Subject: NCC Weekly News: The Rich and Deep Cause

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From Jim: The Rich and Deep Cause of Ecumenism
Last week, I met with general secretaries of regional ecumenical organizations at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Council of Churches convened the gathering and provided wonderful hospitality for us.

A major focus of concern was the current political situation in the United States. Given the influence of our nation globally, the rise to power of a xenophobic, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim president who routinely utilizes harsh and inflammatory rhetoric is a matter of worry for church leaders in every corner of the world. We are being held in prayer during these difficult times.

For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, “Policies that are based in fear rather than confidence and courage and Christian values of hospitality, of love, of grace, of embrace rather than exclusion, are policies that will lead to terrible results…when you mix up genuine threats to security with a dismissal of a whole range of communities out of fear, that’s not good.”

Rev. Gerard Granado, general secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, reminded us that our task is to witness to the reconciling work of God and that hospitality is at the heart of our faith—embracing the otherness of the other.

St. Paul says the death of Christ breaks down the dividing walls. Christ is our peace. Our love of Christ invites us to vulnerability and a readiness to embrace the other.

In that sense, meeting together across continents and radically different contexts to strengthen the ecumenical movement requires what Rev. Andre Karamaga of the All Africa Conference of Churches called “ecumenical discipline.”

I suspect ecumenical discipline has always been a challenge. There are plenty of people and churches that won’t talk with or accept one another because of any variety of differences. Additionally, as church membership declines in the United States and elsewhere there is a significant temptation, not resisted by all, to turn inward and forget or diminish ecumenical life and relationships. I see this happening time and again and my colleagues from across the globe affirm this is an international phenomenon.

Some plea for more centralization and coordination among Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans, peace churches, etc., perhaps along the lines of the Vatican. I do not see this happening. In fact, throughout the world, we are witnessing an explosion of new Christian denominations, some of which have a tenuous and questionable basis in authentic Christianity.

In the U.S., there are many local congregations, carefully planted and nurtured by denominations, are seeking to go their own way. They don’t want to work through issues and conflicts in their own churches, much less among the larger body of Christ!

Still, gathering together with other general secretaries reminds me how rich and deep are our relationships and how committed to one another and to the cause of Christ are a great many Christians. The modern ecumenical movement is, in many ways, lived out today through councils of churches. I pray it remains so.  

Yours in Christ,
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Refugees React to Ban – Voices from Dadaab

In northeast Kenya, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) helps manage the largest cluster of refugee camps in the world. At their peak, the Dadaab camps were home to nearly 500,000 people, most of whom are children, women, elderly and people with disabilities who have fled conflict in Somalia, one of the countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Today, 240,000 refugees remain at the camps, though Dadaab is slated by Kenya for closure later this year. For many young people, the camp is the only home they have known. It is safer than their countries of origin, but like other refugee camps, Dadaab was not meant to be a permanent home.

LWF, with support from members like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is working with other agencies to provide sufficient, equitable education, food and health care at the camp, but many residents still struggle to meet their needs. While the care they receive is critical, many refugees still long for a permanent home of their own. Refugees often spend years in Dadaab waiting for resettlement in a new country or repatriation to their country of origin. Resettlement is a lengthy ordeal, with numerous background checks, interviews, and delays. Some refugees at Dadaab have been in the process for up to nine years.

ELCA presiding bishop addresses President Trump’s refugee executive order

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued a pastoral message addressing President Trump's executive order to restrict entry by refugees and visitors into the United States from seven predominately Muslim countries.

Eaton's message follows:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Yesterday, we heard these words in the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12, the beginning of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lays out a vision for life in God's realm, characterized by seeing those who are often most disregarded, including the meek, the mourning and the peacemaker, as bearers of God's blessing. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to hear this Gospel, including Jesus' call for his disciples to be carriers of God's light and hope and reconciliation to a world deeply in need of them.

In this spirit, earlier last week I communicated with the Trump administration asking that it not stop the U.S. refugee admissions program or stop resettlement from any country for any period of time. The Bible calls us to welcome the stranger and treat the sojourner as we would our own citizens. I agree with the importance of keeping our country secure as the administration stated in its executive order last Friday, but I am convinced that temporarily banning vulnerable refugees will not enhance our safety nor does it reflect our values as Christians. Instead, it will cause immediate harm by separating families, disrupting lives, and denying safety and hope to brothers and sisters who are already suffering.

