Subject: NCC Weekly News: Reflecting on a disastrous war, a week of violence

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From Jim: Retrospective on a Disastrous War
In the midst of the awful news of the shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, of Philando Castile near Minneapolis, MN, and of five Dallas police officers, I pause in the midst of a family vacation to reflect briefly on the Chilcot Inquiry, also known as the Iraq Inquiry, a high level British government investigation into Britain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The inquiry amounts to about one million words in twelve volumes. I have not read the report, which is longer than the Bible, but I have followed the news accounts with interest, for in the year preceding the invasion, I was deeply involved in efforts to stop it from taking place.

Just as Iraqi Christians warned an invasion would have dreadful consequences for their community, so too did American Christians. Indeed, Christians around the world cautioned that an attack on Iraq was unnecessary.

No one was defending the horrid regime of Saddam Hussein. Rather, there was general recognition the international weapons inspectors deserved an opportunity to complete their search for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, that Iraqi forces were not massed on the borders or threatening to attack other nations, that international sanctions had weakened the nation of Iraq over the course of many years, and that the government of Iraq, no matter how tyrannical, was not carrying out genocide of its own people.

Over the course of a number of months from the spring of 2002 until the invasion in March of 2003, churches around the world attempted to stave off war. I participated in National Council of Churches peace delegations to the Middle East, to Iraq, and to Germany. We sent church leaders to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pope John Paul II, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Indeed, the only international leader who refused to meet with credible church leaders was US President George W. Bush.

On February 15, 2003, we helped coordinate the largest peace march in human history in which 10 million people in 600 cities around the globe opposed the plans to invade Iraq. However, George Bush and Tony Blair, we now know, had made up their minds months earlier to wage aggressive war against Iraq.

In the aftermath, the Christian population of Iraq, numbering some 600,000 people, was decimated, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, millions were displaced, the entire Middle East was destabilized, and Iran won huge influence over Iraq. A greater calamity could not have occurred if it had been planned. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair were never held accountable for their actions.

Church leaders, such as myself, were repeatedly denounced for our opposition to the war on the grounds we were unpatriotic, that we supported Saddam Hussein, and that we simply didn't know what we were talking about. I learned from this tragedy that the international Christian network of leaders in councils of churches and reputable denominations have extensive knowledge of what is taking place around the world, and are fully capable of making reasoned judgments. Governments would be wise to give heed to the counsel of faith leaders.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Statement regarding Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas killings

“My eyes are spent with weeping;
   my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out on the ground
   because of the destruction of my people,
   because infants and babes faint
   in the streets of the city.”

     —Lamentations 2:11 NRSV

“Please, Lord, you know our rights, Lord. You know we are innocent people, Lord. We are innocent people.”

     — Lavish Reynolds, girlfriend of Philando Castile

The National Council of Churches mourns the recent shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis, MN, and five police officers in Dallas, TX. These killings point to the racial tensions that plague our society and the disturbing disregard for the sacredness of human life, exacerbated by the prevalence of weapons.

We pray for a full recovery of those wounded in Dallas and for the friends and families of those killed in each of these tragic incidents. Words seem inadequate to express the depth of our sorrow and the extent of our concern for the stability and well-being of our country. Our society is in need of a radical transformation, away from suspicion and anger to trust and reconciliation. We are committed to the pursuit of both racial justice and sensible measures to prevent gun violence, and to working to bring about reconciliation among our people.

International Council of Community Churches (ICCC) installs new Executive Minister

At its annual conference in Louisville, KY, the gathered body of ICCC pastors and church leaders installed Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray as its seventh consecutive leader of the Council since its formation in 1950.  Rev. Dr. Murray succeeds Rev. Don Ashmall, who served the Council for five years as its interim executive.

The International Council of Community Churches was formed in 1950 as a merger of two groups of community churches, one African-American and the other Caucasian. The association of independent congregations remains one of the most racially diverse among US Protestant communions, and now has member churches in Africa and Europe as well as in Canada and the US.

The National Council of Churches celebrates the installation of Rev. Dr. Murray and prays for a successful, faithful, and fruitful ministry.
Austin Bowman Creel: Ecumenist

Austin Bowman Creel was born in Alexandria, Virginia in November of 1929. He received a Ph.D. in Ethics from Yale University in 1959 and taught courses on Comparative Religion, New Testament, Religions of Asia, and Religions of India at the University of Florida until 1996.  After retiring he moved to Bethesda, MD, to be closer to his daughter and her family and was an active member of his residential community until his passing on June 29, 2015.

