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
Francis, Bishop of Rome, joined ecumenical and interreligious leaders representing the diversity of faiths present in the city of New York this past Friday. The event at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum around midday was called, “A Witness to Peace.” It was both a service of remembrance for those who have died and suffered on account of the violence of September 11, 2001, and a demonstration of the commitment to peace by persons of faith in New York and around the world.
Arriving at the September 11th memorial following his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Francis paused at one
of the memorial fountains located where the foundations of the twin towers once were. The names of those who died that day are carved into the dark stone. Francis spoke of those names and the thousands of lives driven from this earth by those who said they were motivated by religion. Pain, and perhaps anger, was evident in his voice as he recalled the violence perpetrated in the name of faith. Such violence, he said, is what happens when we do not embrace one another in love. Such needless suffering is what happens when we do not come together as we are — accepting one another without demanding that those who are different from us must change. Francis challenged us all to place love and mercy first in our dealings with each other. This is how the city of New York will make sense of the suffering of thousands. This is how the world will turn from violence towards love and peace.
Many religious leaders joined with Francis to lead this interreligious service of prayer. Among them were Hindus, Jews, Mus
lims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and other Christians. The service concluded with “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” sung by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.
The Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships was represented at this service by Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr., the Ecumenical Staff Officer, and Dr. Glen Alton Messer, II, Associate Ecumenical Staff Officer.
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.
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