U.S. Bishops Chairman Commends Life Protections in AHCA, Expresses Concerns about harmful provisons that Will Impact the Poor

March 20, 2017

WASHINGTON—In a letter sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida notes that, while the recently introduced American Health Care Act (AHCA) commendably contains key provisions in defense of life, the proposed legislation also creates “grave challenges for poor and vulnerable people that must be addressed” by Congress before passage.

In the letter sent to representatives on March 17, 2017, Bishop Dewane, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, highlighted the AHCA’s inclusion of vital life protections for the unborn, writing that they honor “a key moral requirement for our nation’s health care policy.”

However, the letter also stresses deep concerns regarding “serious flaws” in the AHCA, including major modifications to the Medicaid system and a new tax credit which, reportedly, will result in significant barriers to coverage and affordability for millions, particularly for low income persons and seniors.

Bishop Dewane underscored that “[i]n attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society.”  In quoting Pope Francis, the letter notes, “Health, indeed, is not a consumer good, but a universal right which means that access to healthcare services cannot be a privilege.”

Among other things, the letter also notes a lack of any changes to afford conscience protection against mandates to provide contraception and sterilization coverage or services.

The full text of the letter is available at:  www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/letter-to-house-from-bishop-dewane-on-AHCA-2017-03-17.pdf

Connecting with Fellow Christians on Persecution

Kingdom Mission Society

by Alexei Laushkin

The week before last I had a chance to connect with Christian Churches Together as they held a two day gathering in Newark, NJ.  

One of the themes that stood out to me from the New Testament epistles is how consistently the Apostle Paul is exhorting the churches among the various cities to remember one another in love, to show compassion, and to build a sense of unity among the broader body of Christ. 

At the gathering in Newark I had the great privilege to hear from, talk with, and meet His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church. His Holiness was installed as Patriarch in 2014. To hear his living witness of the persecuted church in Syria and Iraq was literally breathtaking. Please join Kingdom Mission Society in regularly praying for His Holiness and the Syriac Orthodox Church and indeed all Christians and those suffering in Syria and Iraq. 

Meeting His Holiness and reflecting on the Epistles has convinced me more than ever that we are not communicating to our persecuted brothers and sisters that we are truly thinking of them and their well being and doing what the Lord may be asking each of us, if we had ears to listen, to do personally in supporting the broader body of Christ. In our work as Kingdom Mission Society we want to further and encourage and cultivate this kind of internal disposition among society members and supporters. We want to grow in this area of Christian love. 

If you are moved by events in Syria and Iraq, please consider supporting the relief and development arm of the Patriarchate the St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee either as a church or denominational body, a diocese, or even in prayer or individually. If you want more information or to talk about what you might want to do please contact me directly (click here) and I can put you in direct contact for how to help. 

Blessings in Christ,

Alexei 

You can learn more about the Kingdom Mission Society HERE

Pope Francis fulfilling the vision of St. John Paul II

By Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Over two decades ago, St. John Paul II asked the bishops of the world to help him chart a new way of exercising the ministry of the successor of Peter. In his encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” (“That They May Be One”), the saintly pope readily admitted that the papal ministry has caused an obstacle to Christian unity.

In that document, John Paul II identified a pathway forward for reforming the papacy. It is striking that Pope Francis, who in the opinion of many is a different kind of pope, is in fact relying on many of the insights of that decades-old encyclical as his point of reference in reforming not only the papacy but the church. Four of those insights come to mind as I reflect on the fresh and visionary approach Pope Francis is bringing to the entire life of the church.

The first one is synodality. Synodality is an approach to church life that involves the participation of each local church in the governance of the universal church, through deliberative bodies. John Paul II made it clear that if the Petrine Office was going to be reformed, it would need the input of all churches, especially the Eastern ones. From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has taken steps to this end.

In addition to appointing a Council of Cardinals to help him reform the Roman Curia, he also revised the way the Synod of Bishops would be organized and operate. He urged bishops attending the synod to speak openly: “No one should say to someone, ‘You cannot say that.’” Pope Francis has made it clear that the church needs to be more decentralized, placing in the hands of local bishops and national conferences of bishops certain decisions that need not be made in Rome.