Dr. Creel was among the first generation of religious scholars in the US to focus on the religious traditions of India.  While known for his publications on Hindu ethics, he was the author of Dharma in Hindu Ethics (1977), co-editor of Monastic life in the Christian and Hindu Traditions (1990), and several important articles in this field.

Reflecting his belief that there is nothing more ignoble than to demean, and nothing more noble than to lift up another creature, he was known for seeing and affirming the common traits that join people together. While he did not see himself as a leader, his example inspired many who knew him.  he derived his greatest joys in life from enabling others as and educator, colleague, community volunteer, church member, family member, friend -- and as a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.

As part of his legacy, Dr. Creel bequeathed a part of his estate to the National Council of Churches. We are so very grateful for his gift and his commitment to ecumenism.  Would you consider making a bequest to the NCC?  Please contact Rev. Steven D. Martin to learn more.

Faith leaders seek to bring the city of Dallas together

The emotional wounds from last week’s shootings in Dallas are still fresh for residents as well as for government and spiritual leaders. Since Thursday, faith leaders have prayed and mourned with the community and have begun discussing the best way for the city to heal and to bridge gaps.

“Our hearts are broken, and we feel profound sadness that such violence has come to our city,” said the Rev. Dr. Joe Clifford, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. “This congregation has a long history of responding to the hurts in the city, so when I came in on Sunday morning, there were banners to be signed rejecting hate and violence and supporting our police.”

The 1600-member congregation, Clifford said, gathered for various prayer services in and around Dallas on Friday, participating in a community worship as well as joining in worship with Concord Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly African American congregation.

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This week's guest: Jay Wittmeyer, Church of the Brethren, will speak with us about recent peace efforts in Nigeria and in South Sudan and how these events affect Christians across the region.

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Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) seeks an Assembly Coordinator: The CEC is an ecumenical fellowship of 114 Member Churches, National Councils of Churches, and Organizations in Partnership. CEC’s membership covers Europe in its broad political sense, from Iceland to Armenia, Canary Islands to Siberia. CEC was founded in 1959 having active associates and networks in most European countries. The mission of CEC is to pursue together the path of growing conciliar understanding by helping the European Churches to renew their spiritual life, to strengthen their common witness and service and to promote the unity of the Church and peace in the world.

The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) has an immediate opening for a Program Assistant/Financial Associate. This staff member will have a variety of program responsibilities, including organizing online and offline campaigns, assisting in advocacy with policymakers and helping to coordinate coalition work on U.S. policy toward Colombia and Central America and embargo and travel issues regarding Cuba. This staff member will be responsible for finance-related tasks, including carrying out weekly check writing and deposits, preparing financial reports and working with our bookkeeper and accountant. The staff member will also be responsible for acting as technology liaison with our tech support consultants.

Click here to learn more

UCC Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries: On July 1, The Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ is beginning a search process for a new Executive Minister with the goal of presenting a candidate for election to the UCC Board of Directors at its March 2017 meeting.

Click here to learn more

Wellspring Advisors, a private philanthropic consulting firm, seeks a Senior Program Officer to develop and lead its racial justice initiative, with a focus on criminal justice. The successful candidate will be a seasoned professional with a minimum of 15 years of experience working on criminal justice issues in the United States and their intersection with racial justice, experience working with national and grassroots racial justice organizations, and significant experience collaborating with other funders and/or advocacy organizations on the issues of criminal and racial justice. 

Scarritt-Bennett Center (SBC) is seeking an Executive Director: SBC is an urban, non-profit education and retreat center committed to addressing social justice issues through regional, national and global programming that promotes cultural understanding, eradication of racism, education for and about women and spiritual renewal for all peoples. We seeking an Executive Director to lead our dynamic organization. July 28th is the deadline for receiving applications. For more information on Scarritt Bennett Center and to apply visit:

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) seeks a full-time Communications and Program Associate to work in its Washington, DC office. The individual will split their time between NRCAT, a 501(c)3, and the NRCAT Action Fund, a 501(c)4. Through NRCAT, the individual will also provide assistance to the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. This is a new position and the position will be evaluated after one year. We seek someone who can work independently and as part of a team. The individual will provide critical communications, program and administrative support across NRCAT's program areas.

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