Subject: NCC Weekly News: Special Edition

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From Jim: Dolezal Story Highlights Privilege, Disparities
The report that Rachel Dolezal, president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, falsely claimed to be African American has attracted enormous media attention. When I turned on the TV one recent morning she was being interviewed by Matt Lauer, perhaps the ultimate signal in contemporary America that she was dominating the news cycle.

I wonder if Ms. Dolezal would have been on The Today Show had she tried to pass as white? I suspect not, because in the context of the United States it’s significant news that a white person would claim to be black. You see, a white person in this nation is invested with such enormous privileges simply by virtue of the color of her or his skin that many people cannot imagine why anyone would voluntarily surrender those unearned benefits for any reason.

Among many other things, if you’re white in this country, you can be reasonably sure you won’t be followed around a store while you’re shopping. If you’re white, you can be pretty sure that the police won’t pull you over and the IRS won't audit your taxes. If you’re white, you can most likely find band-aids that match your skin tone, or housing in the neighborhood of your choice. These are just a few of the countless examples of white privilege in the United States.

In this nation it actually costs more to be black. African Americans are, on the average, charged more for cars, health care, housing, and innumerable other items. Not only is it harder for African Americans to get a loan for expensive items, but the interest rate charged to them tends to be higher as well.

Further, it’s more difficult for African Americans to get a job and when they do get one, they are on average paid less than whites. If you’re a white person in the U.S. with cancer, you’re more likely to live longer and receive better treatment.

To top it off, not only do African Americans find it harder to get good prices and good interest rates and good health care and good jobs and good housing and fair treatment, they’re often blamed for not being able to find all these and other things.

The crazy thing is that racism isn’t just harmful to people of color in the U.S., it actually costs everyone money. If people of color were paid equal wages, it would result in hundreds of billions of dollars in additional tax revenue. If people of color had more money to spend, it would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of additional profits for businesses.

We humans are wedded to many irrational notions and practices. After all, a recent study by the RAND Corporation concludes Israelis and Palestinians would be significantly better off if they would make peace. Israel would benefit to the tune of $123 billion over a ten-year period and Palestinians stand to make $50 billion whereas continued violence and conflict will cost Israelis $250 billion and Palestinians $46 billion. Nevertheless, there’s no evident urgency to bring peace.

This is why Paul's assertion is so relevant to the world we live in today: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28 NRSV) What God has done in Christ awaits fulfillment in our human situation.

Whatever the motives of Rachel Dolezal, the enormous blind spot our society has accorded to her story should not be ignored. We remain a racist society. May we who follow Jesus continue in the search for the beloved community.


A Major Victory in the Struggle Against Torture

Tuesday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate took a historic bipartisan vote to end CIA torture. They did this by voting 78-21 for the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). For people of faith this vote expresses a widely-held moral principle that torture is always wrong.

Thanks for all the last minute calls you made to your Senators today.

The language in this amendment would prohibit waterboarding, confinement boxes, sleep deprivation, rectal rehydration, and other unspeakable forms of documented CIA torture. In the floor debate, Senator McCain read from letters he received from both the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The principled stand he and Senator Feinstein took against torture could not have happened without the support of NRCAT and faith leaders from across the political and religious spectrum.
Protestant and Orthodox Communities applaud Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment

Welcome Francis into a Long Line of Faith Leaders and Traditions Who Call for Stewardship of Creation

Washington, D.C. – Standing in solidarity with their Catholic brothers and sisters, the National Council of Churches and Creation Justice Ministries express excitement and hope for Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. Acknowledging that Francis is a holy figure to millions of Americans and over a billion people around the world, this church document has the ability to reframe the debate about environmental protections and climate change away from being political and toward a conversation about moral obligation and right relationship with the Creator.

Pope Francis joins the chorus of religious figures and communions that have spoken out about caring for creation. Previous popes, along with every denomination that make up the National Council of Churches and Creation Justice Ministries, have stated the importance of protecting that which God has created.

