Subject: NCC Weekly News: The New Ecumenical Norm, Evangelism Webinar

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From Jim: The New Normal
As the end of summer draws near, we also conclude the annual busy period of church conventions, synods, conferences, and assemblies. These days it is normal and customary for representatives of various churches and faiths to attend one another’s gatherings so as to bring greetings, preach, teach, and break bread together. 

This ‘new normal’ is of a rather recent variety and is due, in large part, to the ecumenical movement which has brought so many denominations closer together. I see this closeness at work every day through continued dialogue around matters of Faith & Order, bilateral and multilateral dialogues and agreements among churches, joint work to end poverty, secure environmental justice, advance peace with Iran, etc. 

There still remain Christian denominations that do not engage in dialogue with others and there some who continue to demonize the National Council of Churches. I recently had a delightful lunch with an evangelical leader who told me there were many among his organization who would be shocked and appalled he was dining with me. I know of other occasions when certain church leaders chose not to be in meetings where I would be in attendance.

But, many old lines of demarcation have faded and most young people, in my estimation, are uninterested in past divisions. The NCC works closely with evangelicals, Catholics, and others through groupings such as the Circle of Protection and the National Religious Partnership on the Environment. 

The American religious landscape is constantly changing and re-shaping. For example, Nathan Guttman, writing in The Forward this week, says about a new Pew Research Study analysis of the American Jewish community, “Orthodox Jews vote, believe, worship, act and raise their children more like white evangelical Protestants than like their fellow Jews.”

It occurs to me that a willingness to engage in dialogue and joint ministry requires a certain amount of humility. 1 Peter 3:8 urges “all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 

I’m talking about a different kind of humility and charity than that reflected in the old story of the fellow who saw a man on a bridge who was about to jump. He shouted, “Don’t do it!” 

The potential jumper replied, “Nobody loves me.” 

The first fellow said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” 

The jumper said, “Yes.”

This back and forth ensues:

“Are you a Christian or a Jew?” 

“A Christian.”

“Me too! Protestant or Catholic?” 


“Me too! What franchise?” 


“Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” 

“Northern Baptist.”

“Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” 

“Northern Conservative Baptist.”

“Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” 

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”

“Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” 

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

“Die, you heretic!” And pushed him over.

That joke is just familiar enough to continue to draw some laughs. I pray we will reach the day when we all be one in Christ. 

Group of Christian leaders backs Iran deal

More than 50 Christian leaders have signed on to a letter urging members of Congress to “remember the wisdom of Jesus” and approve the nuclear deal with Iran, the latest in a growing lobbying push by religious groups favoring the agreement.

The signatories, who represent denominations and organizations ranging from Catholic to Quaker to Pentecostal, praise the deal’s technical provisions while also arguing its merits on moral grounds.

“As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world,” the 53 faith leaders write. “This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Editorial: Get behind common-sense agenda on guns

The Second Amendment is not in jeopardy. It is not going to be revoked or altered.

The right to bear arms, as awkwardly as it might be expressed in that amendment amid what appear rather limiting qualifiers (aren't we already paying for a well-ordered militia?), will not be abridged. No one is going to take away anyone's guns.

With that stipulation in place, might it be possible to have a discussion that would be considered reasonable and compelling were the number of dead caused by any means other than guns? Is it possible to take stock of the handgun killings in the United States and at least agree that, if for no other reason than that the number is by far greater than it is anywhere else in the developed world, we should be looking for ways to reduce the killing?

See up-to-date list of mass shootings in the U.S. at

WCC/NCC Webinar: Evangelism in the Context of Small Congregations

Join us for the sixth in a series of webinars focusing on evangelism in the 21st Century on Tuesday, September 15 at noon EDT.  Rev. Dr. Andrew Irvine, Professor of Pastoral Theology at Knox College, Toronto School of Theology and Rev. Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear, Director of Evangelism Ministries, The United Methodist Church will lead the discussion.  The NCC's Dr. Tony Kireopoulos will serve as moderator.

Pre-register for the webinar using the link below.  This is the final webinar in preparation for the World Council of Churches' conference on evangelism taking place Oct. 29-Nov. 1.

Black Lives Matter activists' new, comprehensive policy platform, explained

Black Lives Matter activists finally have an answer to critics demanding specific policy proposals.

This has been a central question posed to the movement, which aims to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, since it rose to national prominence following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A lot of groups — from supporters to media to Hillary Clinton — have challenged the movement to define its policy agenda.

"You're going to have to come together as a movement and say, 'Here's what we want done about it,'" Clinton said in a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists last week. "Because you can get lip service from as many as white people as you can pack into Yankee stadium and a million more like it, who are going to say, 'Oh, we get it, we get it. We're going to be nicer.' That's not enough — at least in my book. That's not how I see politics."

George Houser, Freedom Rides Pioneer and a Founder of CORE, Dies at 99

The Rev. George M. Houser, a founder of the Congress of Racial Equality who was believed to be the last living member of the inaugural Freedom Ride — the volatile, sometimes violent bus trip through the South by a racially mixed group in 1947 — died on Wednesday in Santa Rosa, Calif. He was 99.

His son Steven confirmed the death.

A white Methodist minister who appeared constitutionally averse to limelight, Mr. Houser was “one of the most important yet least-heralded activists of the 20th century,” the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a pacifist organization with which he was long involved, wrote on its website in June, on the occasion of his 99th birthday.

With an African-American colleague, James Farmer, and others, Mr. Houser founded CORE in 1942.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture seeks an individual to be the NRCAT Human Rights Fellow. This exciting new fellowship will involve full-time work for one academic year (October 2015-May 2016), and will involve working directly with NRCAT staff and interfaith partners, gaining first-hand knowledge of the education, organizing and communications work necessary for policy change and social transformation in an interfaith context.

Jubilee USA is looking to immediately hire a Policy Director and a Communications Director in our Washington, DC office. We are also hiring regional field organizers in multiple locations around the country this Fall. Please see the link below for job descriptions and application instructions for the positions of Policy Director, Communications Director, and Regional Field Organizers.

OXFAM AMERICA: In our continued mission to end poverty, hunger and social injustice, we constantly strive to hire the best possible talent. Our people make a difference on a global basis every single day, and you have the opportunity to join our remarkable team.

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