ECC President Walter Announces 2018 Retirement

CHICAGO, IL (August 1, 2017) – Evangelical Covenant Church president Rev. Gary Walter today announced his intention to retire in 2018 following one more year of service. Walter was elected president in 2008 and upon his retirement will have served with the ECC in various capacities for 42 years.

“My core identity is that of a Covenant pastor,” Walter says. “Every position, including this one, has been a distinct and humbling opportunity. My hope for all of these years has simply been to be found faithful as a disciple and servant of Jesus.”

During his tenure, the Covenant has continued to be a growing, multiethnic, multi-generational fellowship of churches. Walter led a significant restructuring of the Covenant, streamlining the denominational offices into a more cost-effective and collaborative structure while helping form one of the most ethnically diverse leadership teams of any denomination in the United States today. Each of the Covenant’s mission priorities and support ministries has made notable accomplishments, garnering recognition for innovative efforts in missions, discipleship, multiethnic ministry, church planting, among others.

“Having served for almost three decades with Gary, I am well aware of how God has used him in many different roles of leadership within the church,” says Steve Dawson, president of National Covenant Properties. “Gary’s wisdom, vision, and work ethic have blessed many along the way—myself included. We all wish him well in this next season.”

“Gary has done so much to take the Covenant deeper in Christ and further in mission,” adds Michelle Sanchez, executive minister of Make and Deepen Disciples. “I am grateful that he is leaving us with such an outstanding legacy to build upon.”

According to Kansas-based attorney and Executive Board member Jeffrey Houston, Walter’s unique combination of gifts made him a transformational leader for the ECC. “He is a bit of a unicorn: the CEO with a pastor’s heart, or a strategic pastor with an executive’s instincts—whichever way you look at it, he was the leader for such a time as this.”

In his letter to Covenant Executive Board chair Alice Lee, Walter said, “I give this advance notice so that the processes and provisions of the ECC Constitution and By-laws can be implemented in a timely way for the election of the next president at the 2018 Covenant Annual Meeting.”

The Presidential Nominating Committee (PNC) typically begins its work in the fall of the year of an election. According to the Covenant Constitution and By-laws, it is charged with nominating one candidate to the Annual Meeting. Additional candidates may be nominated from the floor.

The PNC will be comprised of 27 members, including 12 from the Covenant Executive Bard, each chair of the 11 regional conference executive boards, and one member from each of the four additional boards elected by the Covenant Annual Meeting (North Park University, Covenant Ministries of Benevolence, Ordered Ministry, and Pension/Benefits).

In his letter, Walter concluded, “I am confident God will raise up gifted and godly leadership for a faithful and fruitful future for the Covenant. I will do whatever is helpful for a smooth transition as that time approaches.” His official retirement date will be September 1, 2018.

President Walter’s letter of notice can be found here.

Rev. Teresa Hord Owens elected as Disciples President

General Assembly elects Teresa Hord Owens as first African-American woman to head mainline denomination

INDIANAPOLIS – Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens was elected Sunday night to serve as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She is the first African-American to hold this post and the second woman to lead the denomination.

Hord Owens comes to the position in a time of renewed emphasis on the issues of race, particularly in the United States. Her election comes on the 50th anniversary of the Merger Agreement uniting the African-American and largely white branches of the American-born denomination. She is currently pastor of a predominately white congregation in the Chicago area.

“We need to stop demonizing differences as deficiencies,” Hord Owens says. “We should seek to understand, to work through our differences in priorities, opinions, methods, and goals. This will not be easy, but imagine what an example this will be for the world if we can bridge the gaps in politics, identity, geography and theology.”

Hord Owens’ resume includes more than 20 years in corporate America leading diverse teams in data management before she entered seminary. For the last 15 years, she has been the dean of students at the University of Chicago Divinity School, shepherding a varied student body in both background and theology.

The election of Hord Owens follows the 12-year tenure of the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who was the first female to lead a mainline denomination in the United States upon her election in 2005. Hord Owens’ term is six years with an option for re-election in 2023 for an additional six-year term.

