I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.
As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
-- John 17:20-21, NRSV
Ecumenical / Interfaith Headlines
September 1, 2015
Dear Bishop Reginald Jackson and Pan-Methodist Commission Bishops:
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Savior Who Unifies us. We send this letter as preparations for the “Liberty and Justice for All” event are being finalized, and people are beginning to arrive in Washington DC for this historic occasion.
We, the Ecumenical Officer of The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church and the Ecumenical Staff Officer of the United Methodist Church, want to make the public statement we are standing among you at the commencement of this event. We also stand together in the work that will continue to follow it.
We believe we are called at such a time as this, when Pan-Methodists are confronting and acting against the evil of racism. Both our church and our nation have been in denial about the systems of racism that continue to exist. Over the last year and a half we have seen what the results of that denial can be. The pain, injustice and death are heart-breaking and unnecessary.
It is our fervent prayer that together our voices will be heard, and we may truly be the leaders God needs us to be. We continue to uphold our commitment to the Pan-Methodist Commission, to looking at our own systems and how we hurt others, and to standing in solidarity as we face this evil together.
May God lead and guide. May voices be heard. May the Spirit of Love prevail.
In Christ’s name,
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr.
Ecumenical Staff Officer
cc: Dr. Jeanette Bouknight
Ms. Jackie Dupont Walker
“Liberty and Justice for All”
WHO: Leaders of 5 Largest African-American Christian Denominations
WHAT: A Frank Discussion of Charleston, Racism, Violence, and Christian Faith
WHEN: September 2, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. EDT
WHERE: National Press Club, 13th floor, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045 202-662-7500
Leaders of the nation’s top predominantly African-American Christian denominations will hold a press conference entitled, “Liberty and Justice for All.” This will launch an aggressive effort to move our nation to confront and work to solve the issue of racism in the United States.
Over the last six years there has been an increasing and polarizing spirit in the nation motivated by race and racism seen in every area of American life. In a recent New York Times poll, over 60% of Americans believe that race relations have gotten worse over the last six years. The predominantly African-American Churches have historically been the conscience of America, repeatedly moving the nation to act on important issues such as these. The Church must do it again.
At this press conference the bishops of the nation’s largest and most influential predominantly African-American denominations will boldly call upon the entire faith community to act together to confront the demonic spirit of racism. A list of action items with specific policy proposals for President Obama, Congress, governors and state legislatures will be presented, including proposals for criminal justice reform, education, gun reform, economic justice and voting rights.
Opening Statement – Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair Social Action Commission AME Church, Co-Convener
Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism – Dr. Staccato Powell, AME Zion Church, Co-Convener
Call for Faith Community to Lead Nation to End Racism – Bishop John Bryant, Senior Bishop, AME Church
Call for Political Leaders to Act – Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Senior Bishop, CME Church
Support from Faith Community, Introduction of Faith Leaders, Mr. Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches
Next Steps – Bishop George Battle, Senior Bishop, AME Zion Church
Question and Answer - Open for members of the press community
Event Sponsors: The African Methodist Episcopal (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), and Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Churches. Event supporters include the United Methodist and UAME Churches, the National Council of Churches (and representatives from communions which comprise the NCC), and the Conference of National Black Churches.
Contact: Steven D. Martin, National Council of Churches:
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 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.
NCC News contact: Steven D. Martin: 202-544-2350 ext 231 (o), 202-412-4323 (c)
By Paul Jeffrey
Seventy years after nuclear fireballs exploded over two Japanese cities, an ecumenical group of pilgrims has come to listen to those who survived and renew the struggle against their own countries’ continued reliance on nuclear weapons.
“We come to remember and to acknowledge the devastation of the past and to say, ‘Never again,’” said United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson in a sermon during an Aug. 5 ecumenical worship service in the Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in Hiroshima.
Swenson of the United States, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and church leaders from Germany, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Pakistan and the Netherlands—all countries possessing nuclear weapons or living under the U.S. nuclear umbrella —have come to Japan for a five-day “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace
They began their work in Tokyo, where they met with Japanese Christian leaders before sharing their concerns with a Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of arms control and disarmament.
The pilgrims then traveled to Hiroshima, where they marched through the streets to the Memorial Cathedral, which was built in the early 1950s by bomb survivors, using clay bricks made on the site. The cathedral’s bells were crafted in Germany using steel from melted-down weapons from World War II.
In her sermon, Swenson, who is vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee, said it was important for her group, and for all people of faith interested in peace, to hear the voice of the hibakusha—the Japanese term for survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The term is now being applied by many in Japan to those who have suffered from the disastrous 2011 explosions at nuclear plants in Fukushima.
“We must listen to all who suffer nuclear harm, those whose bodies are deformed by genetic mutations, whose lands and seas are poisoned by nuclear tests, whose farms and cities are fouled by nuclear accidents, whose work in mines and power plants exposes them to radiation,” Swenson said in her sermon.
Sermon for joint Anglican-Catholic Peace Memorial Service,
Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral, Hiroshima, 5 August 2015
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Church, Vice-Moderator of the World Council of Churches and head of delegation for the WCC Church Leaders Pilgrimage to Japan on the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings.
Peacemakers for Life
Deuteronomy 30:15-19, Luke 19:41-42, Matthew 5:9
Dying, Christ destroyed our death
Rising, Christ restored our life
Christ will come again in glory.
When we are baptized into Christ Jesus,
we are buried with Christ into death.
Just as Christ was raised by God's glory,
So too are we created to walk in newness of life."
In this peace memorial service we have the opportunity to be in touch with the mystery of God's grace. We come to remember and to acknowledge the devastation of the past and to say never again. We come to heed God's call to "Choose Life" and to receive the gift of God's grace. We come to commit ourselves to become Peacemakers for Life! We come following Jesus who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
Tonight we offer thanks to God for lives of those who have journeyed on ahead of us to our eternal home. Remembering them now can be for us a visible sign of God who is full of mercy and grace.
It was many years ago now when I first learned the story of Sadako Sasaki. My friend had written a little book about her so that children in North America could learn her story. I know our Japanese colleagues know the story but let me share it for our visitors from other countries. Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb struck one mile from her home. Soon she began to experience the devastation of radiation disease. Her response was to set about making a thousand paper cranes, because one crane symbolizes a thousand years of peace and happiness. After her death her classmates continued making cranes and today there is the statue of her holding a peace crane in Memorial Park. In response to unspeakable violence, a powerful cry for peace was born. Now when I attend meetings in the western part of the United States, in Hawaii, and other places, people come having folded thousands and thousands of peace cranes. We will sit in meetings folding them. At one meeting my friend made 7,000 cranes.....we pray for peace, and the witness continues.
In the 1990's when the Sahtu-Dene people of northern Canada finally learned that uranium from their lands had been used in the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki they sent a delegation of elders to Japan to apologize. We too have a witness to make. The church leaders on this World Council of Churches pilgrimage are from seven countries that say they are in favor of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, year after year, decade after decade, our seven governments stand ready to use nuclear weapons. 70 years after the destruction here, a total of 40 governments still rely on nuclear weapons.
We are here to affirm the ever-larger majorities of the United Nations General Assembly who reject that policy today, declaring that "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."
It is time to judge armaments and energy use by their effects on people and on God's creation. It is time to confess that our desire for material comfort and convenience insulates us from the concern for the source and quantity of the energy we consume. It is time to abandon all support for retaining nuclear weapons. It is time to refuse to accept that the mass destruction of other people can be a legitimate form of protection of ourselves.
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