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The NCC's Kinnamon offers some pastoral advice
to senators who think Christmas is no time to reduce arms

Washington, December 15, 2010 -- With perhaps unintended irony, two U.S. senators have declared that Christmas is not the time to move toward peace by reducing the number of nuclear arms in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.

But the general secretary of the National Council of Churches and several heads of NCC member communions have sent the lawmakers a gentle reminder that the Prince of Peace is the reason for the season.

Senators Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have both declared their intention to delay ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START II) during the lame duck session of Congress. Observers suspect the senators may be taking the stand for partisan reasons, but each has declared that Christmas is not the time to support arms reduction.

"You can't jam a major arms control treaty right before Christmas," DeMint said in an interview with Politico, calling the whole thing "sacrilegious."

"What's going on here is just wrong," DeMint said. "This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. They did the same thing last year - they kept everybody here until (Christmas Eve) to force something down everybody's throat. I think Americans are sick of this."

Earlier,  Kyl complained that efforts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) to get the Senate to ratify START II as well as pass other legislation was too much at Christmas time.

"It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out, frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff," insisted Kyl.

But Kinnamon sent the senators a peaceful admonishment that they have overlooked the true spirit of Christmas.

"If anything this time of year should be an encouragement for our leaders to work harder for peace on earth in response to God who wills peace for all," Kinnamon said. "Peace is a major theme of the Advent season and celebration of Christmas.  The National Council of Churches looks forward to being able to celebrate ratification of this treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles and improve verification.  Any delay would be contrary to our commitment to peace on earth.”         

Last month the general assembly of the NCC and Church World Service, meeting as a Centennial Ecumenical Gathering in New Orleans, unanimously adopted a call to ratify the treaty. Kinnamon and CWS executive director and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough, sent copies of the statement to U.S. senators. See www.ncccusa.org/news/101118starttreaty.html

Meeting today with the heads of several NCC member communions, Kinnamon said several other leaders endorsed the call to senators to recognize that the Christmas season is indeed the appropriate time to support measures for peace.

The leaders include the Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary, Reformed Church in America; Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church in North America; the Rev. Michael Livingston, representing the International Council of Community Churches; the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, president of the Moravian Church Northern Province Provincial Elders’ Conference; Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren; Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church; and Dick Hamm, executive director of Christian Churches Together.

Kinnamon and the heads of communion also reminded the Senate that the theme of peace at Christmas time is unmistakable in scripture.

The song of the angels on the night Christ was born makes it clear that the word on high is "Peace on Earth," Bishop Serapion said, citing Luke 2:14.

The Prophet Isaiah declares the coming of a messiah called, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

"In this advent season we anticipate the birth of the Prince of Peace and hear the good news to 'fear not,'" said Noffsinger. "The theme of 'fear not' calls us to a world freed from these weapons that are based on the response of fear."  


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

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

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