Monday, January 26, 2009

Message from the National Council of Churches

By the Rev. Christian Iosso and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon
Everyone, it seems, has a message for the new President. They are full of wish lists and urgent demands and heartfelt dreams for our nation.
The churches have a message for President Obama, too.
Mr. President, we have thought about what needs to be done, and have been working at it throughout the history of these United States. And we are ready to help you achieve great deeds that will bring positive change for the people of America and the world.
We Protestant and Orthodox churches – the ecumenical faith community – know how serious is the need for social reconstruction at home and the restoration of honor abroad. We have long worked in the soup kitchens, sheltered the homeless, pushed for environmental justice, defended public education, volunteered overseas, and steadily opposed the war with Iraq, despite the weaknesses of media and congressional oversight.
As the President-elect knows, we do not scorn “community organizers;” our urban congregations have helped fund them and have given them a base from which to work. We visit the prisons and know how bad they are; we are regular caregivers in the hospital wards and emergency rooms. We know first-hand how many are without health insurance.
While many look at who has a role on the platform at the ceremony, we look at the commitments of the man being inaugurated: long a member of a distinctive, well-informed congregation of the United Church of Christ (church of the historic pilgrims as well as contemporary prophets), he is one of us.
The social vision of the ecumenical churches is summed up in the “Social Creed for the 21st Century,” unanimously adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ one hundred years after the first “social creed” was adopted by the churches in 1908.
That earlier social message addressed the challenges of its day – industrialization and proposed measures like a “living wage,” the abolition of child labor, and prototypes of Social Security and Workers’ Compensation. When Franklin Roosevelt addressed the churches’ annual assembly in 1933 he thanked them for their biblically based social teachings. The text from Jesus that he quoted is in the 2008 version of the Social Creed and articulates the purpose of the Creed, and of faith’s prayer for society: “that all may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The 2008 Social Creed, speaking to our day, addresses the challenges of globalization and sustainability and the context of war and inequality, which is both morally and politically debilitating. While the new Social Creed lists 20 specific reform measures under three theologically-grounded headings, it is the overall vision that is key: “a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms.”
The churches do not split personal and public virtue. Individual character and morality are crucial, but they depend on the character of churches and other nurturing institutions. Action for social justice — the “social activism” some critics scorn — is grounded in communities that lift up God first.
While solidly patriotic, our churches have resisted the kind of arrogant nationalism that confuses the flag and the cross. We remember the Bible’s warnings about empire, that only a people who humble themselves shall be exalted.
Especially now in economic life, the churches stand for “grace over greed,” and recognize the need for burdens to be fairly shared, and modern forms of usury to be regulated out of existence. This means affirming progressive taxation as well as adequate social welfare: a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.
The vocation of the church is different from that of the nation, but even a wiser and humbler United States still has a great vocation as “one nation” among others “under God.” The Social Creed summarizes countless church statements that address our nation’s current challenges: “multilateral diplomacy rather than unilateral force, the abolition of torture, …strengthening …the United Nations and the rule of international law.” The ecumenical churches helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60 years ago and have never forgotten its principles of “full civil, political, and economic rights for women and men of all races.”
The churches do not affirm diplomacy without responsible power, but can never tolerate the deliberate violence of “wars of choice” and the economies distorted by them. We have seen the high tech and housing bubbles burst but it is now time for the military-industrial bubble to burst: we advocate “nuclear disarmament and redirection of military spending to more peaceful and productive uses.”
The churches alone can not create a moral consensus for the redirection of America, but if President Obama harkens to his personal experience, he knows that the solid, unheralded work of the churches will be there, in support of more courageous action than most observers outside the faith community can imagine. In Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous words, we pray that we may now have a nation with the “courage to change” for the better.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon is General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and a former professor of theology. The Rev. Dr. Christian Iosso, formerly a pastor in Westchester County, New York, is Coordinator for Social Witness Policy, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The authors were among those who developed the Social Creed for the 21st Century.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,
Return to NCC Home Page
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter in West Milford, New Jersey

President Obama

I am thrilled beyond words. What a spendid day!

Christain Churches Together

Final Report of 2009 CCT Annual Meeting‏
Val Ruess, CCT (
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Friends, attached is the final Report of the 2009 CCT Annual Meeting, “Implementing the Call to Cut Poverty in Half” and a copy of our previous “Statement on Poverty”. Please pass these items to your communications/news people. Also, below are a few of the news stories generated by our press conference which took place January 15 at the National Press Club. It was a fine meeting.
The meeting with Melody Barnes (Director-designate of the Domestic Policy Council), Joshua Dubois (Religious Affairs Director) and other members of the new Administration transition team went exceedingly well. It is clear that the team understands poverty and is sympathetic to the desire to eliminate it. We had an open discussion that lasted an hour. The meeting closed with the mutually expressed desire to stay in touch. Representing CCT in the conversation were David Beckmann, Peter Borgdorff, John Carr, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Dick Hamm, Earl James, Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, Bishop James Leggett, Glenn Palmberg, Ron Sider, William Shaw, Jim Wallis, and Sharon Watkins. Blessings! Dick Hamm

Christian group to Obama: Put poor people first

Dr. Richard L. "Dick" Hamm, Executive Administrator
Christian Churches Together
P.O. Box 24188, Indianapolis, IN 46224-0188
fax 484-231-7467

street address: 8162 Winterset Circle
Indianapolis, IN 46214

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Powerful Right-Wing Priest Dies

See also:

From the National Cathloic Reporter article:

"A priest of the New York archdiocese and a former Lutheran minister, Neuhaus was best known to society at large as an intellectual guru of what came to be known as the 'religious right.'

