Subject: NCC Weekly News: Refugees, Standing Rock, Modern Slavery

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From Jim: We were once immigrants and refugees too
When I was a teenager, my local church helped resettle a refugee family from Vietnam and another one from Chile. One was fleeing communism, the other fascism. We didn’t care. We just wanted to help them get on with their lives. Neither family joined our church. We didn’t care. Our biblical mandate was to welcome the sojourner because we were once immigrants and refugees, too. That same church collected clothing, money, and blankets for European refugees in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Now, President Trump has issued executive orders, currently halted by the federal courts, to place a 90-day ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and an explicit ban on Syrian refugees. Further, the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. has been reduced from 110,000 per year to 50,000.

Many people have been stopped from entering the United States, including the former prime minister of Norway, who was stopped and harassed as he entered the U.S. Additionally, immigrants in the U.S. are being rounded up in raids across the country.

Therefore, last week the National Council of Churches and Church World Service held an emergency gathering in Chicago called “Protecting Welcome, Restoring Hope.” I am grateful to CWS President John McCullough and his staff for organizing the consultation.

More than half of the member communions of the NCC gathered on short notice to consider the situation. Church World Service has resettled hundreds of thousands of refugees since the end of World War II. Today, there are about 66 million displaced people in the world, 22 million of which are refugees. More than half of all displaced people right now are from Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria.

The United States accepts a tiny portion of the world’s refugees. In fact, less than one-half of one percent of all the world's refugees are ever resettled anywhere. The typical refugee who comes into our country has spent 21 years in a camp, often operated by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

In other words, people end up in refugee camps with no connection to the United States. The idea they are seeking entrance to our country to do us harm does not comport with reality. An exhaustive process takes place to determine whether a refugee faces the possibility of persecution if they returned home.

Eighteen different US government agencies look at biometric and biographical information of each refugee. This information is checked against domestic and international databases. Then comes medical screening. Any change in a refugee’s status—a new baby, a new phone number, etc.—requires that person to be checked out all over again.

Once a refugee arrives in the United States, they are met by one of nine resettlement agencies. Another security check takes place once they are here, as does further medical screening. The resettlement agency has a home ready for them. 80% of refugees to the US get a job within 180 days. Children are enrolled in school right away. Families are helped to apply for Social Security cards and cash assistance.

Early self-sufficiency is the goal. Imagine having been in a refugee camp in Somalia for 21 years and then being expected to settle in the US and begin working right away! It happens. Over and over. This is the process church people have helped make happen for decades. Let’s work together to make sure we can keep doing this generous ministry.

Yours in Christ,
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Archbishop of Canterbury and Ecumenical Patriarch commit to tackling modern slavery

The Archbishop of Canterbury and His All-Holiness Bartholomew of Constantinople have pledged to fight modern slavery in its various forms. Signing a joint declaration condemning modern slavery at a forum in Istanbul, they vowed to :
  • Condemn all forms of human enslavement
  • Commend the efforts of the international community
  • Pray for all victims
  • Repent for not doing enough to curb modern day slavery
  • Appeal to governments to implement strict modern day slavery laws
  • Urge members of the Orthodox Church and Church of England to become educated, raise awareness and take action
  • Commit to establish a joint task force for modern day slavery, looking at ways for how the Orthodox Church and the Church of England can work together
Reflecting on the title of the forum, “Sins Before our Eyes” Archbishop Justin said: “Slavery is all around us, but we are too blind to see it. The enslaved are next to us in the streets, but we are too ignorant to walk alongside them. It is still a living reality in all of our communities; our sin lies in blindness and ignorance” he said.

“The tragedy of slavery is that it is a human condition of our own making,” the Archbishop added. “It is driven by human greed and those that would make a profit from excessively cheap labour. Slavery is one of the most profitable international criminal industries. It feeds on human vulnerability. The majority of those who find themselves enslaved come from marginalised and impoverished communities.”

WJUMC Bishops send letter to President Trump in support of Standing Rock Sioux Nation

We, the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, write to express our support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all who bear peaceful witness to its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. As bishops, we provide spiritual leadership to more than 300,000 United Methodists in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Guam. Our churches are built on traditional lands of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and other people indigenous to the Pacific Islands.