Dialogue is a second central theme in “Ut Unum Sint.” John Paul II understood that too often people talk past each other without listening. Pope Francis, like his predecessor, is pressing for a more humble approach to conflict and division, but also in the church’s pastoral ministry. The pope recognizes, for instance, that when it comes to moral decision-making, it is important for pastors to have a dialogical approach to their service of people. Pastors must clearly articulate the general norms and the rules of Christian life.

At the same time, the pastor cannot stop there. As Francis writes in “Amoris Laetitia,” “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.” Therefore, the pope calls for pastors to listen attentively, to use a dialogical approach when it comes to assisting people in their weighty moral decisions, taking into consideration the limits of people to act in certain cases, the extenuating circumstances and the brokenness that people suffer. “The church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion,” he notes.

Continue reading HERE

CCT Call Christians to Pray for US Congress

 

For more than eight years the communions and organizations in Christian Churches Together have been calling the attention of members of our churches and all Americans to the moral task of eradicating hunger and poverty in our land.

The scriptures remind us again and again of God’s concern for the poor, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”— Proverbs 14:31

During the last three weeks of March, the U.S. Congress will make critical decisions that will affect the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters living in poverty. The right decisions could alleviate and pull people out of poverty; the wrong decisions will increase poverty and put the lives of hundreds of thousands at risk.

We are grateful for the vast array of ways our churches are already helping millions of struggling people. We want to build on these efforts, learn from each other, and collaborate more closely. But we can, we must, do more.

We also recognize and encourage leaders in community, economic and public life who seek justice for poor people in our land. But we can, we must, do more. Our goal must be the elimination of poverty in this land.

We affirm our unanimous conviction that, our service to the poor and our work for justice is “at the center of Christian life and witness.” And we commit to renew our prayers, and to understand and live in faithfulness to our Lord’s teaching that when we serve “the least of these”, we truly minister to our Lord Himself.

We are leaders of the Christian community, not an interest group. We have no partisan political agenda. Together we believe that our faith demands and the people of this land yearn for concrete proposals that transcend divisive political divisions and place the lives and well-being of people above anything else.

In the spirit of Jesus, we call our brothers and sisters to lift the U.S. Congress and our President up in prayer, as they make decisions that will affect the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters living in poverty in our country and around the world.

 

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski – Catholic Family
Rev. Gary Walter – Evangelical/Pentecostal Family
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian – Orthodox Family
Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr. – Historic Black Family
Rev. David Guthrie – Historic Protestant Family
Rev. Carlos L. Malavé – Executive Director CCT

Refugees and Immigrants: Welcoming the Stranger in Tough Times

March 20, 2017

6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Gaston Hall,

Georgetown University

What are Catholic and religious teachings on refugees and immigrants? What is the Catholic Church doing and advocating? What are the human, pastoral, and policy impacts of recent executive orders, new policies on deportation, and political rhetoric on these issues? What constitute legitimate security, economic, and other concerns, and how can we respond? A range of experts, advocates, immigrants and refugees will come together to discuss these questions and more.

Featuring:

  • Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J., president emeritus of Georgetown University and interim executive director for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
  • Bishop Ricardo Ramírez, C.S.B., bishop emeritus of Las Cruces, NM, and member of USCCB Committee on Migration and Refugee Services.
  • Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative
  • Principles and former director of the Office of Citizenship.
  • Aden Batar, a Muslim refugee from Somalia who is immigrant and refugee resettlement director for Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City.
  • Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs at the USCCB.
  • Abel Núñez, director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) and recipient of Georgetown’s John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award.