Read full article HERE

CCT Pastoral Letter to the Persecuted Church

Follow link: CCT Pastoral Letter Persecuted Church

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

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

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops name new director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Department

 

Rev. Alfred Baca Named New Executive Director of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Department

 

January 18, 2017

WASHINGTON—Rev. Alfred Baca from the Diocese of Orange in California, has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based in Washington D.C.

“Fr. Baca brings to the Conference a wealth of knowledge and experience in the realm of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, both at the institutional and at personal levels,” said USCCB General Secretary, Rev. Msgr. Brian Bransfield, who made the appointment. “I am very grateful to Fr. Baca for accepting this vital position in service to the bishops and to the Conference. I am equally grateful to Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, California, for his tremendous support of the Conference and generosity in releasing Fr. Baca for this important service.”

Fr. Baca earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy in 1985, and a Masters of Divinity in 1989 from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1989, he served in various parish assignments before attending the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, where he received a Licenciate in Sacred Theology with a specialization in Ecumenical Studies in 2006.

Since 2015, Father Baca has served as Pastor of St. Columban Church in Garden Grove, California. From 2009-2015, Father Baca served as the Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs in the Diocese of Orange. Prior to that, he served as Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Officer from 2007-2009.

Of his new role, Father Baca states, “In today’s world, efforts to heal the Christian family are more important than ever.  Cooperation with the other religions of the world can only benefit the human family.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with the Bishops and the USCCB staff in furthering the Church’s mission, especially in the work toward Christian unity and reconciliation.”

Fr. Baca is a member of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO). Until last year, Fr. Baca also served as a representative for CADEIO of the United States.

He will assume his role with the bishops’ conference beginning July 1, 2017.

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Keywords: Rev. Alfred Baca, Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Kevin Vann, Diocese of Orange, California, Rev. Msgr. Brian J. Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary.

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Welcoming the Migrant to the United States

These are uncertain times for so many immigrants in our communities, churches, and homes. The United Methodist Church’s resolution #3281 “Welcoming the Migrant to the United States” offers opportunities and ideas for study and action. Let us join in prayer, for we all are in need of hope and reassurance.

O God we call upon you as a people wandering in search of better homeland

You call us to be welcoming of those who cross borders, seas, rivers, deserts, highways, and mountains escaping poverty, persecution, violence and war. 

Like your disciples, we worry that there is not enough food and we do not see your face. We too are filled with fear. We grow anxious and distant from ourselves and from you. We stand confused and frozen. In the midst of doubt and fear, You draw near pouring out your love and compassion on us. 

We remember and are comforted knowing

you multiplied the loaves and fishes, 

you provided more than food for the body, 

you offered the gift of Yourself, 

                  the gift which satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst! 

Jesus, help us by your grace,

To banish fear from our hearts; 

To embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;

To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity; 

To know that you call all people to learn the ways of peace and justice;

To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;

To give witness to your love for all people, as we delight in the many gifts we bring. 

We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from the ends of the earth.  We see in your human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Amen.

(Inspired by and adapted from a prayer of the Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Peace,

Susan Henry-Crowe

Baptist groups (in CCT) form historic alliance to share expertise, minister together  

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc. (NBCA) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) entered into an historic partnership today to “build an authentic and Christ-like community through shared work.” The partnership was announced at Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville, Ky. a historically black college founded in 1879 and the new headquarters of NBCA.

NBCA is a fellowship of voluntary churches approximating 3.5 million African-American Baptists which seeks to holistically impact the world through education, missions and evangelism. CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry eff­orts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and NBCA President, Reverend Samuel C. Tolbert Jr. signed the formal memorandum of understanding which stated that the purpose of the partnership is “to begin a conversation that will foster deeper relationships, showcasing the innovative nature of NBCA and CBF, our diverse perspectives and people.”

