Subject: NCC Weekly News: Organ Donation, Abbeville Remembrance

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From Jim: Life, Death, and Donation
Last week, I participated in and spoke at the “Life, Death, and Donation: Theological and Ethical Considerations” conference in Virginia Beach, VA. LifeNetHealth, a regenerative medicine company, hosted us on their campus. The conference was a realization of a long held vision of Rev. Jonathan Barton, executive director of the Virginia Council of Churches.

Many of the denominations that make up the National Council of Churches support organ and tissue donation. I’m not aware of any that oppose it. I discovered there are 119,000 people currently on the waiting list to receive a transplant. Most people are waiting for a kidney or a liver. There were some 30,000 organ transplants last year of which 24,000 came from deceased donors and 6,000 from the living. 

Surveys indicate 68% of Americans are willing to be donors, but only 33% have signed up. Why do people agree to be donors? Hope and faith. They hope their organs and tissue will help other people and they have faith that doctors know what they’re doing. 

And, of course, as followers of the Jesus, a healer who sacrificed himself for us, we believe in helping others and being sacrificial to assist those in need. When people donate of themselves to give life to others, it is a Eucharistic act. 

One of the most moving stories I heard came from Rev. Jim Sheldon, a heart donor recipient. He spent months waiting for a new heart which eventually came after the tragic death of a young man named Nelson. After Jim's transplant was performed and he returned to health, he established contact with Nelson’s family. They knew Nelson’s heart was still beating and giving life. Jim met Nelson’s family and heard Nelson's story: his girlfriend was driving after both of them had too much alcohol. The family had supported Nelson’s decision to be a donor. Not only did his family choose to not bring a civil suit against his girlfriend for negligence, but they graciously include her in family gatherings because Nelson loved her. 

Jim told us he has come to realize through this turn of events just how big God is and how we are all God’s Creation. We have worth because we are loved by God. He sees and feels God’s presence in every moment of his life. 

It’s crucial for faith leaders not only to be aware of their denomination’s stance on organ and tissue donation but to learn more about medical details and to promote knowledge. The decision to go through with an organ and tissue transplant is huge. One woman told us she had to beg the clergy of her local church to visit her as she was going through the process and felt she had been forgotten. 

Dr. John Kinney, dean of the Proctor School of Theology, reminded us that African Americans have been donating their bodies since they arrived in the Americas so a level of mistrust, not without foundation, exists in their community. 

But Dr. Kinney pointed out that God created our bodies. It is God’s gift to us, and the vessel of our bodies can be the life of God. We see God when we give ourselves so others may have life. Organ donation is an expression of our fidelity to God. In the words of the liturgy, "This is my body broken for you."
I have a new and deeper appreciation for organ and tissue donation and invite you to observe National Donor Sabbath over the November 11-13 weekend.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

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Abbeville lynching memorial rises near Confederate sites

(Editor's note: NCC Associate General Secretary Aundreia Alexander attended this commemoration on October 22.)

In this small South Carolina town near the Georgia line, where some say the Confederacy was born and died, descendants of a man lynched 100 years ago are erecting a downtown memorial to him and other black men killed by white mobs after the Civil War.

Abbeville City Council authorized the marker that will be unveiled Saturday, 100 years and one day after Anthony Crawford was beaten, dragged out of town with a noose around his neck and hanged from a tree where his body was riddled with bullets.

It's the latest public acknowledgment of South Carolina's racist past.

In recent years, officials have apologized to civil rights protesters who were arrested in the 1960s, and a judge ruled that a 14-year-old black boy was wrongly executed in 1944.

Most prominently, following the 2015 massacre of nine blacks in a Charleston church, the Confederate flag was removed at the Statehouse where it had flown for more than 50 years.

"Most of life is generational. Thoughts, attitudes and actions change," said interim Abbeville City Manager David Krumwiede, who serves a town of 5,200 people where about half are white and half are black.

Pilgrims bear witness to racial reconciliation at Georgia lynching site

In an effort to confront racism and heal from it, 175 people made a pilgrimage Saturday, Oct. 22 to Macon and marked where a 1922 lynch mob dumped the body of John “Cockey” Glover.

“Telling the truth is the only path to real healing,” Catherine Meeks told the crowd assembled inside the Douglass Theatre, a historic landmark in Macon established by one of the city’s first African-American entrepreneurs. “People want to say that that the truth will lead to division, but it’s the lies that keep us divided.”

Meeks, a former professor of African-American studies at nearby Mercer University, led the pilgrimage on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community Commission for Dismantling Racism, which she chairs.

The pilgrimage grew out of the commission’s four-year effort to remove barriers to seeing God’s face in everyone. The commission last month hosted Alabama death penalty lawyer and “Just Mercy” author Bryan Stevenson, who drew a packed crowd at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. “When you go to spaces where there has been abuse, trauma and horror, and do something reflective, you can begin to respond to the trauma,” he said.

A Holy Land of My Aspirations

(This is the first of a three-part series of reflections from a recent press tour of Jordan by Communications Director Steven D. Martin.)

