Subject: NCC Weekly News: Prophets of Peace

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From Jim: Prophets of Peace
Over the years, I’ve attended, been a delegate to, or spoken at more conferences and conventions than I can count. I’ve concluded that a conference is a success if I hear a good speaker, learn of a good book to read, and meet a new friend. One of the first conferences I was part of was the “Theology in the Americas” held in the summer of 1980 at Mercy College in Detroit, Michigan. 

I had just graduated from college with a degree in African history and been accepted into a three-year United Methodist mission program. As part of the orientation, our group was sent to the conference. Although I had grown up as the son of a pastor who preached love, grace, mercy, and justice and who was active in peace and civil rights struggles, I realized that summer how much more I had to learn.

Among the speakers at Mercy College was Ben Chavis, a pastor and one of the “Wilmington Ten” who had been unjustly imprisoned for a decade and electrified the conference with his commitment to justice and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also present was Enrique Alvarez, born of the one of the elite 14 families that ruled El Salvador, but a convert to the cause of the poor and marginalized. When Alvarez was murdered four months later in El Salvador by extreme right-wing forces, it was the first time someone I had personally met had died for his convictions. 

Like Theology in the Americas, many conferences have been formative for me including Ecumenical Advocacy Days and the NCC’s Christian Unity Gatherings. Last week, I participated in the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. The theme was “Look Around: The Cries Will Be Heard.” Among other highlights, William Barber preached, Jasiri X performed, Neichelle Guidry witnessed, and Fania Davis shared her story. 

Among the more poignant moments for me was hearing from Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the youth who was murdered several years ago in Florida, spoke to us on what would have been Jordan’s 21st birthday about Jordan and her efforts to end gun violence. Waltrina Middleton, who lost her cousin, Rev. DePayne Middleton, in the killings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, told us African Americans suffer not from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome but Protracted Traumatic Stress Syndrome. 

Mitri Raheb, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Palestine, reminded us that Christ lived and died under occupation. He said you can’t talk about Jesus without understanding occupation just as you can’t talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. without understanding racism. Mitri declared that Jesus came so that young Palestinians and young African Americans not only might have life, but that they might have abundant life. 

Yvette Flunder critiqued Passivity Producing Apocalyptic Eschatology. She grew up in a church which believed most other people were not saved and whose members tended not to vote or express interest in politics because of a conviction that Jesus was coming at any moment. There were no expectations for this life, only for the next, and this produced resignation.

Further, her church believed the Lord was returning in order to destroy, maim, kill, and blow up all of creation in order to remove sin from the world. How, she asked, can we work for justice, peace, and the healing of creation if we simultaneously preach a gospel that peace is not possible, that any day an angry God will destroy all we hold dear? 

She asked, “Where are the prophets of peace?” and reminded us it takes strength to be a peace prophet. She suggests the important question is not why God lets bad things happen, rather God wants to know why we let terrible things happen. Yvette declared if we work together we can put evil out of business. Hallelujah!

It seems to me that a courageous church full of peace prophets is more aligned with the God we see in Jesus than with other alternatives.  Can we work together to put evil out of business?

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
American Baptists Respond to Water Crisis in Flint

In response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Disaster Relief Office has distributed a $2,500 Emergency Grant from American Baptist Churches USA One Great Hour of Sharing funds to American Baptist Churches of Michigan. The region will forward funds to Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Flint, which is coordinating American Baptist relief efforts in the city.

Both the state and federal governments have declared a state of emergency in the city because its drinking water is contaminated with lead, rendering it unsuitable for drinking, cooking and bathing.

“While there are certainly justice and advocacy dimensions to the crisis in Flint, ABHMS is pleased to make this first installment on behalf of American Baptists in responding to the immediate human need for clean water,” says Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS executive director. “And we urge our American Baptist family to continue your generosity, which makes such gifts possible.

Join us for the Christian Unity Gathering 2016!
May 4-7 at the Doubletree Hotel Baltimore Washington Airport

Fear Not: God's Love in an Anxious Age

Are you planning on attending our annual Christian Unity Gathering this year? This is the signature annual event for the National Council of Churches, and this year it will take place in Baltimore May 4th through 7th. Top national speakers, film screenings, and vibrant worship are all part of the Christian Unity Gathering. Be sure to register now to take advantage of the discounted rate, only available for a short time. You can register and find out more by checking our Facebook page and our website linked below.

At this year's Gathering, we will explore what it means to be a people who show God's love in a time where fear defines the lives of our communities, our political discourse, and our nation. Particular focus will be how we can work against the fear we find in the mass incarceration of and violence against communities of color and hateful actions and speech against our brothers and sisters of other faiths.

Central to our time together will be face to face meetings of our Convening Tables and Governing Board. Register now to get the discounted rate!

Session to Explore Theology Behind Fight Against Racism at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Christians gathering at the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in support of those who are oppressed and marginalized because of racism and classism. We only have to be familiar with the headlines of the past two years to know that these two ills are realities in our society, and on the hearts and minds of candidates and voters alike as we head toward the November election. But what is the theological basis for our message when it comes to fairness and justice? This workshop will analyze the Christian foundations of faith when it comes to affirming the political and economic rights of all, so that when we speak truth to power, we can know why our voice can be more than a whisper in the cacophony of voices seeking to influence policy.

This session will take place on Friday April 15 beginning at 1pm in the Wilson-Harrison Room. The panel will include:
  • Dr. Doug Foster – Professor of Church History, Abilene Christian University
  • Rev. Joyce Shin – Associate Pastor for Congregational Life, 4th Presbyterian Church Chicago, IL
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth James – Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church Rochester, NY
  • Moderator – Dr. Greg Carey – Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

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