"From the early 1970s forward, Neuhaus was a key architect of two alliances with profound consequences for American politics, both of which overcame histories of mutual antagonism: one between conservative Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals, and the other between free market neo-conservatives and 'faith and values' social conservatives. "

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Merry Epiphany

Copyright © 2007 Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University

Epiphany of Our Lord

Isaiah 60:1-660:1

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.


Monday, January 5, 2009

12 th Night: Women of the Congo Alert

Dear Colleague,

As people of faith, we are called to see, hear, and respond to the suffering caused by violence against women. The Religious Institute has launched the Congo Sabbath Initiative to engage faith communities in educating their congregants about violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Forty-eight national religious leaders have joined the Religious Institute in calling on congregations across the country to participate in the Congo Sabbath Initiative.
Why the Congo? The United Nations has declared that the sexual violence in the Congo is the worst in the world. One in two women has been the victim of brutal sexual violence. Over the last 10 years, hundreds of thousands of Congolese women and girls have been raped, leaving them with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae, and HIV. Seven in ten of these women go untreated because of inadequate medical facilities.
Here's how you can help bring Congo Sabbath to your faith community.
· PRINT information on the Congo.The Religious Institute has collected articles and other resources that you can download to educate congregants about the crisis.Click here to download the resource sheet.
· POST articles, factsheets, and other materials on your congregation's website, newsletter, your personal blog, or in visible places in your faith community. Click here to download the sample newsletter article.
· PRAY for the women of the Congo.The Religious Institute has developed a responsive reading to use during worship. A bulletin insert with the responsive reading and information on the crisis is available for download or to adapt. Click here to download the adaptable bulletin insert.
Can we count on you to be a voice for the crisis in the Congo in your community? Please click here to commit your congregation to the Congo Sabbath Initiative and to learn more about how you can get involved.Thank you for your support.
Sincerely,Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Director Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

P.S. Click here today to sign up. Thank you for your commitment.


Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. John 15:4-6

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year Really Begins Monday

Morning in New Jersey 2001

Face up to it!

Lectionary Reading

Sirach 24:1-12

24:1 Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.
24:2 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory:
24:3 "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.
24:4 I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
24:5 Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss.
24:6 Over waves of the sea, over all the earth, and over every people and nation I have held sway."
24:7 Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose territory should I abide?
24:8 "Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, 'Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.'
24:9 Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
24:10 In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.
24:11 Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain.
24:12 I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.


Friday, January 2, 2009


Copyright © 2007 Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
3:2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3:3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
3:4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
3:5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
3:6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
3:7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
3:8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
3:9 What gain have the workers from their toil?
3:10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
3:11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
3:12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;
3:13 moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Scripture for the New Year

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:6-7 NRSV

The Evil Behind the Smile

Read Nicholas D. Kristof's piece on the exploitation of teenage women in Cambodia. From the piece:

"Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century’s version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20s.

"Whenever I report on sex trafficking, I come away less depressed by the atrocities than inspired by the courage of modern abolitionists like Somaly and Sina. They are risking their lives to help others still locked up in the brothels, and they have the credibility and experience to lead this fight. In my next column, I’ll introduce a girl that Sina is now helping to recover from mind-boggling torture in a brothel — and Sina’s own story gives hope to the girl in a way that an army of psychologists couldn’t."



In this my personal Christian blog, I hope to be discursive and now and then critical. What I write here is tentative and tensive. I post thoughts, feelings, and observations somewhat randomly and often in immediate response to current events and posts on other blogs.

"Serendipitous Creativity" from Gordon Kaufman

"I suggested that what we today should regard as God is the ongoing creativity in the universe - the bringing (or coming) into being of what is genuinely new, something transformative; …

"In some respects and some degrees this creativity is apparently happening continuously, in and through the processes or activities or events around us and within us(…) is a profound mystery to us humans(…) But on the whole, as we look back on the long and often painful developments that slowly brought human life and our complex human worlds into being, we cannot but regard this creativity as serendipitous …

"I want to stress that this serendipitous creativity - God! - to which we should be responsive is not the private possession of any of the many particular religious faiths or systems …

"This profound mystery of creativity is manifest in and through the overall human bio-historical evolution and development everywhere on the planet; and it continues to show itself throughout the entire human project, no matter what may be the particular religious and or cultural beliefs."

Gordon Kaufman, Mennonite Life, December 2005 vol. 60 no. 4

Melville is a rational man who

"Melville is a rational man who wants God to exist. He wants Him to exist for the same reasons we all do: to be our rescuer and appreciator, to act as a confidant in our moments of crisis and to give us reassurance that, over the horizon of our deaths, we will survive." (John Updike)

And that is a problem for me.

Fragmented Notions

Fragmented Notions
Copyright © 2007 Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University

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