Subject: NCC Weekly News: Selma, Craddock, and more

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From Jim: An Obscure Minister and the FBI
In the late 1960s, my father was pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, a medium-sized congregation in Waukegan, Illinois, a working class city 40 miles north of Chicago. He was invited to pray over the Monday night city council meetings and, one night, prayed for an end to the war in Vietnam. This infuriated a variety of people, including the mayor.

One day, the mayor asked Dad to come to his office. Waiting there were two FBI agents who proceeded to inform him they knew all about his activities stretching back to the early 1950s when, as a high school student in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, he had called for integration of the schools and been denounced as a communist.

Many years later, I ran across a book titled, “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been In The FBI Files” and decided to request my father’s file. Lo and behold, some months later I received material from the FBI about him with a letter indicating further information would only be available if he requested it himself. I remember being amazed to learn that an obscure Midwestern minister (no offense, Dad) would warrant investigation by the FBI.

However, I recently read “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI” by Betty Medsger and learned, among many other things, the FBI compiled more than 500,000 domestic intelligence files, kept leaders of the NAACP under nearly constant surveillance for decades, along with many members of Congress, artists, musicians, clergy, professors, and intellectuals. The FBI attempted to convince Martin Luther King to commit suicide and provided Chicago police with the floor plan to the apartment occupied by Fred Hampton in order to facilitate his assassination in 1969. The list goes on and on.

Citizens actively turned in neighbors and co-workers and passed on to the FBI rumors and suspicions. The American Legion entered into a formal agreement with the FBI to use it’s more than 100,000 members to spy on fellow Americans on behalf of the FBI for more than a quarter century. 

It is tempting to think of this as old history, but we know that is not the case. Edward Snowden’s revelations have made us aware once again at how profound and widespread is government snooping into the lives of ordinary people. There remains a predisposition on the part of intelligence agencies to set aside constitutional protections and guarantees to counter perceived threats to the existing order.

Betty Medsger makes clear that the Berrigan brothers and other members of the Catholic peace movement played a profound role in actively opposing the Vietnam War. In many ways, the National Council of Churches moved out ahead of its member communions during that era in order to clear the path for those denominations to follow. 

Let us not forget that Jesus lived under a military dictatorship which utilized informants and spies to crush dissent. He was arrested in a midnight raid by heavily armed soldiers and was subjected to torture and execution as a means of signaling the population there was no hope for freedom and justice. 

The challenge for Christians today is the same as it was during the time of Jesus—to witness to our faith in God and to share the Good News of a coming reign of peace and love.


For Lent: Engaging Poverty Around the World

The words “Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty” are enshrined on the walls of the World Bank building. Although I had seen them before, the meaning and symbolism of this phrase never truly struck me until a few weeks ago when I attended a meeting there. The slogan represents the overarching mission of the Bank—the largest multilateral institution tasked with the job of ending extreme poverty globally.

ELCA members participate in 50th anniversary of Selma-to-Montgomery march

Some members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined civil rights activists, faith leaders and elected officials, including President Barack Obama, in Alabama March 7-8 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march.

Judith Roberts, program director for ELCA Racial Justice Ministries, attended the anniversary events. “My grandfather, CC Bryant, testified before the United States Civil Rights Commission in February 1965. His testimony, along with several others, named the racial discrimination and intimidation experienced by African Americans (who were) trying to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Today, we are still facing voter disenfranchisement through public policies in the form of preserving state’s rights (through) voter identification legislation and the criminal justice system that can temporarily or permanently deny access to the ballot,” she said. 
Esteemed Preacher and Professor Fred Craddock dead at 86

Dr. Rev. Fred Craddock, noted teacher and author on preaching who influenced a generation of United Methodist pastors during his time at the Candler School of Theology died earlier Sunday. Julie Jabaley, Executive Director of the Craddock Center confirmed that Craddock passed yesterday. While the specific cause of death is undetermined, Jabaley noted that Craddock had been struggling with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and that it is believed that his death is connected to that illness.

Craddock served as the Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching during his time at Candler, and continued to serve as an emeritus professor in retirement. Dr. Thomas G. Long, who currently holds Craddock’s former position, said that Craddock’s role in affecting preaching in America is immense.
WCC Mourns the Loss of Ninan Koshy

The World Council of Churches mourns the loss of Prof. Dr Ninan Koshy who passed away unexpectedly in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India on 4 March, shortly after his 81st birthday. Prof. Koshy joined the WCC staff as Executive Secretary of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) in July 1974 and served as its Director from 1981 to 1991. He has left an indelible mark on the WCC and the wider ecumenical movement with his incisive analyses of global issues and his theological insights on the churches’ responsibility to witness for truth, justice and peace in a deeply troubled world.
Date Set for Memorial Service of Ecumenical Leader Syngman Rhee 

Monday, March 23rd, 1:00pm 

Watts Chapel (overflow with video feed in Lake Chapel)
Union Presbyterian Seminary
2401 Brook Rd.
Richmond, VA 23227

The service is to be followed by a luncheon catered by Union Presbyterian Seminary and Korean Presbyterian Women. This is an open event so everyone is welcome to come.
Registration open for 2015 Christian Unity Gathering!

The 2015 NCC's signature event, the annual Christian Unity Gathering, will again be held outside of Washington, DC at the Hilton Washington Dulles International Airport. This year's gathering will continue our focus on Mass Incarceration as well as spend significant time examining NCC's second priority area, Interfaith Relations with a Focus on Peace. In addition, there will be a special service of commemoration for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide held at the Washington National Cathedral. This service will include visitors from around the world and from many levels of government as well.

Thursday's keynote address will be given by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. During the Liberian civil war, Gbowee organized Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Gbowee's part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This will be a powerful event you will not want to miss!
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