Thursday, December 03, 2009

National Council of Churches issues messages supporting nuclear disarmament, health care reform.

The annual General Assembly of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) was held in Minneapolis on Nov. 10-12. "Rejoice Always, Pray Without Ceasing, Give Thanks in All Circumstances" (1 Thess. 5:16-18) was the theme.

Major agenda items included a resolution calling for nuclear disarmament, and a related message urging international reductions in military spending be used to reduce child mortality and poverty. Also high on the agenda was a message on the urgency of health care reform.

Brethren representatives included elected delegates Elizabeth Bidgood Enders, J.D. Glick, Illana Naylor, and Ken Miller Rieman, with Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director of the Ministry Office, participating as church staff. Three Church of the Brethren young adults also participated and attended the pre-assembly "New Fire" event (see story below): Jordan Blevins, assistant director of the NCC’s Eco-Justice Program; Bekah Houff, who was a head steward for the assembly; and Marcus Harden, who served as a steward.

The assembly resolution titled, "Nuclear Disarmament: The Time Is Now," calls for a goal of "the total disarmament of nuclear weapons." The following resolution section concludes the document:

"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the member communions of the NCC and CWS, speaking together through their respective governing boards, hereby reaffirm the goal of the total disarmament of nuclear weapons and commit themselves: 1. To ask for commitments toward this end from national, state, and local governmental and ecumenical representatives and agencies. 2. To engage in international anti-violence advocacy efforts including the programs and events of the World Council of Churches such as the Decade to Overcome Violence. 3. To encourage appropriate working groups/committees to designate nuclear disarmament as a central theme for the 2011 Ecumenical Advocacy Days. 4. To develop measurable outcomes that inform faith-based educational materials. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the President and the General Secretary of the NCC and the Chairperson and Executive Director/CEO of the CWS communicate this commitment to the President of the United States and congressional leaders. AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the President and the General Secretary of the NCC and the Chairperson and Executive Director/CEO of the CWS report regularly to the General Assembly regarding their actions toward the end of nuclear disarmament." (For the full text go to

In a related action, the assembly sent a message to the US Congress and member communions urging support of the Global Security Priorities bill and commending the legislation's sponsors. The bill, House Resolution 278, calls for deep reductions in US and Russian nuclear arsenals, saving at least $13 billion annually. The money saved would be used to reduce child mortality and eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

"There wasn’t a lot of discussion" of the resolution on nuclear disarmament, reported Bidgood Enders. "There seemed to be a tone among the body of general agreement. For the Church of the Brethren, of course we will be supportive," she added.

A message on the urgency of health care reform was approved as a joint action of the NCC and CWS. Precedent for the statement came from a health care policy originally adopted in 1971 and reaffirmed in 1989, said Bidgood Enders. The new document includes current statistics on the numbers of Americans without insurance and those underserved by health care, she said.

The assembly also gave a lot of attention to immigration reform and gun violence, according to Bidgood Enders, who remarked that "those were probably the items that got most discussion." In support of the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program, the assembly adopted a message urging proper treatment of immigrants and heard a presentation on immigration reform including the status of bills in Congress. Information was shared about a Holiday Postcard Campaign by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition to send messages to Congress calling for humane treatment of immigrants and concern for "families that are being torn apart," Bidgood Enders said (see

On the issue of fire arms, a panel presentation about gun violence included some sharing from the work of the Heeding God’s Call movement in Philadelphia. Heeding God’s Call is an initiative against gun violence begun at a gathering of the Historic Peace Churches in January. "Everyone in the room received a Heeding God’s Call pin," along with statistics on deaths by gun violence, reported Bidgood Enders.

In other actions, the assembly voted the Apostolic Catholic Church into membership, affirmed a statement by the West Virginia Council of Churches condemning the removal of mountain tops as a mining practice, issued a message on the tragedy at Fort Hood, installed Peg Chemberlin as NCC president and Kathryn Lohre as president-elect, issued a message of appreciation for the recent visit of Orthodox leader Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and gave ecumenical awards.

The NCC’s Women’s Ministries announced the launch of a "Circles of Names" Campaign to celebrate the historic contributions of women leaders in member churches and out of concern about cutbacks in gender justice and women's ministries among denominations. Donors will help support ongoing and future ecumenical work by honoring women who have made a difference in the church and in individual lives.

The next General Assembly on Nov. 9-11, 2010, in New Orleans will mark 100 years since the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. The theme will be, "Witnesses of These Things: Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era."

(Sections of this report are excerpted from NCC press releases.)

Source: 12/3/2009 Newsline

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