Refugees being resettled in the United States have fled persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views and/or associations. They wait for years for the chance to go home. But sometimes, there is no home for them to go back to. We know from our partners at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) that only 1 percent of all refugees are chosen for resettlement.

African Methodist Episcopal Council of Bishops Denounces Refugee Ban

Following the national elections held on November 8th of last year, many across the nation found themselves fearful about the future of our nation. The newly-elected president, during the campaign, had expressed views and policy positions which threatened the quality of life and status of many people in the United States. It was the hope of many, that these views and policy positions would be altered during the transition and after being briefed by those with expertise and experience in government. However, this has not been the case. Since his inauguration on January 20th, less than 10 days ago, now President Trump has taken actions which have divided and polarized the nation even more, showing insensitivity and callous
disregard for the rights and wellbeing of countless millions of American citizens, and harming our national security around the world.

The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first protestant denomination formed on American soil, had hoped that the Trump Administration would alter the views and policies espoused during the presidential campaign, but is disappointed and troubled by the decisions and actions taken during the early days of this administration, and vow to do all that we can to see that these decisions and actions do not last. We ask that every member of this denomination, and people who are committed to justice and righteousness, equality and truth, will join with us to thwart what are clearly demonic acts.
Indeed, the words of the Apostle Paul to the believers at Ephesus apply today, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against……… the rulers of the darkness of this present age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Statement on the 27 January 2017 U.S. Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”

The Society of Biblical Literature’s mission is to foster biblical scholarship in accordance with our core values, which include scholarly integrity, critical inquiry, respect for diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance. This mission of fostering biblical scholarship rests on the firm belief that the study of sacred texts and traditions involves unhindered intellectual exchange among scholars. Such open, scholarly exchange serves the common good by contributing to a broad public understanding of religious texts, traditions, and practices in the modern world. It is for these reasons, for example, that SBL does not endorse academic boycotts.

In 2012, SBL received a grant to explore the establishment of an international and independent network of scholars of the Qur’an. That grant led to the formation of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) in 2014, now an independent affiliate of the SBL and an invaluable partner in the study of sacred texts. As a learned society, IQSA, like SBL, seeks to promote peace through understanding. We thereby stand with our colleagues in Qur’anic and Islamic studies to protest the ban on immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries.

Moreover, the ban encourages discrimination and promotes misleading and sometimes dangerous caricatures of religious people, practices, and texts. It also places obstacles to the travel of Muslim scholars in and out of the United States, and threatens the free exchange of ideas among the Society and partnering and affiliating organizations that advance learning and help make peace and understanding possible. Thus, the Society strongly opposes the ban and its implementation.

Community of Christ calls for care of the displaced

As Community of Christ, our desire to bring about God’s peace is grounded in our beliefs in Unity in Diversity, Blessings of Community, and Worth of All Persons.

We stand with other faith movements, including the National Council of Churches, in support of our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the temporary US ban on immigration from identified nations.

The words in Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a calls us to hear and respond, “God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.”

David Marshall Culp, Jr: In Memoriam

Our entire FCNL community is mourning the loss of our colleague and friend whose passion and leadership on issues of nuclear disarmament, the outdoors, and Washington, DC politics was second to none.

David Culp, FCNL’s lead lobbyist on nuclear disarmament issues, died in early February in his apartment on Capitol Hill.

He was born in Huntington, Indiana, and devoted his life to working for the greater good of society. While in Indiana he lobbied the state legislature on issues of preserving the environment. He moved to Washington, DC in the late ‘80s and worked tirelessly on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons.

David was the dean of lobbyists in the arms control community and was one of the most strategic, focused lobbyists at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. For more than 15 years he led efforts at FCNL and in the arms control community to defeat three different proposals to build new nuclear weapons. During the campaign to win Senate ratification of the New START Treaty that reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons in Russia and the United States, David’s swing list of senators was used by constituents, senators, and the White House as the basis for much of their advocacy work.

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Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

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