 

RSVP HERE

When Anabaptists were refugees

Gerald J. Mast is Professor of Communication at Bluffton (Ohio) University. This piece originally appeared on his blog, Anabaptist Persuasion

On July 13, 1711, Christian Stutzman and Magdalena Stucki left their home in Bern, Switzerland to travel north down the Rhine River on a boat headed for the Netherlands. Christian was a 34 year old farmer and member of the Reformed Church whose 37 year old wife Magdalena had been baptized into an Amish congregation. Because of Magdalena’s membership in an Anabaptist church, they were being deported by the Bern authorities, along with nearly 350 other Amish and Reistian Swiss Brethren from Bern who left their villages and farms behind to become refugees looking for a safe home across the border.

The refugees on the boats going north carried names such as Eberly, Gerber, Habegger, Jost, Kropf, Meyer, Miller, Moser, Reesor, Raber, Roth, Rupp, Schirch, Schmid, Schlabach, Schwartzentruber, Sommer, Stucki, Stutzman, and Wenger, to list just a few. These Swiss refugees found hospitality in Dutch Mennonite communities that had advocated on their behalf with both Dutch and Swiss authorities. Fifty years later, Christian Stutzman appeared in the records as an Amish minister in the congregation at Kampen. Some of the descendants of these refugees, like those of Christian and Magdalena, eventually ended up in North America.

The details of this deportation and the many decades of harassment and persecution endured by Swiss Anabaptists in the 1600’s and 1700’s are found in two volumes of source documents from the Stadtsarchief Amsterdam, newly transcribed and translated by James Lowry and published by the Ohio Amish Library under the title Documents of Brotherly Love, vols. I and II. These letters and transcripts provide evidence for the persistent and costly work of the Committee for Foreign Needs formed by various Dutch Mennonite groups to provide legal, political, and monetary assistance to persecuted Swiss Anabaptists in Zurich and Bern. For example, in 1671, the Swiss authorities deported around 700 Anabaptists to the Palatinate, punishing those who returned back over the border illegally by imprisoning them and/or branding them with a hot iron. Frustrated by the number of returning refugees, the authorities eventually sold some of them as slaves to row on galley ships. The Dutch Mennonites intervened by advocating on behalf of the refugees, providing money and other assistance for resettlement in the Palatinate, and sending delegations to visit the refugees to check on their well-being.

Why were these Anabaptist farmers so despised by the Bernese authorities that they were uprooted from their homes, many of them imprisoned, and eventually sent north? One reason is that the Swiss Anabaptists were stubborn nonconformists who declined to participate in the official civic Christianity of Switzerland. They refused to swear oaths of allegiance and they were unwilling to take up arms in defense of their homeland. They also disobeyed the numerous mandates against them, often returning illegally to their land and families after being expelled by the authorities.

Keep reading at original source HERE

CCT Churches in Action & Supporting Each Other

PROCLAMATION BY COOPERATIVE BAPTIST FELLOWSHIP

Greater Mount Olive MB Church and School Reform

Dr. Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) presented a check for $150,000 to Greater Mount Olive MB Church in Baton Rouge, where Rev. S. Dixon is pastor, to assist in the restoration of their church and academy which was destroyed during the devastating flood in 2016.  Dr. Paynter stated that this is the largest check that they have ever presented.  CBF pledged resources, volunteers and supportive partnerships for the repair and restoration of the buildings and facilities of the Greater Mount Olive MB Church and the Greater Mount Olive Christian Academy.

THIRTEEN’s “The Talk – Race in America”

THIRTEEN’s “The Talk – Race in America” Tackles the Issue of Young People of Color and Their Uneasy Encounters With Law Enforcement Monday, February 20, 9 p.m. on PBS

The Talk – Race in America is a two-hour documentary about the increasingly common conversation taking place in homes and communities across the country between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police. In many homes, “the talk,” as it is called, usually contains phrases like this:

If you are stopped by the police:
Always answer “yes sir, no sir”; never talk back; don’t make any sudden movements; don’t put your hands in your pockets; obey all commands; if you think you are falsely accused, save it for the police station. I would rather pick you up at the station than the morgue…

The Talk – Race in America, a multiplatform media initiative, airs Monday, February 20 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings). The film will present six personal stories to illustrate the issue from multiple points of view: parent, child, the police and the community. Filmed across the country, in communities including Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Richland County, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Cleveland, Ohio, the stories will include interviews with academics, police force members, community activists and family members. 