We stand alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Nation now to affirm its right as a sovereign nation and reject the wrongful termination of the environmental impact statement process. We recognize that the abundance that many of us enjoy has come at the expense of the original inhabitants and caretakers of these lands, and we recognize that we have a moral obligation to seek just and healing relationships with their descendants. We are working within our own communities to build relationships of mutuality and respect with local tribes.

United Methodist teaching supports Native American access to and protection of sacred sites and public lands for ceremonial purposes. We affirm the rights of Native Americans to preserve culture, lands, religious expression, and sacred spaces (2016 Book of Resolutions, #3321 Native People and The United Methodist Church).

PC(USA) leaders issue apology to Native Americans, Alaska natives, and native Hawaiians

Some of the historic wrongs done by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) against America’s native peoples are being made right this week as top leaders of the denomination issue a formal apology for harms inflicted.

The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and the Reverend Gradye Parsons, former Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, traveled to the northernmost city in the United States—Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska—to apologize to Native Americans, Alaska natives, and native Hawaiians.

The apology comes as the result of action by the 222nd General Assembly (2016), which directs “that the PC(USA) and its members apologize to United States citizens of Native American ancestry, both those within and beyond our denomination. We offer this apology especially to those who were and are part of ‘stolen generations’ during the Indian-assimilation movement, namely former students of Indian boarding schools, their families, and their communities”

15 Christian churches and organizations call for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, and Global Ministries are among 15 Christian organizations that sent a briefing paper to all members of Congress and to the Trump Administration this morning, calling for U.S. policies that promote peace, justice, and equality between Israelis and Palestinians.

The paper states, “2017 marks 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza and 24 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Over the last 50 years, but particularly since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, there have been significant changes on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories that have a negative impact on efforts to achieve peace with justice.”

Citing changes including the amount of West Bank land now controlled by Israeli settlements, the increased number of settlers, and the demolition of Palestinians homes, the paper states, “These changes, among others, have caused analysts, scholars, diplomats, and politicians to assert that the window of opportunity for a viable two-state solution is closing or may have closed. As that reexamination is occurring, the underlying need for equality of rights remains.”

WCC general secretary speaks on religion and discrimination

Is religion discriminating? Does there exist discrimination within and by different religions? World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit explored these questions with fellow panelists during a conference at a cultural center in Trondheim, Norway on 14 February.

“Discrimination is all about justice, and justice must be expressed in rights," said Tveit. “Rights belong to structures of accountability; universal human rights are what the national states should implement in their legislation and systems of justice. Rights are defined in international conventions and agreements.”

When we connect these definitions with religion, we add many dimensions to the discussion, he continued. “Particularly we add basic questions to the dimension of accountability: What does it mean that we are accountable to God when we discuss religion and discrimination? My answer is, it means a lot, what we mean by moral accountability and even legal accountability.”

Tveit spoke about religion and discrimination as it relates to the WCC’s current pilgrimage of justice and peace.

Archbishop Mouneer criticises US immigration restrictions

Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, has described President Trump’s decision to restrict entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations as a “naive” solution based on “generalisation and discrimination.” He also criticised the decision to prioritise the refugee applications of Christians in the Middle East: “I was very sad to hear about President Trump’s decision, and fear it will not contribute to the security of the United States in any way. I appreciate the right of the government to protect the nation from terrorism, but this will not happen by preventing Muslims from coming to the country. The Oklahoma City bombing, we recall, was conducted by an American, not a Muslim.”

Archbishop Mouneer argued that the risk of terrorism should be dealt with by the security agencies on an individual basis and in cooperation with other nations and said the decision would result in innocent people being barred entry, and refugees suffering greatly:

“Under so much pressure in their home countries, refugees need a refuge. Much poorer nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have been accommodating the thousands that the United States is turning away. This decision is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, which requires us to welcome the stranger and treat him well. Jesus Christ, we must remember, was once a refugee in Egypt.”