From atop Umm Qais, the biblical town of Gadarenes, an amazing landscape unfolds. I had seen all of these places from a different angle when I took my first visit to Galilee, Tiberias, and the Golan Heights in 1998. Then, they were up close, underfoot. This time, I was viewing all these places at once from across the border in Jordan from a different vantage point. Given the importance of the place where I stood to the narratives of Jesus's Galilean ministry, I wondered why I had never stood there before.

Travel is the best way I know for shaking up one's perspectives. I remember my first overseas trip, traveling to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco just before my senior year of high school. It was a particularly uncomfortable experience. Several members of our group were bumped from our flight and were diverted to Algeria, of all places, a nation with which we had no diplomatic relations. After landing in Madrid, I remember watching the entire contents of the 747's luggage bay circulate through baggage claim, my own luggage not among the other suitcases.

But it was a visit to the Toledo Cathedral, shortly after arriving, that awakened something in me. A few months later I would hear my call to ministry, and I'm certain that place led me there. It wasn't the Holy Land per se, but it became part of my spiritual heritage.

Holy Discontentment: Advocacy and Action for Syria

The conflict in Syria and resultant refugee and displacement crisis engender holy discontentment for all who long for peace and safety, not only for ourselves, but for all God’s people. Through this resource on the conflict and its effects, the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, along with other endorsing organizations, hope that we, as Christians can channel their holy discontentment in service of peace in Syria and safe resettlement of those fleeing violence.

Download the document today! It includes a background on the Syrian crisis as well as recommendations for how you and your congregation can take action to help promote an end to the conflict and support aid for the current victims of the crisis.

Behind the Braids: Wendy’s Fast Food Boycott Arrives In New Jersey

“Behind the Braids,” a national boycott campaign against fast food restaurant giant Wendy’s in the name of “fair food” sourcing, is due to arrive in New Jersey on Monday.

Dozens of local high school and college students, religious leaders, and community members are expected to gather for a “lively, colorful picket” at the Wendy’s in Bloomfield at 147 Bloomfield Avenue around 4:30 p.m. to call attention to the consumer boycott of the fast-food giant, according to organizers.

The Bloomfield protest is one of several planned to take place in 20 cities throughout the United States this autumn. So far, “tens of thousands of consumers” have pledged to join the boycott, which was recently endorsed by the National Council of Churches, organizers stated.

Like a good neighbor: The U.S. and Cuba

The United States is not there — at least not in relationship to our close neighbor, Cuba. Thanks to the tenacity of the church in the U.S. committed to God’s justice and love, and to President Obama, our neighborliness is improving incrementally, but we have a long way to go before we get anywhere close to being a good neighbor.

We know the markers of neighborliness from the oft-proclaimed story of the Good Samaritan. A staple of Bible school curricula and an over-used text for seminary preaching class assignments, the parable takes on metaphorical and even mythological meaning in religious culture.

How would a nation be neighborly anyway? Perhaps the same way individuals are portrayed as neighborly in the text — by demonstrating mercy and compassionately sharing what we have with those who have been abused, robbed, neglected and left to perish on the side of the road.

Neighborliness is what I’ve experienced the 20 years I’ve been visiting ministry partners in the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba. During each of my eight visits I have witnessed Cubans sharing, caring, extending a helping hand, laboring together and bearing one another’s burdens. In contrast to the hyper-individualism of our culture, community and national concerns are the focus of conversation and commitments.

Ways United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence

When we hear the tragic news of a shooting, United Methodists mourn with the victims and families of those wounded or killed. We turn to God in prayer, longing for a day when violence will cease.

In addition, many people consider what actions we could take to prevent something similar from happening in the future. So, what can we do?

1. Convene workshops

The Book of Resolutions calls us to bring together “clergy and mental health care professionals … to discuss ways by which The United Methodist Church should respond to this growing tragedy.” In order to be part of the solution, we need to research and understand the specific problems in our community. We need to work together to find creative solutions to stem the tide of violence.

2. Educate the community

We are called upon to teach “gun safety, violence prevention, adult responsibility around gun violence prevention, and the public health impact of gun violence.” We are to equip parents, members, and all in our community with steps they can take to make their homes safe, to lock and store their guns, and to deal with the dangers they may encounter.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2017: Confronting Chaos, Forging Community

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice (EAD) is pleased to announce the theme for its 2017 national gathering, April 21-24, 2017. The theme is titled, "Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism and Militarism." The theme builds open Dr. Martin Luther King's final book and the fiftieth anniversary of his historic, final speech at Riverside Church in New York City.

The gathering marks the 14th annual event where nearly 1,000 Christians come to Washington, DC to learn, network and advocate before Congress on federal policy issues that the ecumenical community is concerned. This year, perhaps more than ever, EAD calls on participants to come and make a loud, faithful witness to a new Congress and a new Administration.

The gathering will again be held at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA -- just across The Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol Building. The event concludes with EAD's Lobby Day where a prepared legislative "Ask" is taken to members of Congress by the gathered participants. "We expect Christian advocates from across the country to attend the gathering," said Douglas Grace, director of EAD. "Registration is now open at, along with the young adult scholarship application process, so plan now to be in Washington next April!"

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