Immigration Raids, Message from UMC Susan Henry-Crowe

In the past few days, the United States has seen a surge of raids targeting immigrant communities by Department of Homeland Security officials. These raids are occurring in homes, places of work, and even near churches. We are especially troubled by the raid outside of a United Methodist Church in Virginia on February 8th where men exiting a hypothermia shelter were confronted the minute they crossed the street off of church grounds. Targeting those seeking sanctuary or services provided by houses of worship will not be tolerated.

The United Methodist Church believes that “migrants should be given due process and access to adequate legal representation. Due to these raids and the ensuing detentions and deportations that follow them, families have been ripped apart and the migrant community has been forced to live in a constant state of fear.” (Book of Resolutions, ¶ 3281 “Welcoming the Migrant to the United States”)

While raids occurred over the past decades under the Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, we are especially concerned about the lack of discretion that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have shown recently as they profile communities – especially Latinx people – and engage in mass arrests.

To the United States government: we call upon you to immediately cease arrests, detainment, and deportations of undocumented immigrants, including children, solely based upon their immigration status until a fair and comprehensive immigration reform is passed. 

To people of faith: We affirm that all are created in the image of God and we are called to welcome immigrants into our congregations, provide care for those facing separation from their families, and advocate for policies that uphold the civil and human rights of all migrants.

To all who live in fear of detention, deportation, or separation from your family and community: you are valuable, deserving of opportunity, your contributions to society are important, and we will stand with you to advocate for justice.

“To refuse to welcome migrants to this country – and to stand by in silence while families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the migrant community in the United States is demonized by members of Congress and the media – is complicity to sin.” (Book of Resolutions, ¶ 3281 “Welcoming the Migrant to the United States”)

This statement can be read online here

Susan Henry-Crowe

UMC General Board of Church and Society

Unity Demands Fellowship

By James Earl Massey
Posted on February 3, 2017 by chogministries

[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. —Ephesians 4:3 RSV

Human contacts can at times be burdensome. Strained relations can happen in many ways: there is strain when our opinions clash, when our cultures differ, when our individual expectations are diverse, and when our personal interests are separate—and strong. Unless the spirit of community prevails in these times of strain, any oneness is thwarted. Unity is a divine gift, but we believers can experience that oneness only as we let it happen through open sharing with one another.

Unity has to be desired before it can be developed. Personal effort promotes togetherness and maintains that togetherness in unbroken fashion. Unity is more than a spiritual matter; it is a social result. It is a “happening” in the heart that makes each believer sense and seek togetherness with all other believers.

Division is not rooted in structures but in ourselves, in our attitudes and outlooks. As we think first and foremost about the church and forsake the limited concerns of personal whim and individual feelings, we overcome the distance that selfishness makes us feel.

There is in the Christian faith a community principle. The church involves us in a life that must go beyond our privacy and preferences. Unity does affirm us as individuals, yes, but it does so only within the wider fellowship.

The church is not just a spiritual entity within which each person goes her or his own way; it is a social bond to help us go God’s way—together. Only thus does the church become visible to the world as a distinct people.

It is time to open our eyes and hearts to all the others in this procession of faith. It is time for all of us to become more concerned about the whole church and to accept one another in full. This is the concern of the writer’s call upon us to show “lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Please notice that the writer stresses a vision of the whole church. He knew that we transcend selfish considerations and smaller groupings only when we are challenged by the larger vision. That is why the writer repeatedly underscored the oneness of the Christian message. He wrote,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all (4:4–6 RSV, italics added).

Given this concentrated attention upon oneness, and on such a grand and glorious scale, we believers are being told to lift our sights to the wider range of faith and relationships. We are being told to see as God sees, and to work in agreement with God, who has willed our unity in him.

God has shown faith in us. We must be faithful to what he has planned and willed for us. A part of that plan appears in Ephesians 4:13 where the writer speaks about unity in still another dimension. He speaks of “attain[ing] to the unity of the faith.”

Continue reading HERE