Subject: NCC Weekly News: Politics in the Pulpit, Hurricane Matthew

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From Jim: Politics in the Sanctuary
The media loves conflict and the religious right has faithfully delivered it to them for many years. As we rapidly approach election day, the question of which religious right figures will stick with Donald Trump or reluctantly disavow him consumes whatever media attention is focused on the faith community.

For decades, some prominent religious right figures have been waging a “culture war” in our nation and have named it as such. They lament the demise of a Protestant white, male-dominated culture in which people of color, sexual minorities, and women were silenced and oppressed. Donald Trump is, for now, their standard bearer. Racism, misogyny, and hatred of immigrants and Muslims mark his campaign.

Many of the Christians who are part of the denominational traditions represented in the National Council of Churches, by contrast, are engaged in a biblically-based countercultural ministry. We are feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those who are in prison, and freeing the oppressed. We seek a society that welcomes the stranger, assists those in need, cares for the earth, and re-orients national priorities away from war, violence, and racism.

It is not particularly unusual for social concerns to be addressed in congregations associated with the NCC whether from the pulpit or in Sunday School or other forums. The political and theological views of our church members, while labeled by some as liberal, are actually very diverse, and that diversity is deeply valued.

Few, if any, NCC denominational leaders or clergy have publicly endorsed one of the presidential candidates. In fact, quite often clergy and laity are under the mistaken impression that it is illegal to invite candidates to speak in local churches. A large number of congregations avoid any talk of political matters. After all, there is usually plenty of politicking already taking place over matters such as the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary.

This presidential election season, the wildest in recent times, requires careful study. Rather than tell our members how to vote, the NCC and some of its member communions provide voting principles, and study guides to help them make informed decisions.

As a Christian, I want to believe the direction of our nation, with fits and starts, is toward one of more inclusiveness, acceptance, and justice. But what if I’m wrong? When the dominant culture or race becomes fearful, as is the case at this time, problems result. Perhaps we will choose a more negative direction. Britain has exited the European Union, Colombia has voted to reject a peace agreement, Israel has constructed a wall to keep out Palestinians, Hungary has built a fence to keep out immigrants. There’s no certainty love, grace, and mercy will triumph.

I hope I’m mistaken in my hunch that most our congregations are avoiding discussion of the choice ahead of us next month in order to avoid conflict. I pray our clergy and laity are praying and calmly analyzing the issues and the candidates and preparing to vote so that they can answer this question: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God? (Micah 6:8, NRSV)"

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Download the NCC's Group Study Guide,
"Christian Principles in an Election Year"

Council of Bishops Update – Hurricane Matthew and Haiti

The African Methodist Episcopal Church is deeply saddened by the catastrophic effect of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti, other parts of the Sixteenth District, and the United States. An estimated 1.5 million people have reportedly been affected by the hurricane and thousands are in need of immediate assistance. We have witnessed the loss of lives, devastation of churches, homes, roads, crops, and other infrastructures.

We are also deeply concerned about the health and well-being of the people of Haiti, and others, who once again have faced a natural disaster. Our prayers must include more than the rebuilding of the nation, but also emotional and physical healing of the people, particularly the children and youth.

Through many assessments including communication with local AME leadership, we know that in Haiti: four churches have been destroyed; churches located in the Southern Peninsula have not responded so we do not know their status but fear they have been destroyed; seven churches have incurred serious significant damages; and fifty persons at this point have lost homes and many lost crops.

Common Declaration by Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have said that they are “undeterred” by the “serious obstacles” to full unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

In a Common Declaration, issued in Rome Oct. 5, the two say that the differences “cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions.”

The Common Declaration was made at a service of Vespers in the Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill in Rome, from where, in 595AD, Pope Gregory sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon people. Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury in 597.

During the service, 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from across the world were commissioned by the pope and the archbishop before being “sent out” in mission together. Among the 19 pairings are Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee John Bauerschmidt and Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore Dennis Madden.

Calls grow for nuclear weapons ban

Governments should capitalize on years of growing concern and negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons next year, the World Council of Churches (WCC) said in an inter-religious call at the United Nations on 12 October. Speaking on behalf of Christian, Buddhist and Muslim organizations, Dr Emily Welty urged delegates to “negotiate a legally-binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons”.

A resolution calling for such a treaty next year was introduced at the disarmament committee of the UN General Assembly, the day she spoke. Welty is vice-moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

Nuclear weapons are “incompatible with the values upheld by our respective faith tradition— the right of people to live in dignity; the commands of conscience and justice; the duty to protect the vulnerable and to safeguard the planet for future generations,” the joint statement said.

Nuclear weapons are lethal technologies which have been developed without regard for the public conscience and the rule of law, Welty said. They are “the pinnacle of humanity’s self-destructive potential”.

The inter-faith statement was issued by Pax Christi International, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Soka Gakkai International and other groups as well as the WCC.

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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