National Council of Churches (NCC) General Secretary Michael Kinnamon brought greetings Jan. 13 to the opening session of Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and the Church of the Brethren, both member communions of the National Council of Churches USA, joined with the Mennonite Church USA to bring together an ecumenical group with peacemaking as its aim. In his remarks, Kinnamon said peacemaking is the role not only of historic peace churches, but of the church ecumenical.
“Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And greetings from the 35 member communions of the National Council of Churches. With violence the order of the day in such places as Gaza, Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, Darfur, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, it is imperative that the followers of Christ proclaim a different vision of life in human community– which is why I am so grateful to Thomas and the other organizers of this historic conference. May God grant that our time together be a visible and vital witness to God’s gift of Shalom.
“In this brief welcome, I want to emphasize one point: the ecumenical movement, of which the National Council of Churches is an instrument, is most essentially a movement of peace. Part of the point is sociological: Christian divisions (which ecumenism seeks to overcome) often exacerbate political conflicts and hinder effective peacemaking. War is too massive an evil to be responded to denominationally.
“The real point, however, is more theological. God’s gift of reconciliation is for the world ; but the church is entrusted with this message of reconciliation and the church delivers the message not just by what it says or, even, by what it does, but by what it is, by the way we live with one another. The church’s calling is to be a demonstration project of God’s gift of peace; and the fact that Christians are so obviously fragmented and co-opted by the powers of the world is what drives the ecumenical movement.
“Ecumenical Conferences have declared all of this unambiguously for the past one hundred years, perhaps never more so that at the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1948. “War,” said the delegates, “is contrary to the will of God.” This has been repeated at various ecumenical conferences and I am going to repeat it here: War is contrary to the will of God. It is true that many Christians still see war as a last resort. But there is now broad agreement that war is “inherently evil” (WCC) which means that Christians should never identify human violence with God’s purposes. Contrary to political leaders and old Hollywood movies, it is never redemptive.
“You see why it is so important to remember this at the beginning of our conference. Radical peacemaking is usually associated with one segment of the Christian community: the Historic Peace Churches. “Another peace protest? It must be the Quakers and Mennonites and Brethren.” What I am stressing, however, is that radical, costly, insistent peacemaking is not simply your witness. Peace is the message of the church ecumenical!
“This is not to be taken for granted. In the history of the church, those who emphasized peacemaking have often feared that unity would weaken the prophetic edge of their proclamation, while those who have emphasized unity have often feared that peacemaking would prove divisive. That’s why the historic peace churches have, at times, been sectarian, while churches more inclined to collaboration have generally left matters of war and peace to the individual conscience.
“But the modern ecumenical movement has rejected this dichotomy and I hope we will as well. We are Christians: recipients of the gift of peace. We are Christians: called to be ambassadors of reconciliation by the way we live with one another. May it be so, even here, even now.
–This report was taken from a press release from the National Council of Churches USA.
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BRETHREN IN THE NEWS
“In the name of King and unity, a service in Lititz,” Lancaster (Pa.) Sunday News. As part of an ongoing effort to bring community healing to the Lititz, Pa., area more than a year after it was roiled by racial tension, the Warwick Ministerium is holding its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance. Steve Hess, associate pastor of Lititz Church of the Brethren, is serving as president of the Warwick Ministerium. Read more at http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/232452
“Mitchell to celebrate 102nd birthday,” Ogle County (Ill.) News. Mount Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren hosted an open house for local author Clarence Mitchell, who is celebrating his 102nd birthday. The event took place Saturday, Jan. 10. Go to http://www.oglecountynews.com/article.php?aid=8775
Obituary: Aline K. VanLear, News Leader, Staunton, Va. Helen Aline (Kline) VanLear, 87, of Verona, Va., died on Jan. 7 at the AMC Shenandoah House. She was a member of Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Mount Sidney, Va. Prior her to retirement in 1977, she was employed by VDOT as an administrative assistant. She was married to Walter Alonza VanLear for 64 years before his death in March, 2008. For the full obituary go to http://www.newsleader.com/article/20090108/OBITUARIES/901080340
http://www.newsleader.com/article/20090107/OBITUARIES/901070331Obituary: Eva Lee K. Appl, News Leader, Staunton, Va. Eva Lee (Kindig) Appl, 89, passed away on Jan. 5 at Stuarts Draft (Va.) Christian Home. She was a lifelong member of Mount Vernon Church of the Brethren in Waynesboro, Va., and was a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College and received a master’s degree in religious education from Bethany Theological Seminary. She is survived by her husband, Henry Appl, with whom she shared more than 59 years. Go to http://www.newsleader.com/article/20090107/OBITUARIES/901070331
“Pastors remembered for kindness, charisma,” Indianapolis Star. An article remembering Northview Church of the Brethren co-pastors Phil and Louise Rieman, who died on Dec. 26 when their car slid on a patch of ice and struck an oncoming truck. The newspaper interviews members of their family and the congregation to review the character and accomplishments of the Riemans’ lives. Go to http://www.indystar.com/article/20081231/LOCAL01/812310350/1015/LOCAL01
“Sunnyslope Church welcomes new pastor,” Wenatchee (Wash.) World. Michael Titus gave his first sermon as pastor of Sunnyslope Church on Sunday, Jan. 4. He most recently served as pastor at Covington Community Church of the Brethren. Read more at http://wenatcheeworld.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090102/FAM/901029997
“Living beyond pain: After tragedies shake young family, they find the faith to risk their hearts by becoming parents again,” News Leader, Staunton, Va. An in-depth article about the new life experienced by Brian and Desirae Harman, members of Topeco Church of the Brethren in Floyd, Va., following the birth of a baby boy. The Harmans in 2007 lost their son, Chance, to a rare brain tumor at age four. For the full piece go to http://www.newsleader.com/article/20081226/LIFESTYLE20/812260306/1024/LIFESTYLE
“New pastor brings unique perspective,” Ambler (Pa.) Gazette. At only 27 years old and fresh out of seminary, Brandon Grady has taken the reigns as pastor at Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and is eager to lead the congregation in his own, unique way. “From day one, I’ve preached a togetherness ministry,” Grady told the newspaper. For the full article see http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20226632&BRD=1306&PAG=461&dept_id=187829&rfi=6
“Anonymous letter still unsolved mystery,” Frederick (Md.) News Post. After more than three weeks, an anonymous letter calling for the elimination of white separatist groups still has no known origin. The letter was sent from the fictitious “Ministerium of Rocky Ridge” using the return address of Monocacy Church of the Brethren in Rocky Ridge, Md. Pastor David Collins said his church did not send the letter. Read more at http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=84736
Obituary: Duane H. Greer, Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal. Duane H. Greer, 93, passed away on Jan. 3 in Hospice House of Ashland, Ohio. He was a longtime member of Owl Creek Church of the Brethren in Bellville, Ohio. He devoted 25 years to providing security for the Mansfield Tire and Rubber Company, and also was a skilled woodworker. He and Pauline Miller Greer had celebrated 66 years of marriage. For the full obituary see http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20090105/OBITUARIES/901050318
Obituary: Mary E. Nicholson, Palladium-Item, Richmond, Ind. Mary E. Nicholson, 89, passed away on Jan. 2 at Golden Living Center in Richmond, Ind. She was a member of Castine Church of the Brethren in Arcanum, Ohio. She shared 52 years of marriage to Henry Joseph Nicholson, until his death in 1990. In her professional career she cooked for the Mary E. Hill Home, Fountain City School, and many different restaurants. For the full obituary go to http://www.pal-item.com/article/20090104/NEWS04/901040312