General Assembly OKs war
human biotech policy, climate resolutions
challenge NCC to greater witness, healing role
Edgar calls for 'Season of Healing' after the election
General Assembly okays war message
Voters seen choosing honesty, integrity, truth and justice
General Assembly meets for the Healing of the Nations
Nov. 9, 2006
The General Assembly
of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and
Church World Service took on the issues of the world in the name of the
gospel of Jesus Christ at its annual meeting that concluded today in
Among the work of the 248 delegates from 35 member Christian
denominations was passage of a pastoral message on the war, a new policy
on human biotechnology, and resolutions banning human reproductive
cloning, bio-warfare oversight and combating global warming.
The three day gathering also heard from several speakers each issuing
unique challenges to the oldest Christian ecumenical organization in
"America is back," said the Rev. Dr. James Forbes in the closing keynote
conversation with delegates. "The people's voice will speak the truth
and the government will hear," said Forbes, who recently announced his
retirement as the senior minister of The Riverside Church, New York
City. He thanked the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC, for
calling him in 2004 to help start the Let Justice Roll Living Wage
Campaign to address the needs of the poor.
"We can't take all the credit," he said of the Election Day clean sweep
of six states where ballot initiatives voted to raise the minimum wage.
"But in partnership we will discover a difference in the days ahead," he
said on the news of a possible coming vote in Congress to raise the
federal minimum wage for the first time since 1997. In retirement
Forbes says he will devote his time to the "spiritual healing" of the
A statement of the General Assembly on the election acknowledged the
NCC's "strong support for raising the minimum wage." The statement,
passed Wednesday, expressed a "real sense of joy and thanksgiving" at
the six states voting to help raise workers out of poverty
"acknowledging that such public policy is good for business as well as
The theme of the General Assembly meeting was "For the Healing of the
Nations" based on Revelation 22:1-2. Healing was on the minds of many
speakers as well the NCC general secretary who reacted to Tuesday's
voting results by calling for a "season of healing" among our national
NCC President, the Rev. Michael Livingston, urged the representatives of
45 million Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, historic African American and
traditional "peace" churches to claim their leadership by asserting
greater national influence.
"In a society that values volume over substance, so much greater is the
need to be a 'national' council of churches," said Livingston, a
Presbyterian who is executive director of the International Council of
"Simple cooperation is not enough to bear the weight of the witness our
times demand," Livingston said. "Being a national council means that we
bear witness together, stand and testify together, that we become the
exclamation points--like the cross stabbed into the ground on Calvary."
Renowned theologian Robert M. Franklin Jr. told the delegates that
churches must become "social therapists" in order to help the nation
heal from deep political, economic, global religious and racial wounds.
"In our time therapy and healing have become privatized and pathology
has become personalized," Franklin said. The theological educator and
administrator, who has served the University of Chicago and Harvard
divinity schools, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and the Candler
School of Theology and Interdenominational Theological Center in
Atlanta, said, "We need to rediscover the gospel of Jesus Christ as a
means to both personal and social transformation, to practice Christian
ethics as a social therapeutic."
Women delegates to the annual Assembly have been meeting in caucus
sessions for 25 years. Yesterday they heard from Helen LaKelly Hunt,
Ph.D., author of "Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance." Dr. Hunt said
"every woman has a story" and urged her audience to tell theirs. She
shared parts of her own story about being told "feminism was a bad word"
and how she came to reconcile it in her own faith journey.
On the Iraq war, delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve a pastoral
message that calls for "an immediate phased withdrawal of American and
coalition forces from Iraq." The withdrawal plan is linked to
"benchmarks for rebuilding Iraqi society." It will be sent to the Bush
administration, Members of Congress and is also addressed to people of
faith and all people of goodwill.
"As men and women of faith, we believe that freedom, along with genuine
security, is based in God, and is served by the recognition of
humanity's interdependence," said the message, "and by working with
partners to bring about community, development, and reconciliation for
all, and that such freedom and security is not served by this war in
Of the nearly 250 delegates voting, only two abstentions and one 'no'
vote were heard.
The Assembly also adopted a new policy on human biotechnologies
entitled, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made."
The policy proclaims the sanctity of all human life as God's creation
and condemns human reproductive cloning. But it acknowledges differences
exist among the 35 different member communions regarding stem cell
research. The policy was presented to the delegates by Clare Chapman,
chair of the drafting committee.
The new policy was the basis for two resolutions based on the
biotechnologies policy. One calls for a worldwide ban on human
reproductive cloning. A second, "Biotechnology and National Security,"
calls for more oversight of government and private sector laboratories
developing bio-warfare weapons. The resolution calls for creation of a
National Science Advisory Board for Bio-defense within the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. It would have "powers of
regulation and oversight" of government and private bio-defense
projects. Both passed unanimously.
Neither was there any dissent over a resolution to protect God's
"Global warming threatens the very fabric of God's creation and will hit
those who are least able to adapt--both human and nonhuman--the
hardest," says the resolution in part. It calls on "all Christians,
people of faith and people of good will the world over to...individually
and in community, quickly reduce...their green house gas emissions."
The 2007 General Assembly meeting will be held in New York City.