this bill, and 14 million would be cut from Medicaid, a program that covers the poorest and most vulnerable of our neighbors. The bill would cut $880 billion from Medicaid over ten years, mostly to pay for changes that would benefit high-income people and corporations. (Editor's note: the Congressional Budget Office has updated its projections since this presentation was given to the Governing Board.)

Those Medicaid cuts are of primary concern to us. The bill would reverse the expansion of Medicaid to people just above the poverty line, and for the even poorer people who would still qualify, Medicaid will no longer respond to need (rising health care costs, for example, or the aging of our nation’s population). Federal funding would be capped, so states would, over time, reduce benefits and cover even fewer people.

The Circle of Protection plans to call upon the members of our faith communities and congregations to contact their political representatives to express their Christian convictions, not partisan politics, over these critical matters of public policy. Budgets are moral documents. And all the biblical prophets remind us that how we treat the most marginal and vulnerable among us is the test of a nation’s moral righteousness.

Since we last gathered as a Governing Board, I traveled in mid-January to South Korea for meetings with the US ambassador, Mark Lippert, and church leaders. Subsequently, tensions between North Korea and the United States have risen dramatically. As a result, the General Secretary of the NCC Korea, Rev. Kim Young Ju, and two colleagues came to the US in mid-April to participate in EAD and in meetings we arranged for them at the State Department, on Capitol Hill, and with the Council on Foreign Relations.

The NCCUSA will continue to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula and we remain in close contact with the NCCK and the WCC. We are exploring the possibility of taking a delegation of NCCUSA leaders to both North and South Korea next year. Let us all pray for peace and harmony to reign there.

I thank you again for the opportunity to serve God as your general secretary and president.

Grace and Peace,
Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President

CEC, WCC decry Manchester bombing

The following is a joint press release from the Conference of European Churches and World Council of Churches.

The Conference of European Churches and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, have strongly condemned a bombing in Manchester, United Kingdom, that has left 22 persons dead and another five-dozen wounded. The attack took place at Manchester Stadium, just as thousands of children and young people, along with their parents and many others, were leaving a pop concert.

“It is particularly shocking that this so-called suicide killing was directed against young people, and even children,” he said in a comment.

The attack, reportedly by a suicide bomber, follows a string of such attacks in continental Europe—in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Istanbul, and Nice— and the UK, which in 2005 suffered subway and bus bombings in London and a more recent attack at the Palace of Westminster. 

Manchester attack: ‘Turn from evil and do good’

British Methodist church leaders were among those praying for the families and young victims of the May 22 bombing at a concert site in Manchester, England.

The Rev. Roger Walton, president, and Rachel Lampard, vice president, of the British Methodist Conference, joined others in expressing horror that young people and children were targeted while leaving an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.

The attack by a suicide-bomber has claimed 22 lives so far and injured nearly 60 others. The BBC called it the worst terrorist attack in Britain since the July 7 bombings in London in 2005.

“We give thanks for the emergency services and for the many ordinary people who demonstrated compassion in responding to those caught up in the tragedy,” Walton and Lampard said. “We ask the Methodist people to hold the people of Manchester and beyond in their prayers as we remember the words of Psalm 34, ‘Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.’"

The Rev. Andrew Lunn, chair of the church’s Manchester and Stockport District, and the Rev. Paul Martin, chair of the Bolton and Rochdale District, said that Methodists in the Manchester area “are united with many others in their sense of shock, and in their prayers for all those who have been bereaved, wounded, or traumatized.”

Is sea level rise a hoax? Ask the churches of Norfolk to answer that question.
Franciscans Fight Back Against Immoral and Destructive Budget Proposal

President Donald Trump released the full budget proposal which contains detailed information about major cuts to Medicaid, as well as a call for changes to anti-poverty programs that will limit assistance to populations in need. The Franciscan Action Network will not stand by and accept the unconscionable disregard for human welfare demonstrated in this budget and by this administration.

Despite promises that everyone will still have access to healthcare, the President is proposing massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, the wealthy are receiving major tax breaks. According to the President's budget proposal, not only will Medicaid be cut by over 800 billion dollars, but SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) could see significant reductions and changes to its structure, which would affect roughly 44 million people.

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network stated, "Ultimately, this budget reverses most if not all federal efforts being made to address such social ills as homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, and health care for the poor. Our administration is turning their backs on the populations with the highest need. How is this 'making America great again'? We do not support this mentality nor these budgetary decisions. Our highest calling from God, both as a country and as people of faith, is to care for the poor, marginalized and most vulnerable. Yet the Trump Administration continues to make clear that they do not hold this as a core value."

Episcopal Presiding Bishop, ELCA Presiding Bishop joint statement:
For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy

Video messages by Presiding Bishops examine causes

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy.

The statement, For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy, calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude.

The 21st of each month is targeted because by that time each month, 90% of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits have been used, thereby causing the last week of the month as the hungry week in America.

50 Years Too Long: A CMEP Advocacy Event
June 4-6,2017

June 2017 marks 50 year of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, an occupation which threatens the security of Israel and imposes harsh burdens on the Palestinian people.

Hosted by Churches for Middle East Peace, “50 Years Too Long” is an advocacy summit for American Christians to gather, learn, and advocate for constructive ways to pursue a just and sustainable peace in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

Participants will learn how to advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and put that learning into practice by visiting government representatives to promote a solution that advances security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.

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This week's episode: Don Anderson, Director of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, talks about his work with the Council and their recent efforts to use the curriculum created by the United Church of Christ on dealing with white privilege.

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Ecumenical Opportunities:

Church World Service (CWS) is hiring an Ecumenical Relations Manager: this Immigration and Refugee Program (IRP) congregational and member communion relations representative responsible for coordinating, maintaining and expanding faith community involvement in welcoming refugees. Under the direction of the Associate Director, Community Organizing for IRP+, the incumbent will work with CWS member communions, denomination representatives, and local congregations to engage them in refugee resettlement. They will provide leadership and direction for faith community outreach among CWS refugee resettlement offices and coordinate with the CWS Advocacy team, including refugee organizers and leadership teams.

Church World Service (CWS) is hiring a Media Associate: CWS is seeking a creative and visionary leader to fill the position of Media Associate. The ideal candidate will live and breathe a commitment to immigrants’ rights and a coalition approach to advocacy, and thrive in a creative environment in which no day is the same. This team member will join and be at the intersection of the CWS Advocacy, Communications, and Immigration and Refugee Program staff teams.

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