Subject: NCC Weekly News: The Church and Truth-Telling

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From Jim:
A World Council of Churches delegation led by the Moderator, Dr. Agnes Aboum, and the General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Olave Fykse Tveit, has just completed a two week long Racial Justice Pilgrimage to the United States. The NCC assisted in the organizing of the pilgrimage and accompanied the WCC on their journey through Washington, DC, Charleston, SC, Ferguson, MO, and Chicago, IL.

Delegation members were deeply troubled by the pervasiveness and depth of racism in our nation and the present climate of hostility to immigrants, Islamophobia, and racially charged rhetoric in the presidential campaign. I have little doubt their final report will be difficult for many Americans to read, but it is essential, at times, for Christian sisters and brothers from other parts of the world to hold a mirror to us. That is part of what it means to be connected through faith to believers throughout God’s Creation.

In Ferguson, young people indicted the church and church leaders at all levels for failing to stand with them in protest against systemic racism that manifests itself in all facets of life. One of the delegation members reported that people are tired of initiatives and dialogues and said that it may be time that we take positions that will make people want to throw us off the cliff (see Luke 4:29) and that we must change our methodologies to stand more effectively alongside people who have no recourse.

We were reminded that Christians outside the United States pray that churches here will use our influence in the midst of our democratic system of government to fight for justice and peace. Doing so provides hope to them as well.

The delegation attended Wednesday night Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston—the same Bible study at which nine church members were martyred a year ago. The pilgrimage included a visit to Ferguson, MO, to the site of the murder of Michael Brown two years ago, and they toured the South Side of Chicago to become better aware of the realities in one of the most segregated cities in the nation.

The good news is that a great deal of anti-racism work takes place in and among churches in the United States, but it sometimes feels as if it is but a drop in the bucket compared to the racism embedded in a land stolen from its native peoples and built on the backs of slaves.

It is time for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States. Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, and other nations have followed this course to name the ugly truths and histories they have experienced and to initiate a process of healing.

In the United States, among other things, we must account for our history of racism and of covert and overt military operations that have resulted in the deaths of millions and millions of people. There will be great resistance to this process in a land where nearly every politician worships at the altar of American exceptionalism, but if the Church of Jesus Christ cannot help the nation account for its sins and ask for redemption, what is it good for?

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence: The Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and the Holy Land: A Statement

1. We have come together in this unique first-time large scale Summit for Christian churches and church-related organizations from the USA and the Holy Land following the example and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ on peacemaking, the dignity owed to all created in God’s image and kindling the hope that some day there will be a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.

2. 2017 will mark 50 years since the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. In the Bible, the 50th year is a year of jubilee when land is given back to its original owners, a year of freedom forgiveness and mercy.

3. Also significant is that we are meeting in Atlanta- the birthplace of Civil Rights Movement leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose prophetic ministry challenged officially sanctioned racial segregation in the US, while working towards greater justice and freedom for African Americans through nonviolence. We continue to be inspired by his dream in spite of all the challenges and adversities.

Churches of the Holy Land attend summit in the United States

Leaders from churches in the Holy Land met with the heads of faith-based organizations and churches in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) on 19-20 April for a summit that explored the role of US churches in peacemaking in the Middle East.

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit helped to open the summit with words about a pilgrimage of justice and peace, saying that churches have a new opportunity to look into the future together with hope. “With a change of heart in the US, there will be a drive to change in the Holy Land,” he said.

Participants discussed topics such as the role of pilgrimages in peace-building and investing in Palestine. They then compiled “The Atlanta Church Summit Document,” which outlined recommendations made by subcommittees that met during the two-day event.

Former US President Jimmy Carter offered recommendations and a closing address. Carter emphasized that his personal commitment to justice and peace for Israel and Palestine has steadfastly remained for many years. The summit, Carter and other participants agreed, was a unique gathering because church leaders from the US and the Holy Land met to share their commitment to peace in the Holy Land.

UCC leaders high on interfaith relationships and democracy with Egyptian community

Leaders of the United Church of Christ recently concluded four days of diplomacy discussions in Cairo with representatives of government, communities of faith and the civil sector from both the United States and Egypt. The Rev. James Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries, and the Rev. Mike Neuroth, UCC international policy advocate, participated in the historic conversation that sought to bridge cultural gaps between the countries and to focus on democracy and stability in Egypt and the Middle East.

Among the emerging components that would help bridge the cultures of the U.S. and Egypt is the essence of interfaith dialogue. Moos and Neuroth signaled the group participants echoed that idea, as did some top scholars of Islamic thought that the group met with during the trip.

"We brought to the conversation a long history of positive engagement with our Egyptian partners, a shared commitment to peace and justice in Egypt and in the region, and a theological voice that is committed to interfaith dialogue and good relations with our Muslim brothers and sisters," said Moos, who is also co-executive of Global Ministries, the shared global witness of the UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

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ELCA and the Ecuador Earthquake

On April 16th, a massive 7.8 earthquake hit Northern Ecuador at 6:58 PM local time. The worst damage was reported in the village of Pedernales, population 55,000, which was declared a “disaster zone”. Access has been limited due to damages to infrastructure. Authorities report 525 dead (85 per cent in the province of Manabí), 4,605 injured, and 23,506 in temporary shelters. Also, many buildings and roads have been destroyed or damaged. In response, eight shelters have been established: three in Esmeraldas, three in Babahoyo, two in Guayas, one in Santo Domingo, one in Portoviejo and one in Quito. According to UNICEF, preliminary government reports state that the earthquake damaged 119 schools, affecting 88,000 children. Some 805 buildings have been destroyed and 608 have been damaged. Two hospitals have entirely collapsed in Portoviejo and Chone.

Rosa Matamoros, of the ACT Alliance, says “Authorities of the official disaster response system Secretary of Risk Management is taking urgent and extreme measures in order to reduce the aftermath consequences related to troubles with corpse management and other health risks.” Our partners on the ground are already determined a preliminary response, including but not limited to:
  • Food Aid and Nutrition
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Psychosocial Community Based Services (based on needs)
  • Training for Local Response Management Participants
Working with our trusted partners, Lutheran Disaster Response will help those in need, especially those living in smaller cities and regions that are vulnerable and in need of immediate assistance. Lutheran Disaster Response is continuing to gather information from affected areas and has started to establish coordination with the government and other relief agencies.

Banners to Oppose Anti-Muslim Bigotry

To counter anti-Muslim bigotry, Interfaith Action for Human Rights joins with Shoulder to Shoulder and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Justice to call on U.S. religious communities to display banners signaling their support for the Muslim American community. 

The campaign follows in the tradition of similar banner campaigns, such as Save Darfur, Stand with Israel and Black Lives Matter. It aims to demonstrate that faith communities stand together with the Muslim American community.

There are three banner options:
  • Honor God: Say No to anti-Muslim Bigotry
  • We Stand with our Muslim neighbors
  • [Organization Name] stands with Muslim Americans
Banners come in two sizes: 2’ x 6’ - $140 or 3’ x 9’ - $200. 

Banners are weatherproof vinyl and have mounting grommets for easy hanging or posting. Price includes UPS Ground shipping and handling. Allow 14 days for delivery. Sorry, No PO Boxes Allowed.

Job Opportunities:

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) seeks an Executive Director to lead the organization. IWJ has been a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the United States since 1996. IWJ educates, organizes and mobilizes people of faith, workers and advocates in support of economic justice and worker rights at the local, state and national levels.

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