Subject: NCC Weekly News: Reclaiming Evangelism

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From Jim: Reclaiming Evangelism
After a year of planning, the “Reclaiming Evangelism: Celebrating Change and Collaboration” conference was held this past weekend in Nashville, Tennessee. A fantastic mix of people was present for rich prayer, presentations, and conversation. 

Nearly a third of the participants were from Canada as the consultation was the result of a partnership between the World Council of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches in the USA. African-American, evangelical, Orthodox, mainline, Anglican, and other traditions were represented.

Rev. Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls got us off to a great start by examining elements of evangelism in the Old Testament. She highlighted the interactions of the Jewish people with those who were considered ‘outsiders’.

Setting aside the many passages in the Old Testament in which Jews either avoided others or sought to exterminate them, Patricia pointed to many instances in which foreigners came to attest to the power of God and to their acceptance of the God of the Jews. Examples include Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, and Naaman, commander of the Aramean army.

They and others become part of God’s people but they do not stop being who they are, ‘outsiders,’ and people of other national and ethnic groups. Their lives are changed and they proclaimed the power of God. I especially appreciated the freshness of looking at the Old Testament as a source of evangelism texts.

A panel focused on “The Good News of God in a World of Poverty, Oppression, Marginalization and Violence.” Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop of Canada and the WCC North American President, noted that part of evangelism is the capacity to see the pain of others. Since the primary pattern of church growth has abandoned the poor and endorsed racism the mainline churches have become the rich man, Lazarus.

As I thought of Mark’s challenging words, I came across the news that while we were in the midst of the evangelism conference some 6,000 people with drug convictions were released early from prisons across the United States due to changes in the law. 900 were freed in Florida alone, most of whom were dropped off at a bus station and given a cash card with a $200 balance. Talk about an opportunity for evangelism!

Other sessions focused on evangelism and children, cultivating evangelizing communities, and shaping evangelism for multi-cultural and multi-faith contexts.

I returned to Washington, DC in time to attend the installation at the National Cathedral of the Most Reverend Michael Curry as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The church was packed as thousands of the faithful were part of a magnificent celebration of the beginning of a new era in the life of the church.

Bishop Curry is known for his emphasis on evangelism, in spite of, as he said, the unlikeliness that ‘evangelism’ and ‘Episcopalianism’ in the same sentence. He proclaimed that the Holy Spirit has done evangelism and racial reconciliation before and is doing so again.

He shared a moving story of his father’s conversion to the Episcopal Church in the late 1940s. One Sunday, his parents attended the church of which his mother was a member. His father remained in the pew when it was time to take communion. He was most curious how his African American fiancé would be treated. When he saw that not only was she offered the same cup as the white congregants but that the white man behind her drank from that same cup, he knew he had found a church he wanted to join.

Evangelism can take many forms. May we share the Good News with others in all the ways we live our lives.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

U.S. Episcopal Church installs its first black presiding bishop

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina was inducted on Sunday as the first black leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church during a ceremony in the nation's capital where he called for economic and racial unity.

Curry, 62, was installed as the presiding bishop of the branch of the 80 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion at the Washington National Cathedral during a morning service.

In an impassioned sermon, Curry called on people of all races, economic classes and beliefs to unite and conquer the world's challenges.

"We are God's children, all of us," he said. "No matter our race, no matter our religion, no matter our class, our stripe, our type, we are God's children."

Curry also exhorted the church, with 2 million members, to strive for a more just society: "We have been sent and called into this world not to settle for what is, but to dream and work for what shall be."

Remarks by Rev. Roy Medley at the Vatican
Governing Board Chair of the National Council of Churches

Sinodo Dei Vescovi
October 16, 2015

To our dear brother in Christ, Pope Francis, and to you our beloved sisters and brothers, I bring you warm greetings from Baptist Christians around the world who pray with you and for you, and especially from Dr. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. Grace to you and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the honor of accompanying you in your reflection on the vocation and mission of the family. I appreciate very much your emphasis on the centrality of scripture and prayer in family life as well as your desire that every Christian family nurture faith in Christ within itself and in others.

As you prepare to speak on the family, I urge you to emphasize the pastoral nature of the ministry which is entrusted to the whole church. "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," says our God. (Matthew 12:7)

Fight Mass Incarceration: Support Criminal Justice Reform

A broad bi-partisan agreement has been reached on criminal justice reform. A bill currently before the Senate (S.2123) reduces mandatory minimum sentences, increases opportunities to earn time credits for early release, adds limits to the use of solitary confinement on juveniles, and creates new reporting requirements to ensure that returning citizens are prepared to contribute to their home communities.

We've created an infographic that helps explain the problem of mass incarceration in simple terms, and how the bill currently before the Senate addresses key aspects of the problem. Download this infographic and share with friends; it's free to use.
Increased Violence in Israel-Palestine: Why Now? What Next?

The past few weeks have seen an upsurge of daily and deadly violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This has included attacks by Palestinians on innocent Israeli citizens, including stabbings with knives or screwdrivers; murder by meat cleaver; the shooting death of a couple in front of their children; stones thrown at cars; and vehicular homicide and assault. Israel’s military response to the violence has included shooting to kill Palestinian assailants (and, in one case, an Israeli Jew suspected of being a terrorist); closing off parts of East Jerusalem; and demolishing the homes of perpetrators. Since the beginning of October some eight Israelis have been killed by Palestinians and 52 Palestinians have been killed. Many daily protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have turned violent, with Palestinians throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and Israel responding with live fire, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have responded to border demonstrations in Gaza, including attempts to breach the wall into Israel, by shooting at demonstrators, killing some. Rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.

Tensions remain high. At times people seem to go mad. Israeli Jews have killed other Israeli jews thinking they were Palestinian terrorists. An Eritrean fleeing the scene of a violent confrontation in Beersheba was himself killed by an angry Israeli mob who thought he was a terrorist.
New book on the ecumenical movement announced

"A Light to the Nations: The Indian Presence in the Ecumenical Movement in the Twentieth Century," a new book on the ecumenical movement, has just been announced. The book, brought out by the World Council of Churches Publications, will be available during the meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta later this month at WCC Publications booth 613.

The contributors in this volume include Wesley Ariarajah (Former Director of WCC Interfaith department and Professor Emeritus of Ecumenical Theology at Drew University), Fr. K. M. George (Orthodox theologian), Preman Niles (Sri Lankan theologian) and Jayakiran Sebastian (Dean, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia). Find out more at the link below.


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