Prayer for US Legislators

Bread for the World, prayer focus continues to be on the budget. The Senate budget resolution could make deep cuts to various safety-net programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Women, Children, and Infants (WIC), and international development. These cuts will impact children, the elderly, women, and men in our nation and around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty.

Please join us in this prayer:

Dear God, almighty.

You have blessed humankind with abundance on earth and despite our imperfect humanity, you have charged us with the stewardship of your creation for the common good, so no one suffers need.

Witnessing the impact that natural and man-made disasters have had on poor and hungry people all around the world breaks our hearts, and I pray that through the empowerment of your Holy Spirit we can share a message of good news, and hope.

Help us do the good that you called us to do in loving our neighbor and pursuing justice amid inequality and lack of opportunity for those who are struggling with hunger and poverty.

We pray that you open the eyes and hearts of our leaders, so they may set aside partisanship and distractions to reject any cuts to the safety net and international development programs that have moved millions out of hunger and poverty.

We pray that our lawmakers draft a faithful budget that provides food, jobs, education, health, proper housing, and opportunity for the most vulnerable.

We pray that our nation rises to the challenge to be a beacon of justice providing leadership nationally and globally by dedicating all of our available resources to ending hunger in your world.

These things we pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

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Coptic Orthodox Bishops call to pray for martyrs…

Coptic Orthodox bishops call upon all of our churches to dedicate Sunday, October 22, 2017, to pray for all of our martyrs, confessors, their families, and for the peace of the Church and the peace of the Church and the entire world.

Read statement HERE

New Disciples of Christ Ecumenical Publication

The CCU has published prominent ecumenical journals such as Midstream and Call to Unity for more than fifty-five years. As the CCU renews its commitment to publishing an ecumenical and interfaith journal, the Council renamed its journal as Sunesis: Disciples Ecumenical and Interfaith Journal. Dr. M. Eugene Boring said, “I think Σύνεσις would be an excellent choice for the name of the new journal. Among the fairly narrow range of meanings, ‘Insight’ would be appropriate for the journal (Eph. 3:4).”

We pray that Sunesis will provide you with new insights regarding not only ecumenism but also our interfaith neighbors. There is joy when we acquire new insights about others, and many times that joy leads us to pursue friendship. We hope that through these friendships and relationships with other ecumenical partners and interfaith friends, we will achieve a better understanding of others, as the word Sunesis implies. Then we will be able to live peacefully together as God’s children and work together to bring peace to this fragmented world.

You can download the journal Sunesis HERE

Working for Unity in Guatemala

By Nate Bacon

Padre Fernando is standing to the right of Nate Bacon. To the other side is a young Evangelical pastor, Nehemias, connected to us through CTM, Jose from InnerChange Honduras is at the far right.  Next to Jose is Ana Beatriz, and at the far left is Fray Jorge, Ana Beatriz and Fray Jorge are also missionaries working closely with Jose and Celida in Honduras.  This photo is outside Archbishop Oscar Romero’s tomb in San Salvador, the day before his beatification.

I’m writing from a bus on the four-hour mountainous trip to Guatemala City, from Xela.  At the kind request of our friend Fr. Fernando Ruiz, who pastors one of the largest Catholic parishes in Antigua, Guatemala, tomorrow morning I will have the opportunity to speak in Guatemala City to 35 students from different Catholic orders and religious communities, most of them preparing for the priesthood.  The exciting thing is that the topic is Christian Unity, which, as we have shared, is sadly not a very popular topic here.

Please pray that God will grant me wisdom and grace to plant significant seeds in hearts and minds that might flower in their lives and future ministries!  I am very excited to have this opportunity.What makes this even more interesting is that our friends at Center for Transforming Mission (CTM) and several of us from InnerChange have been growing in friendship with Fr Fernando over the past few years.  His first ever speaking venture to an Evangelical audience was at a summit put on by our friends at CTM 3 years ago…which was also the first time CTM had ever invited a Roman Catholic priest to speak!  He did a fantastic exegesis on the Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that Joel Aguilar from CTM just spoke to this same class just two weeks ago!