This new relationship stems from a shared history and heritage and more than a decade of previous cooperation between the two groups through the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF), the regional body of the Baptist World Alliance of which both CBF and NBC are active members. NBCA and CBF are also active participants in the New Baptist Covenant, an informal alliance launched in 2007 by President Jimmy Carter of more than 30 diverse Baptist organizations to break down barriers between Baptists in North America and pursue justice, reconciliation and transformation.

CBF and NBCA will work together to pursue specific areas of mutual ministry including but not limited to: being the presence of Christ in the United States and around the world; social justice and advocacy awareness; race relations, reconciliation and the dismantling of racism in the U.S.; disaster response and long-term recovery planning and engagement; poverty alleviation in rural and urban areas; and supporting and equipping healthy churches.

The two groups will accomplish these purposes of the partnership through methods of cooperation such as consulting and sharing expertise between on matters of operations, networks, missions and ministries; community building and training interactions for the mutual benefit of the two groups; and focus on providing access to events, goods and services. As part of the partnership, Ron Fairley, CBF’s associate coordinator of projects and services, will provide consulting services to NBCA as it relocates its national headquarters from Dallas to Louisville.

Paynter expressed her excitement for the partnership with Tolbert and NBCA, noting that the partnership will further the effort to strengthen unity between Baptists of diverse backgrounds and is a reminder of the shared identity of NBCA and CBF.

“We celebrate our partnership in the spirit of cooperation, goodwill and common faith,” Paynter said. “We reaffirm our commitment to Baptist values including evangelism, education, helping those in need and promoting religious liberty. Our partnership is an important effort to bring together Baptists from diverse racial, theological and regional backgrounds.

“Our efforts today underscore the spiritual and reconciling nature of 2 Corinthians 3:1-3: ‘Are we beginning to commend ourselves? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and ready by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tables of human hearts.'”

Tolbert said that the partnership will strengthen the Baptist voice at a critical time.

“This new collaborative arrangement will strengthen our Baptist voice, vision and productivity,” Tolbert said. “In a time in the United States when racial tensions are heightened, both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the historically Negro National Baptist Convention of America are blazing fresh and needed alliance. We are not stronger separated but we are stronger together. This movement is of God and we are riding the wave of the Spirit. Our witness for Jesus Christ and our progress together will become liberating to a society darkened by sin’s grip.”

The new partnership began to take shape following the “Great Flood” in August which devastated the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana. Through their disaster relief work together as members of NABF, CBF and NBCA leaders met to plan their long-term recovery efforts in a neglected and concentrated area in Baton Rouge to assist churches and communities impacted by the floods.

At the invitation of Tolbert, Fairley spoke at the 136 Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention of America on Sept. 14 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to share about the emerging partnership between the groups and the participation of CBF and NBCA through the NABF Disaster Relief Network.

During a Sept. 17 visit to CBF’s headquarters in Decatur, Ga., Fairley and Paynter presented Tolbert with a contribution on behalf of the Fellowship to provide 100 of NBCA’s disaster response resource manuals to 100 pastors of the NBCA. This meeting initiated the formal partnership agreement announced today.

To learn more about the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., visit http://www.nbcainc.com. For additional information about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, visit www.cbf.net.

ELCA approves Lutheran-Catholic ecumenical document

8/10/2016 10:45:00 PM
NEW ORLEANS (Aug.10, 2016)