"For many years, faith leaders and scientists have been describing the urgent need for action to address climate change,” offered Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. “I am grateful that Pope Francis has added his powerful voice to this cause. God's Creation is at risk and we must all join together to care for the Earth."

“Christians from many denominations and faith traditions have been concerned about environmental degradation and how it is impacting the poor and vulnerable for decades,” stated Tricia Bruckbauer, Program Director for Creation Justice Ministries. “We are hopeful that Pope Francis’s call to care for creation will change hearts and minds and allow us to take strong personal, community, national, and global action to begin to heal the earth and care for those that are being harmed by the effects of climate change, pollution, and environmental carelessness.”

Creation Justice Ministries – formerly a program of the National Council of Churches – represents the creation care policies of 38 national Christian denominations on issues such as environmental justice, climate change, and conservation.
WCC Statement on the centenary of the Armenian genocide

During the centenary year of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, the executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is meeting in this country on 8-13 June 2015, hosted by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, to honour the martyrs and victims of the genocide. We visit the genocide memorial to remember them and to pray in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And we celebrate the life of the Armenian nation and the witness of the Armenian church.

The executive committee recalls the Minute on the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013 in Busan. This important action by the 10th Assembly followed many other occasions on which the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) had called for recognition of the Armenian genocide by the United Nations (UN) and by member states, dating back to the 1979 session of the UN Human Rights Commission. The WCC has played a key role over many years in accompanying the Armenian church in speaking out and working for recognition of the genocide, and for appropriate responses to the genocide’s continuing impacts on the Armenian people.

Spirited discussion between Martin and Winkler ends in agreement regarding next week's newsletter

"Everyone deserves a week off, and I'm exhausted doing this newsletter each week," complained editor Rev. Steven Martin to NCC General Secretary Jim Winkler. Rather than shouting, "You're fired," a phrase presidential candidate Donald Trump once attempted to trademark, Jim gently smiled and nodded his head in agreement.  

After a quick call to Associate General Secretary Tony Kireopoulos to make sure the conversation was in compliance with time-tested NCC dialogue protocols, it was agreed that Martin's complaint should indeed be honored. It was also agreed, however, that this is the last time NCC staff will cave in to any of Martin's requests. 

Therefore, the newsletter will not be published next week but will return the week of June 29.  If you are joining Rev. Martin in his celebration of summer at the beach next week, be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen.

CROSSROADS – The UCCMA 2015 Conference

The UCC Musicians Association will hold its bi-annual conference in the Chicago area from July 12th through the 15th with events at Elmhurst College and First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, and an excursion to Chicago – The City With Big Shoulders.

The conference features an amazing roster of presenters:
  • Rev. John Thomas, keynote speaker
  • Rev. Dr. JoAnne M. Terrell, preacher
  • Rev. Scott Oberle and Jim Molina will also present a seminar
  • on blended worship and Rev. John Thomas will talk about the
  • importance of hymn selections.
For those interested in choral music, Jeff Hunt will be the Conference Choral Director. Mr. Hunt is the Director of the St. Charles Singers, the choir has been conducted many times by Sir John Rutter and most recently by Craig Hella Johnson. Other choral presenters are Dr. Keith Hampton, Emily Ellsworth, Jo Rodenburg, and Robin Restrepo. Some of the workshop topics include conducting techniques, children’s voices and choirs, and a seminar on the mature voice.

Handbell enthusiasts will enjoy the tones of The Agape Ringers led by David L. Weck. The ensemble has an international reputation and will not only perform but present workshops in handbell technique.

Musician, conductor and teacher, David Schrader is equally at home in front of a harpsichord, organ, piano, and pianoforte. He has performed at the American Guild of Organists’ national convention and as a featured artist with symphony orchestras throughout the United States, including Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Colorado. An international performer, Schrader was Artist of the Year at the Oulunsalo Soi Music Festival in
Finland, and has been a soloist under conductor Yuko Mori in a tour of Japan. Schrader will conduct a master class and perform at the conference.

There are also workshops for composers, opportunities to perform, and a boat excursion along the famous Chicago waterfront. Congregations are encouraged to help send their musicians to this exciting church music event. For more details visit:
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
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