What makes this even more interesting is that our friends at Center for Transforming Mission (CTM) and several of us from InnerChange have been growing in friendship with Fr Fernando over the past few years.  His first ever speaking venture to an Evangelical audience was at a summit put on by our friends at CTM 3 years ago…which was also the first time CTM had ever invited a Roman Catholic priest to speak!  He did a fantastic exegesis on the Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that Joel Aguilar from CTM just spoke to this same class just two weeks ago!

I add these details because I believe they reveal the long-term fruit of your prayers as God continually surprises us with key friendships that produce ever unfolding blessings over time for the sake of God’s Kingdom in Guatemala and Central America.  We are deeply grateful. Thank you…

Senators unveil bipartisan criminal justice reform package

By SEUNG MIN KIM

Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition

10/04/2017 03:10 PM EDT

A group of influential senators rolled out a sweeping bill to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system and sentencing laws, reviving a bipartisan effort that had been left for dead last year.

The new legislation, led by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is aimed at easing sentences for some non-violent offenders, such as for drug crimes, while beefing up other tough-on-crime laws. For example, it gets rid of the three-strike mandatory life sentence for some repeat drug offenders, but would also allow some people with previous convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies to face enhanced penalties.

“This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system,” said Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. “It is the product of much thoughtful deliberation, and we will continue to welcome input from stakeholders as we move forward.”

Grassley did not lay out a timetable for marking up the bill, a version of which sailed through his committee 15-5 during the last Congress but never made it to the floor due to objections from conservative law-and-order Republicans in the conference.

A broad coalition of senators lined up Wednesday behind the bill, including Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Senators this year have a critical ally in the White House: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has taken an interest in reforming the nation’s criminal justice system and has met privately with senators about the issue.

At the same time, the coalition will still face opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who helped sink the bill when he served in the Senate.

Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard

By Laura Markle Downton

Sept. 26, 2017

Inside most of the local jails, state and federal prisons, and detention centers that dot the landscape of the United States, on any given day, tens of thousands of incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement. For 22 to 24 hours a day, they are confined to a cell the size of a parking space for months, years, even decades. Meals are shoved through a small slit in a solid steel door. The cell may or may not have a window to the outside world. Those who have experienced this extreme isolation often describe it as being “buried alive.”

The United Nations and other developed countries consider prolonged isolation a form of torture. Solitary confinement often leads to self-harm and suicide, due to a lack of meaningful human contact. Such extreme isolation changes the chemistry of the human brain. As those in solitary suffer, so do their families and loved ones. Corrections staff working in such toxic environments experience levels of PTSD similar to veterans returning from war. Yet in the US, the practice is used arbitrarily and often.

Continue reading at Evangelicals for Social Action website

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What You Can Do Right Now to Help Puerto Rico

By Sarah Withrow King and Rev. Carlos Malavé

The island of Puerto Rico is home to 3.4 million people, and they are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many of us want to help, but don’t know where to start. So, here are five things you can do, right now, to help Puerto Rico:

Five Things Christians Can Do Right Now to Help Puerto Rico

1. Pray. Pray for God to intercede in the lives and actions of those who can help or hurt relief efforts. Ask God to clear the way for relief supplies and services to get from port to inland areas. And pray for clean water, food, and electricity be delivered to those in need, right now. Pray so that the resolve and hope of those affected stay strong.

Continue reading at Evangelicals for Social Action website.

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WCC HEARING ON RACISM, DISCRIMINATION, AFROPHOBIA AND XENOPHOBIA

 

HEARING ON RACISM, DISCRIMINATION, AFROPHOBIA AND XENOPHOBIA:

THE EXPERIENCE OF PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT IN THE USA

Ecumenical Centre, Visser’t Hooft Hall (Main Hall) 25 September 2017, 09:00 – 11:00

Please RSVP at cgs@wcc-coe.org

(Plans are underway for the event to be live streamed.)

