Subject: NCC Weekly News: Refusing to Become Numb

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From Jim: We Are Addicted To Guns Today
The awful shooting last week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, the 994th mass shooting in the last 1004 days, followed a familiar pattern. The news flashed across the internet, the shooter killed himself, first responders arrived in masse, grieving families mourned, funerals were held, statements were issued, etc. 

Few local churches dare to address the matter for fear of offending those members who oppose gun control. Soon, very soon, the pattern I described above will repeat itself. 

Will this latest mass shooting prompt legislative action desperately needed to reduce easy access to guns? Few are hopeful it will happen. There’s a sickness in our national soul that is yet to be addressed.

On the day of the Oregon shooting, I was reading Psalm 85. I was comforted by these words: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for God will speak peace to God’s people, to God’s faithful, to those who turn to God in their hearts. Surely God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear God, that God’s glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” 

We seek and work for peace not only in a spiritual sense but in a temporal sense as well. I know that a reduction in gun violence will require sustained mass efforts and pressure. We’ve done this before. We overcame the opposition of the tobacco industry to an acknowledgment that smoking led to cancer, to warnings labels on cigarette packs, to an end to marketing to children and youth, to regulation of tobacco products. It was a long road and, still, too many people die of smoking-related illnesses, but attitudes toward smoking have changed dramatically in my lifetime. 

We were and are fighting against an addiction in terms of tobacco—not only the addiction of users but an addiction of our economy. Much of the US economy was formerly based on tobacco. Slaves were imported to work the plantations. It was widely believed that reducing our emphasis on tobacco production would ruin the nation’s prosperity.

Similarly, we are addicted to guns today. Addicts, we all know, respond when confronted that they don’t have a problem, whether it is with alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. This morning, I watched a television interview with a presidential candidate who said that the U.S. has a mental illness problem that needs to be addressed, but it does not have a problem with guns. Our nation is in denial regarding guns.

I urge you to participate in Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, December 10-14,, and join the interfaith movement underway to change our nation, to seek a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to call for universal background checks.
Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

994 mass shootings in 1,004 days: this is what America's gun crisis looks like

The Oregon school shooting is evidence that the US response to gun violence ‘has become routine’, Barack Obama says. The data compiled by the crowd-sourced site Mass Shooting Tracker reveals an even more shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident – nearly every day.
Three steps your church can take to confront gun violence

Often when people comment about living in New York City, they say something along the lines of, “That’s a dangerous place!” or, “I hope you’re being careful!”

It’s true that Gotham City is the largest city in America, with a population of over 8 million people, about 5 million more than the next largest, Los Angeles. And along with that intensity of population comes a lot of violent crime, including gun violence. Statistics show that almost 1,000 people died as a result of gun violence in New York in 2012.

So with that violent context and another mass shooting still in the headlines this week, it seemed time for the congregation at The Riverside Church to start taking concrete action to make change. It’s not the first time this congregation has acted around this issue, but it’s time to renew concrete efforts; the situation in our country is too dire.
PCUSA Stated Clerk issues letter to Trump on refugees, immigrants

Mr. Trump,

I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II. Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.
ELCA, others decry 'divisive rhetoric' by presidential candidates

In a Sept. 29 letter to the chairs of the Republican and Democratic national committees, more than 45 religious, interfaith, community and advocacy groups and organizations expressed concern regarding the "divisive rhetoric" being used by some candidates campaigning for the U.S. presidency. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is among the signers.

The groups wrote that, while there are candidates who recognize that "we are stronger together" inspiring "Americans to join together to move our nation forward," there are candidates "who seek to divide us." The letter noted the "anti-Muslim rhetoric" in the past week from several presidential candidates.

"This rhetoric is not just ugly, but it is also dangerous, for our country's future as it almost always is followed by an uptick in hate crimes and violence. We also see these statements as a harbinger of what may be; increasing attacks on communities based on faith, ethnicity, or race in order to achieve political gain," they wrote.
Georgia woman’s execution enfolded in prayers

Kelly Renee Gissendaner sang “Amazing Grace” as a lethal injection was administered by the state of Georgia. The 47-year-old was executed at 12:21 a.m., Sept. 29, for her role in the murder of her husband.

Gissendaner, who became a Christian and a theologian while in prison, was surrounded by people of faith – including many United Methodists – who were outside the prison walls praying for her.

“Last night, while a tragic and heartbreaking experience, also showed me the power of the church,” said Brenna Lakeson, a student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. A prayer service was held Sept. 30 at the Wesley Teaching Chapel at the United Methodist-related university.

Lakeson said most of the people who waited hours outside the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson were faith leaders or clergy. Gissendaner’s execution was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., but was delayed as federal and state courts reviewed her pleas for clemency.

Muslims and Christians to mobilize 1 million faith leaders to improve child, maternal health

An interfaith coalition of faith-based organizations has announced it will mobilize one million faith leaders over the next five years to help improve the health of women and children in countries with high child mortality rates.

The Faith Alliance for Health comprises CMMB – Healthier Lives Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, Episcopal Relief & Development, Islamic Relief USA, the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association, and World Vision. The partnership also benefits from a very strong set of committed advisors from the donor, multi-lateral, and consultant communities.

The group’s commitment to build capacity of local faith leadership and networks to promote both behavior change and increase demand for maternal, child and adolescent health services is its significant contribution to the next phase of the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy.

Oprah Winfrey hosts faith and spiritual leaders for special screening of "Belief"

Oprah Winfrey hosted over 100 faith and spiritual leaders for a special advance screening of the upcoming landmark television series “Belief,” which explores faith and spirituality around the world, airing seven consecutive nights October 18-24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The screening and dinner brought together a diverse group of some of the world’s most prominent faith leaders and cultural influencers to preview the “Belief” series, which explores the uniqueness of individual faith traditions and examines the threads of common humanity that bind us together. (left: NCC General Secretary Jim Winkler is pictured with Oprah Winfrey at the September event.)

Author lecture and book signing event with Senator John Danforth October 13th at the National Cathedral

The National Council of Churches will be co-sponsoring an author’s talk with Senator John Danforth at the Washington National Cathedral on October 14. The public is invited. 

The program will begin at 7:00pm with an introduction from the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, Gary Hall. Senator Danforth will talk for about 30-40 minutes and there will be plenty of time for Q&A. Attendees can purchase copies of his book, "The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics," and have them signed by the author. 

Ecumenical Opportunities:

Policy Advocate: Church World Service (CWS) is a not-for-profit organization working to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world. CWS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability or veteran status in employment or in the provision of services. 

Healthy Families, Healthy Planet Project Director: The project director is responsible for setting and implementing the overall mission, vision and goals of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet (HFHP) initiative with the Director of Women’s and Children’s Advocacy at the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). A major function of this position is to recruit, cultivate and mobilize advocates of The United Methodist Church for family planning and maternal health. In addition, the project director will work in coalition with other DC-based organizations to build effective strategy to engage members of Congress. Strong interpersonal, advocacy, writing and project management skills are essential.

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