Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in
Chicago, brought the General Assembly to its feet with his
rousing sermon on race in America.
Moss, who succeeded
the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as pastor of the church, alluded to the
media frenzy involving Wright because of his relationship with
President-Elect Barack Obama, who resigned his membership at
Trinity amid the controversy.
"I am happy and
thankful the election is over," Moss said. "We no longer see
cameras hanging out of the balcony."
Moss compared the
Obama's historic election to the succession of leadership from
Moses to Joshua in Joshua 1:1.
The election was "a
very powerful moment, a very unique moment," Moss said. "But it
was also a very dangerous moment."
"What is unique about
this moment," he said, "is the reaction around the world. As I
watched brothers and sisters in Obama, Japan shout for joy about
the new president, I saw cheering Aboriginals in Australia,
people in France and Germany, people in Israel shouting
'Barack,' which means, praise the Lord."
But Moss said he was
also disturbed by the reaction because this is a dangerous
moment in history.
"Pundits said now all
of this racism is over," he said. "Every station we turned to
said as a result of a person kissed by natureís sun in the Oval
office, racism is over. We are in a post wilderness moment --
but we have yet to move into the promised land. And the most
dangerous thing an individual can do is confuse the promised
moment with the promised land. It is in the in-between that we
must be careful."
One of the most
dangerous times in history is to live in the in-between moment,
Moss said. "Joshua has the youth and wherewithal to step into
the Promised Land, but you canít celebrate when an individual
crosses over. You have to make sure that those who donít have
the same economic or education level are able to cross over into
the promised land. Success is not defined individually, it is
Like Joshua, Barack
Obama owes his success to the courage and determination of
generations who went before him," Moss said.
"Living in a Joshua
moment means we should never forget the Moses generation. This
moment did not just fall out of the sky, this did not just
happen overnight. There were people of the Moses generation who
sacrificed so that this moment would be possible. As collective
history, a history of struggle. We stand on the shoulders of
those who have allowed us to be where we are."
"We as a community of
faith cannot be satisfied so long as 40 million are without
healthcare, so long as we see a drop-out rate of 50 percent, so
long as there is illiteracy," he said. "We cannot be satisfied
as a church 'til maybe one day when we will see justice role
down like a river, beat our swords into plow shares, see lions
living with lambs, know that every child who is hunger can be
fed, when we can literally be a perfect union. There is a crown
above out heads that one day we will be tall enough to wear."
some amendments, the General Assembly endorsed a resolution on
immigration reform that had been approved by the boards of the
NCC and Church world Service. The resolution calls on the
President and the Congress to protect the unity of immigrant
families by making family reunification a priority, and to
"facilitate generous laws enabling immigration by individuals
who seek to work the United States," ensure full protection of
rights, and end mass, indiscriminate immigration raids on places
Assembly had heard a speech by Frank Sharry, founder and
Executive Director of America's Voice, the new communications
campaign to win common-sense immigration reform.
subject to the largest detention program the federal government
runs," said Sharry, former director of the National Immigration
Forum. "We have 4,000 people who were just driving while brown
being stopped and exported. It amounts to non-violent ethnic
Media pundits and
publicity savvy politicians have convinced well-intentioned
people that immigrants are dangerous, Sharry said. "All you have
to do is turn on the radio to hear the villainy: immigrants are
criminals, they are 'them" out to take from 'you.'" The result
is the fear of mothers and fathers who leave their house every
day thinking they might be arrested and never see their families
again. There are 14,000 immigrant children who have lost their
parents because of U.S. law enforcement."
forces are successful because they are well-organized, strong
and triumphalistic, Sharry said. "But many of them went down to
defeat in the last election.
panel discussion Wednesday morning explored the "phobias" that keep
individual communions from working together. The panel consisted of
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Greek Orthodox Church and General
Assembly Program Committee Chair; the Rev. Sharon Watkins, General
Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ); Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham of the Christian Methodist
Episcopal Church; and Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Bishop Demetrios noted that Orthodox fears of ecumenical involvement
stem in part from the fact that Orthodox are often immigrants or
oppressed minorities, and by misunderstandings -- outside and inside
Orthodoxy -- about Orthodox monasticism, as well as views of
"doctrinal purity and canonical exactness."
Demetrios said Orthodoxy in the West and in traditional homeland is
coming to terms with a new world. "Orthodox would be well-served to
admit this coming to terms, but partners should respect the
otherness," he said. "Respect for otherness is the first step toward
love in action."
Watkins said Disciples consider themselves as quintessential
ecumenists, "but it turns we have our phobias. Our actual living of
unity has not been as good as our claim of unity. Disciples have a
fear of uniformity. Fear someone is going to tell us how to act. A
fear of hierarchy. Instead of our premium on all believers, a fear
someone will tell us how to worship, a fear of a test of fellowship.
A fear that in unity someone will tell us how to think."
Unity in Christ, Watkins said, "is so much a gift that we cannot
create it by undoing our differences."
The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church came into existence "as a
result of the movement from slavery to freedom," Bishop Cunningham
said. Many CME's find it difficult "to
reconcile our different worship expressions which were forged out of
our existential living conditions. Unless you have been oppressed by
the color of your skin you have no idea what itís like to be stopped
for DWB (driving while black)."
scourge of silent racism that
lives in many of us and is unknown to us and only raises its
head when something elicits a response. What would you really do? We
must talk it out but we must make it incarnational. Still in the
U.S., Sunday morning is the most segregated hour we experience."
BishBishop Hanson said
much ecumenical phobia stems from "The fear of our dying. It's not
death we so much fear as the process of dying. We've heard that we
live in the post-denominational age, which means we have either
missed our death or we are in hospice care and donít have very good
chaplains. We're also aging. We are predominantly white in a richly
pluralistic culture. We have come to believe in the premature
announcement of the death of denominations and we are beginning to
act like we are dying. The process of dying depletes ecumenical
imagination. We ask our ecumenical partners, 'What have you done for
100 Years of Working and Praying Together
General Assembly concluded Thursday night with a celebration
of 100 eventful years since the founding of the Federal
Council of Churches in 1908,
was led by the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, NCC President Elect.
Featured speakers were former NCC presidents Bishop Thomas
L. Hoyt, Jr. and the Rev. Michael Livingston, and The Rev.
Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
William F. Fore, retired head of National Council of
Churches communications, described bygone accomplishments of
the NCC, notably the ecumenical challenge of the Federal
Communication Commission license of a segregated television
station, WLBT, in Jackson, Miss. The action had been
spearheaded by the Rev. Everett C. Parker, then head of
United Church of Christ communications.
"This was the
first and only time a TV station has ever had its license
revoked," Fore said. "And it was a decision that was heard
around the entire nation. Every TV station realized they had
to begin to seriously meet the interests of their minority
publics, or risk losing their license."
Pointing to the
proliferation of television programming purported to be news
but clearly biased efforts to entertain, Fore suggested
ecumenical efforts to restore the airwaves to the public are
needed more than ever.
"These are actions that no single denomination can achieve
alone. But they are all actions that have tremendous
support from ordinary people in the pews. It would be
ecumenism in action."
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