Flyer Hearing on Racism and Afrophobia _ FINAL

CBF, African-American Baptists to gather for reconciliation event

August 18, 2017

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. — As faith communities seek ways to confront the scourge of racism and the presence of white supremacy in the aftermath of Charlottesville, Cooperative Baptists  — pastors and lay leaders — are invited to join African-American Baptists for a special gathering focused on racial reconciliation and justice September 11 in Louisville, Ky.

The event is the first of a series of three summits to take place over the course of the next three years as part of The Angela Project. The Angela Project aims to assist African-American institutions and promote African-American prosperity, and will commemorate the 400th anniversary of black enslavement in the United States in 2019.

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter encouraged pastors and lay leaders from across the Fellowship to join in this historic effort alongside two major national Baptist conventions.

“This is an opportunity for concrete action toward justice and reconciliation,” Paynter said. “There are Charlottesvilles in many other places. We cannot rewrite history or undo the past, but we can seize a new future that strengthens our families, schools, businesses and churches. We lift up deeds beyond words.

“Let’s be the better future. Show your commitment by showing up. Faithful voices are needed.”

In 2016, CBF formalized a partnership with the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., a fellowship of 3.5 million African-American Baptists with the goal of “building authentic and Christ-like community through shared work. As this partnership took shape, The Angela Project was launched.

Named after the first known African slave to step onto American soil — Angela was baptized a Christian in her native home. The Angela Project features summits focused on public policy and education (2017), black and white poverty (2018) and the legacy of slavery in America (2019). Other partners in the project include the Progressive National Baptist Convention and Louisville-based Simmons College of Kentucky. The one-day summit will be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc.

CBF Moderator Shauw Chin Capps emphasized the Fellowship’s efforts to prioritize partnerships with African-American Baptists and seek hope and healing together.

“As our nation is experiencing much cultural turmoil and racial tension, we are prayerfully seeking ways to elevate hope, healing and dignity during this critical time,” Capps said. “As an Asian American, I join our two former African-American moderators to help enrich our Fellowship. Multiplying cross-cultural congregational linkages is a heightened priority of our Fellowship.”

Capps cited CBF’s multi-faceted response in the aftermath of the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge, La., which allowed the Fellowship to form new partnerships and friendships with African-American Baptists in the region, as well as providing leadership to Together for Hope and participating in EmpowerWest Louisville, two innovative models for rural development and urban uplift.

“Our passion, however, is to do even more — in bold and tangible ways,” Capps said. “We want to represent Christ in the culture with an empowering spirit of reconciliation. Please join us for a special time of friendship, fellowship and learning on September 11.”

Featured speakers include journalist and media expert Yvette Carnell; attorney Antonio Moore, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor and producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary “Freeway: Crack in the System”; author and antiracism activist Tim Wise; radio and television host Jared Ball, who is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore; and Robert Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta. The “Little Rock Nine” — integration pioneers who enrolled in Little Rock’s Central High School 60 years ago — will be honored during the summit.

Topics of discussion include education and public policy, public school integration, the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and philanthropic discrimination and curriculum debates. Angela Project convener Kevin Cosby, senior pastor of Louisville’s St. Stephen Church and president of Simmons College of Kentucky, will join Joe Phelps, senior pastor of CBF-partner congregation Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, to discuss how to replicate their innovative EmpowerWest model for pursuing racial justice in other cities across the country.

