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This is the season for church meetings
and NCC General Secretary is on the road

New York, June 29, 2009 -- The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches has been on the road since June 11, attending church council and communion meetings in Havana, Pasadena, Grand Rapids and San Diego.

Hop-scotching across the hemisphere, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon has brought NCC greetings this month to the 80th anniversary of the Spanish-American Evangelical Congress in Havana, the American Baptist General Board and Biennial Meeting, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ and the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

Kinnamon's journeys actually began at a June 11 rally in front of the White House calling upon the president to appoint a commission to investigate the U.S. use of torture. (See story.)

In each meeting, Kinnamon stressed the importance of churches working together as interdependent members of the body of Christ.

At the 27th UCC General Synod, Kinnamon paid tribute to retiring General Minister and President, the Rev.  John H. Thomas, and welcomed the nomination of the Rev. Geoffrey Black as Thomas' successor.

"During the 18 months that I have been General Secretary, John Thomas and I have offered witness together in a number of public settings, in large part because he always insists that such witness be done ecumenically," Kinnamon said.  "For example, in the spring of 2008 at Trinity UCC in Chicago, where he called for a “sacred conversation on race”; and last fall when the economic crisis first hit and John took the lead in calling for an ecumenical response that would affirm a priority concern for the poor; and this past month when we stood together at the White House to call for a Commission of Inquiry regarding the torture perpetrated by this nation, with the goal that such a thing never be done again in our name.  Notice, by the way, the common theme in such witness: that every neighbor, but especially the most vulnerable, is an infinitely-valued child of God."

Addressing the Ecumenical Achievements Dinner at the Synod, Kinnamon referred to the challenges faced by church bodies as a result of the current recession.

"Lean times like ours provide a moment of opportunity," he said. He confessed that  he had never expected to lead the NCC at a time of economic stress.

"But," he said, "I believe that the member churches of the Council will discover that the NCC is not an organization that churches 'join' but a "covenant that they act out with each other."

He observed that current financial pressures offer a moment in which church leaders will need to decide whether ecumenism is, in fact, a part of their denominational identity.

He also said that the churches may discover more clearly the spiritual dimension of the ecumenical movement. "We will come to affirm with greater conviction that we are together in the hands of God."

Earlier, in an address to the American Baptist General Board in Pasadena, Kinnamon observed that the tension between denominational identity and the pursuit of Christian unity is one that "informs our faith."

“No part is finally self-determining; we are all interdependent members of Christ’s body. We are already bound to one another not by what we have done, but by what God has done through Jesus to reconcile us—both to God and to one another.”  

“We don’t set the entrance requirements,” he reminded representatives. “We simply try to make visible what God has accomplished and thereby serve as a sign of God’s power to unite.”  

The NCC isnot an organization churches have joined, he said, but “a covenantal relationship you have made with 34 other communions to live out a unity which is already yours in Christ.”  

“The essence of a council is the relationship of the churches with each other,” he insists. “It’s a community in which conflicting perspectives meet in dialogue.”  

A council of churches has the “challenge of becoming a place where the Church’s most difficult issues can be discussed and addressed,” Kinnamon noted. “This means understanding that our unity is a gift from God and not the result of human agreement.”

The Rev. A. Roy Medley was re-elected General Secretary of the ABC USA during the biennial meeting. 

Kinnamon is in San Diego today, addressing the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

He was in Havana last week attending the 80th anniversary of the Spanish-American Evangelical Congress. The meeting at the Evangelical Seminar of Theology in central Matanzas province, was attended by over 60 religious leaders from 14 nations. (See story.)

Kinnamon welcomed the possibility of improved relations between the United States and Cuba and expressed the hope that travel restrictions between the two countries will be eased.

He also expressed support for relatives of the "Cuban Five" who are seeking relatives to visit their spouses who have been in a Miami jail since 1998.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

 

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