Subject: NCC Weekly News: Slave Patrols and Gun Violence

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From Jim: Slave Patrols & Gun Violence (part 1 of 2)
As mass shootings continue to take place across the nation and more than 30,000 people per year perish from gun violence, President Obama has taken executive action to improve background checks, enforcement of gun laws, increase mental health treatment, and conduct or sponsor research into gun safety. 

I am grateful for what he has done. For a number of years, I served as chair of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of more than 50 denominations and faith organizations dedicated to strengthening background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime. 

I am firmly of the belief that the prevalence of gun violence is contrary to God’s teaching. Something must be done about it and the NCC has long stood for action to make our society safer. No society can call itself civilized when weapons are as pervasive as they are in the United States.

I am familiar with the dictum, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” I agree, and I suspect people would kill fewer people if guns weren’t so widely available. It’s simply more difficult to kill someone in a fit of rage with your fists or a baseball bat or a knife. And it’s a lot harder to commit mass murder in a church or a school or a mental health facility if you don’t have access to assault weapons and automatic pistols.

On the day I am writing this, January 19, 2016, my local paper carried a story about a man who claimed self-defense in the death of his friend. On the night of December 20, 2015, Frank invited Mario over to his home so their families could socialize. Too much alcohol was consumed and an argument resulted. Frank shot and killed Mario. Police wonder why Frank didn’t call them. 

Meanwhile, the paper reports that three concertgoers were shot and wounded when a fight broke out as the show was ending. In another story, we learn that in excess of 30 shots were fired in an exchange between two groups. Although two vehicles, an apartment building and a townhouse were struck, by the grace of God no one was wounded or killed. 

Stories like this are in my paper every day. There are too many guns in people’s hands. What has brought us to this point? I believe we must look back to our origins as a nation when we attempt to get to the root of the matter. Any country constructed on the backs of slaves on land stolen from its native peoples is by definition a violent nation. To get past this legacy, the United States not only requires common sense measures to reduce gun violence such as those enacted by President Obama but it requires a reckoning with the demons of racism that plague us.

Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary

Presiding Bishop and Primate speaks on actions at Primates Meeting

A word from Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church

Before I say a word about our gathering here at the Primates Meeting, I just want to say a word of thank you to you for all of your prayers: your prayers for this meeting, your prayers for me personally, both here and in my earlier sickness. We are well, and God is God, and I thank you.

Let me say a word about the meeting.

This is not the outcome we expected, and while we are disappointed, it’s important to remember that the Anglican Communion is really not a matter of structure and organization. The Anglican Communion is a network of relationships that have been built on mission partnerships; relationships that are grounded in a common faith; relationships in companion diocese relationships; relationships with parish to parish across the world; relationships that are profoundly committed to serving and following the way of Jesus of Nazareth by helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever. That’s what the Anglican Communion is, and that Communion continues and moves forward.

WCC leaders express concern over situation on the Korean peninsula

Following the recent nuclear test conducted by North Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is calling on all parties involved in the current situation on the Korean peninsula – especially South Korea, North Korea, the USA, Japan and China – to “invest in initiatives to reduce tensions, to promote dialogue and to encourage negotiations for an end to the suspended state of war, and for peaceful co-existence on the Korean peninsula, rather than measures that increase the risk of catastrophic conflict“, according to WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

“As a global fellowship of churches committed to a pilgrimage of justice and peace, we seek hope-inspiring alternatives to the deadly cycle of provocation and military confrontation,” he stressed.

For more than 30 years the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been engaged in opening doors for encounter and dialogue between North and South Koreans, and in promoting international ecumenical accompaniment of this relationship. The WCC’s 10th Assembly – held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013 – affirmed that “It is our prayer that the vision and dream of all Koreans, their common aspiration for healing, reconciliation, peace and reunification may be fulfilled.” But, as described by Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), “more than 70 years after the division of the peninsula, Korean people continue to be separated by the most highly militarized confrontation in the world. The vision and dream of peace is threatened by any and all measures that heighten rather than reduce tensions in this dangerous situation.”

WCC general secretary Tveit observed, “The WCC also has a long history of principled opposition to nuclear arms, and supports the recent ‘humanitarian initiative’ towards a global legal ban on such unconscionable weapons of mass destruction.”