Tickets for the summit’s luncheon are available for purchase here. To make your hotel reservation at the Galt House Hotel, please call 1-800-626-1814 and ask for the NBCA Annual Session rate. If you are able to attend or need additional information, please contact Kevin Pranoto at kpranoto@cbf.net.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship – A Statement Concerning Racism in our Nation

A Statement Concerning Racism in our Nation

It is clear from Scripture that the whole universe has its origin with God, and everything that God has made is good (Gen.1:1-2:4). Beyond the opening chapter in Genesis, we read over and over again that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev 19:9-18, Matt 22:33-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, Gal. 5:14, Jas. 2:8). When pressed by religious people about who our neighbors may be, Jesus tells us that our neighbors are everyone, even those who may be completely different from us (Luke 10:25-37). Early in the Jesus movement, well before it was called Christianity, one of the defining issues that Christ’s followers faced was how to incorporate and include others, specifically Gentiles. It was not a question of how to exclude them, but how to include them (Matt 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30, Acts 10:1-48, Acts 15:1-35, Gal. 3:26-29, Rom. 4-5, 1 Cor. 9:19-23, Eph. 2:1-22).

While the history of Christianity has terrible moments that have included genocide and human devastation, it is clear that at our origins, we were an inclusive movement that attempted to care for the most vulnerable in society (Matt 25:31-46, Gal. 2:10, Jas. 1:27, 2:1-13, 5:1-6). With these scriptural and historical roots, it is with the strongest and clearest voice that we utterly condemn racism, white supremacy and bigotry. We condemn in the absolute strongest terms the racism and the violent, racist acts that were on display in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three people died as a result of this hatred and bigotry, and one of them was a woman who was standing against evil.

We condemn any form of white supremacy because it is a sin against God and humanity. The hate that this ideology supports builds walls that separate human beings in categories of good and bad. This cannot be so!

God has created all of us in God’s own image (Gen. 1:26-27). Whether it is the KKK, Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, or white nationalists, all are groups espousing ideologies that are antichrist in the original sense of the term. These ideologies are absolutely opposed to the life, teachings and love ethic of Jesus Christ, who was himself a Jew born in Bethlehem and raised in Galilee (Matt. 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 13:31-35).

This moment requires more from us as churches and as a nation. As Dr. King reminds us, the greatest tragedy is not the “strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Silence is not an option. Silence is not Christian. Silence is an affront to the Gospel. We will not be silent.

We commit to preaching, teaching and living the truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is incompatible with racism, hate and bigotry. Christ’s love compels us to proclaim this truth boldly in communities beyond our own churches and social circles (2 Cor. 5:14-15). We believe that there will be little to no progress on difficult issues of race without establishing authentic relationships with those who hold perspectives different from our own.
For more than 25 years, we as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship have sought to live out these commitments. In 1992, at our first General Assembly after launching CBF and its genuinely Baptist witness apart from the Southern Baptist Convention, we adopted “A Statement of Confession and Repentance,” offering a long overdue confession and apology to African Americans for “our historic complicity in condoning and perpetuating the sin of slavery.” “We reject forthrightly the racism which has persisted throughout our history as Southern Baptists, even to this present day,” the statement said. “Furthermore, we pledge our prayers and active efforts to work for the eradication of every vestige of racism in our nation and in our churches.”
We have pursued racial justice and community transformation through numerous active efforts, from CBF’s rural poverty initiative in the poorest counties in the United States called Together for Hope; to helping rebuild neglected minority communities in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods; to helping form and provide leadership to the New Baptist Covenant — a theologically, geographically and racially diverse movement of Baptist organizations working together toward unity and justice; to combating predatory lenders targeting people of color; and to a new partnership with African-American Baptist conventions called the Angela Project, which seeks concrete action toward racial justice and reconciliation through the promotion of African-American prosperity and a focus on public policy and education, poverty and the legacy of slavery.
Because of our active efforts to make good on CBF’s 1992 pledge to eradicate racism in our churches, communities and nation, we commit anew to seeking out authentic relationships across racial lines. We commit to continued ministry with people of color as together we seek to fulfill the Great Commission and be faithful to the Great Commandment of Jesus Christ (Mark 12:30-31, Matt. 22:37-39, Luke 10:27). We also commit to confronting with love and humility any form of racism we encounter — individual and systemic. Strengthened by prayer and motivated by the love of Christ, who is our source of hope (Rom. 5:1-2), we seek to shine a light of love in the midst of darkness (Eph. 5:8-11).