The 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly took several significant steps Wednesday moving forward the mission of this church as a church for the sake of the world.
By a vote of 931 to 9, the assembly overwhelmingly accepted the “Declaration on the Way,” a unique ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. Following the vote, an emotional assembly stood to applaud the momentous decision.
At the heart of the document are 32 “Statements of Agreement” that state where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist. More tentatively, the document also explores differences that remain.
“Dear sisters and brothers, let us pause to honor this historic moment,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressing the assembly following the vote. “Though we have not yet arrived, we have claimed that we are, in fact, on the way to unity. After 500 years of division and 50 years of dialogue, this action must be understood in the context of other significant agreements we have reached, most notably the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ in 1999.”
“This ‘Declaration on the Way’ helps us to realize more fully our unity in Christ with our Catholic partners, but it also serves to embolden our commitment to unity with all Christians,” said Eaton.
To honor the occasion, Eaton presented a gift of communion ware made especially for the assembly to Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and co-chair of the ‘Declaration on the Way’ task force. ELCA Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson served as co-chair from the ELCA. The task force had gathered and presented to the church agreements reached in dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics.
“I feel so privileged and so grateful to have spent these few days with you. Speaking with you, sharing time with you, and praying with you,” Madden said. “I thank you for allowing me and my colleagues to join you in the Eucharist celebrations which have been a great joy and always a remembrance that soon we will be celebrating these together as one body.”
The assembly expressed gratitude for the pioneering ecumenical text and commended the declaration (together with other ecumenical texts) as a resource “for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond.” Concerning the Statement of Agreements, the assembly’s action to receive the 32 common affirmations “recognized that there are no longer church dividing issues’ between Lutherans and Catholics with respect to these statements.
In another major consideration, the assembly voted 921 to 11 in favor of AMMPARO – the ELCA’s strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities.
The ELCA developed this strategy based on commitments to uphold and guarantee the basic human rights and safety of migrant children and their families; to address the root causes of migration in countries from Central America’s Northern Triangle and Mexico and the treatment of migrants in transit; to work toward just and humane policies affecting migrants in and outside the U.S.; to engage as a church with all of its companions, affiliates and partners to respond to the migration situation and its causes; and to advocate for migrant children and their families.
The assembly also voted 895 to 23 to accept the 2017-2019 budget proposal approved and recommended by the ELCA Church Council. The budget proposal includes:
a 2017 current fund spending authorization of $65,296,005 and a 2017 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $24.8 million;

a 2018 current fund income proposal of $64,057,220 and a 2018 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million; and

a 2019 current fund income proposal of $64,151,175 and a 2019 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million.

Original posting: http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/7848

The assembly – the highest legislative authority of the ELCA – is meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Meeting under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action,” the assembly’s business will include preparations for observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Will You Vote to End Hunger? Will You Engage the Candidates First?

At the heart of Bread’s advocacy is developing relationships with members of Congress. But it’s best not to wait until after the election to introduce yourself and start a relationship with any new elected leaders in your district and state. The time to start that is now, during the campaign.

The elections for Congress – all of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate – are just as important as the high-profile presidential election this year. Bread wants both the new Congress and the president who will take office in 2017 to have addressing hunger, poverty, and opportunity high on their to-do lists. Both the legislative and executive branches of our government will have to get right to work if we as a country and world are to end hunger by 2030. This is a goal that Bread and many other international institutions have set.

This all means that Bread needs you as voters, constituents, citizens, and residents to get in front of your candidates so that we as a collective Christian voice can raise hunger as an important issue during the campaign.

Be part of Bread’s I Vote to End Hunger campaign:

GET IN FRONT OF THE CANDIDATES

Whether during public forums, town hall meetings, or a meeting at a candidate’s office, you can engage all candidates on hunger. In most cases, that will be a candidate from each of the major parties. It is important to engage candidates on both sides so that regardless of who wins, there is a relationship established with the office-holder.

We want you to ask candidates the following questions:

  • If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and create opportunity in the U.S. and worldwide?
  • Will you publicize your position on hunger, poverty, and opportunity on your website and in social media?
  • Will you meet with us within the first 30 days of taking office?

After meeting with a candidate, please let us know how it went by completing the Activist Field Report Form. This will help Bread for the World track the number of candidates who are being engaged.

Additionally, writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper and posting your experience on social media will publicize your efforts. All of the materials you will need are posted in the Elections Resources section below.

If you have any questions or need support with elections, please contact us by email or 202/639-9400.

ELECTIONS RESOURCES

Bread provides resources in English and Spanish for you to use in your state/district to engage candidates on these issues. These materials include:

Candidate packet

Materials to present to candidates when you meet with them:

And remember to fill out the Activist Field Report Form after talking to your candidate.

Resources for activists

More Resources

Bread has many other elections resources to help congregations and individuals engage in the election. See the full list.