Advocates urge president to remember promise to close Guantanamo Bay

Advocates who want to do away with the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, see this year as their last chance to hold the President Barack Obama accountable to his pledge to close the prison and release any prisoners who are unjustly detained. United Church of Christ leaders and their partners in faith, marching Monday, Jan. 11, in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., reminded the president of that promise as part of a series of nationwide vigils calling for the closure of the prison.

"It's important for people of faith to oppose torture because it is an abuse of human rights and a desecration of the sacred in all of us," said Derek Duncan, UCC associate for global advocacy and education who attended the Cleveland rally. "As citizens it's important to hold our nation accountable and say torture is illegal and un-American. Guantanamo remains the base and symbol for U.S.-sponsored torture and it's time for Obama to keep his promise and close it."
Church of the Brethren board announces conclusion of Stanley J. Noffsinger’s service as general secretary, appoints Dale Minnich as interim general secretary

The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has reached agreement with Stanley J. Noffsinger that he will conclude his service as general secretary on Friday, Feb. 12.

Dale Minnich began as interim general secretary on a one-quarter-time basis on Jan. 12, and transitions to three-quarter-time upon Noffsinger’s departure. Minnich will serve until a new general secretary is in place, or until another mutually agreed upon time.

During the March 13-16, 2015, meeting in Lancaster, Pa., the board and Noffsinger had decided that Noffsinger’s service would not continue beyond his current contract, which ends June 30, 2016. Noffsinger has served nearly 13 years in the position. At the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla., in July 2015, Noffsinger was recognized and thanked for his service before the delegate body.

“We have reached the stage now,” said Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee, “where we think it is mutually beneficial for Stan and the board to move to an interim leader. This step frees Stan to actively pursue next steps in his journey, while also enabling the board to more fully enter into a time of transition. We remain grateful for the servant leadership Stan has provided for the church.”
Minnich, of Moundridge, Kan., served nearly 20 years on the denomination’s staff, and chaired the Mission and Ministry Board from 2009-11, during a key transitional time in the formation of the current board configuration. The Strategic Plan currently guiding the board’s work was created during Minnich’s tenure as chair. He has remained close to denominational ministries, serving as a volunteer consultant for interpretation for the Haiti Medical Project.

“We believe Dale brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the interim position and will be a tremendous asset in this role,” said Fitzkee.

The Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination committed to continuing the work of Jesus peacefully and simply, and to living out its faith in community. It is based in the Anabaptist and Pietist faith traditions and is one of the Historic Peace Churches. It celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2008. It counts some 120,000 members across the United States and Puerto Rico, with sister churches and missions in Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Haiti, India, Spain.
Entry period opens for 2016 Wilbur Awards
Religion Communicators Council to accept submissions until Feb. 5.

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) is accepting entries for the 2016 Wilbur Awards. Secular communicators have until Feb. 5, 2016 to submit work produced during 2015 for consideration in one of the oldest recognition programs in religion communication.

The council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. They honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious issues, positive values and themes.

Winners in 2015 represented Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins publishing; CBS Television News; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; WATE-TV, Knoxville, Tennessee; Religion News Service; The Huffington Post and WLRN-Miami Herald News as well as motion picture producers, bloggers, and book authors.

The 2016 awards will be presented April 2 in New York City, during the council’s national convention. Winners receive a handcrafted stained-glass trophy and national recognition for their work.

Secular communicators may enter work in seven categories. Juries of media professionals coordinated by Religion Communication Council members across the country evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values.

The presentation of the awards will include a special Wilbur Award given to The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, former head the National Council of Churches and former Director of Religion at the historic Chautauqua Institution. The honor will recognize Campbell’s over 30 years of public and behind-the-scenes work in all forms of media.

The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations and longtime council leader. For more information on the Wilbur competition or entry details, go to the Wilbur Awards page on the RCC website.

About the Religion Communicators Council

The Religion Communicators Council is an interfaith association of more than 400 religion communicators working in print and electronic communication, advertising, and public relations. Members represent Bahá’í, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faith communities. Founded in 1929, the council is the oldest public relations professional association in the United States.

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