The Archbishop also said the decision to give priority to Christian refugee applications was unhelpful: “Deep in my heart I do not want to see Christians leaving the place where Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified. The Middle East will not be the Middle East without Middle Eastern Christians. It will change, and in more than just demographics. The beautiful mosaic will suffer, as will the church’s witness to Christ’s love among all the peoples of the region.”

NCC Mourns the Loss of Thelma Chambers-Young, PhD

“Thelma moved through this world with wisdom and grace – pastor, mentor, friend. A generous spirit – a champion for justice and unity in the human community. We will miss her here even as we give thanks for her full experience now of God’s eternal love and keeping.” 

      -Sharon Watkins, NCC Governing Board Chair

Rev. Chambers-Young served as president of the Progressive National Baptist Women's organization; was Vice President of the NCC, and participated in an NCC Women's delegation to Israel/Palestine. Was a delegate to World Council of Churches' 9th General Assembly. She was deeply committed to issues related to the women and vulnerable communities.

Reverend Chambers-Young received the Human Rights Award in 2015 from the Garfield County Church Women United, earned her Masters in Public Health at the University of Oklahoma in 1978 and her Ph. D. in Counseling Psychology from Oklahoma State University in 1997.  Thelma is survived by her husband George Young, their two children and three grandsons.
NCCP: Restoring the Death Penalty is Missing the Point

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) re-iterates its strong objection to death penalty. No person is beyond God’s redemptive love. This was NCCP’s stand conveyed to the Constitutional Commission which framed the 1986 Constitution. At its 14th General Convention in November 21-24, 1989, the NCCP opposed the death penalty on the following grounds: a) it violates the right to life and is an ultimate, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment; b) its imposition and infliction is brutalizing to all who are involved in the process; c) it is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent; and, d) it is unnecessary in an enlightened penal policy which emphasizes the rehabilitation of offenders rather than retribution.

The same Convention said “the imposition of death penalty misses the point in leading our country towards a more democratic life. The rise in crime and insurgency cannot be abated by the restoration of the death penalty because the measure does nothing to address the very reason why Filipinos are driven to criminality (and insurgency). It is poverty and inequality that must be addressed by government and all responsible sectors if violence must be lessened. Another point is that the example set by so many of our leaders is one of graft, corruption and incompetence. Citizens no longer have respect for those who create and preserve the law. This breakdown . . . leads some to justify their violent actions.”

We're Hiring! Operations Manager and Executive Assistant

The Operations Manager and Executive Assistant is responsible for providing administrative and organizational support to the General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and overseeing all office management, computer networks and systems, office equipment, contracts administration, and human resources administration. This position will be located in the NCC’s Washington D.C. offices and is non-exempt and non-bargaining unit.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the position of Chief Legal Officer, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. The Chief Legal Officer will be responsible for assuring the reliable and timely provision of high quality legal advice and services to the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Executive Office of the General Convention, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and Executive Council. The Chief Legal Officer reports to, and is accountable to, the Presiding Bishop and will serve as a senior member of the Presiding Bishop’s leadership team. Candidates must be a member of, or have the ability to become a member of, the New York bar within 18 months of hire.

The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the position of Director of Human Resources, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. The Director of Human Resources position is based at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City and is a full-time position. The Director of Human Resources reports to the Chief Operating Officer and will be responsible for providing organizational development strategies and direct human resources management to partner and support the mission and ministry goals of the Episcopal Church; managing every aspect of employment needs; overseeing the talent acquisition process and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and in-house regulatory requirements and procedures; and benefits administration.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is hiring a Communications Associate: the Communications Associate assists the Director of Communications in implementing the strategic communications program of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, working to convey the importance of religious liberty for all people and the separation of church and state.

Religions for Peace USA is hiring an Executive Director: Religions for Peace USA envisions a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice. Religions for Peace USA's mission is to inspire and advance common actions for peace through multireligious cooperation among our nation's religious communities. Religions for Peace USA seeks an Executive Director to be the organization's primary organizer and administrator, working to coordinate a bold, shared witness for peace and justice among our member religious communities and to provide a moral compass in the religiously pluralistic context of the United States of today and the future.

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