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Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering
opens determined to make a difference

Alexandria, Va., March 7, 2008  ̶̶  More than 700 people are here this weekend for the sixth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days week-end, nearly all of them determined to make their witness for justice and peace heard in the halls of Congress and in the White House.

Gathered under the theme, "2008: Claiming a Vision of True Security," the religious advocates will worship, pray and attend speeches and workshops for three days, climaxing Monday with visits to their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill.

Originated by the National Council of Churches USA under the guidance of the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, former NCC associate general secretary for Justice and Advocacy, the conference has grown steadily since 2003. This year's crowd is nearly double the number of people who came to the first Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

The conference began Friday evening with worship powerfully stirred by the St. Camillus Multicultural Choir (left) of Silver Spring, Md., founded and directed by Tracy McDonnell. The preacher was the Rev. Dr. Mark A. Lomax, (below) pastor and founder of the First African Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the NCC, greeted the advocates, recalling that his previous attendance at the conference had been as one of the advocates. Before assuming his office January 1, Kinnamon was a professor at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., and chair of the NCC's Justice and Advocacy Commission.

Also greeting conferees were representatives of sponsoring organizations, including the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries; Andrew Genszler, director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Advocacy Department; Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society; and Sr. Simone Campbell, Director of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

Campbell was cheered when she described how witness can make a difference in Congress. Referring to last year's efforts to increase allocations to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), she said, "We came together for our children and we won when the legislation was passed by both houses of Congress."

Pausing briefly, she added, "And it was vetoed. So we fought for it again and it was again passed by both houses of Congress. And it was vetoed."

But Ecumenical Advocates will not give up the fight, she suggested.

On Saturday morning, the conferees will hear a presentation by Dr. Lisa Schirch of Eastern Mennonite University on conflict analysis and resolution.

On Saturday afternoon they will be divided into tracks to hone their skills and increase their knowledge in eight crucial areas: Africa, Asia Pacific, Eco-Justice, Domestic, Global Economic Justice, Latin America, Middle East and Peace and Global Security.

The Sunday preacher will be Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, president of the National Council of Churches.

The evening plenary Sunday is billed as a Presidential Candidate Town Hall Forum. Originally conceived when there were several presidential hopefuls in both parties, the invited guests are now three:  Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. Whether the candidates show up or not, Michel Martin, host of National Public Radio's "Tell Me More," is slated to moderate the forum.

NCC News contact:  Philip Jenks, 212.870.2228,


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