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Church World Service and Witness Report
to the
General Assembly
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
November 15, 2000

Delivered by: the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS Executive Director

Since the last meeting of the General Assembly, Church World Service and Witness (CWSW), like other parts of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA), has experienced dramatic transformation.

In March the CWSW Unit Committee overwhelmingly approved a new Strategic Plan for Mission, and adopted a timeline for its implementation. This plan called for the programmatic reorganization of CWSW, leading to a stronger and more cohesive integration of the work of the Immigration and Refugee, and the Emergency Response program areas with three new components: Social & Economic Development, Mission Relationships and Witness, and Education & Advocacy for International Justice and Human Rights. The intent is to draw upon the whole of our resources in addressing mission strategies; where each area of our work will benefit form the expertise and unique contributions of the others.

In May the Executive Board authorized CWSW to proceed with the implementation of a new governance structure, replacing the "Unit Committee" with a "Board of Directors."

In June CWSW received the status of a 501(c)3 not for profit corporation.

In July CWSW assumed responsibility for all legal and fiduciary responsibility of its affairs, while initiating the financial management of CWSW out of its Elkhart office.

Throughout the summer months we worked hard to lay the foundation for the financial, programmatic, and human resource infrastructures necessary to support this ministry. I want to express appreciation to Barbara Ellen Black, Denise Dalton, Linda Hartke, Joanne Rendall, Dan Rift, Phil Young, and Bob Edgar for the extraordinary leadership they have, and continue to give toward the success of our efforts.

In September a new Executive Director was elected.

In October CWSW assumed responsibility for its payroll and human resource management.

In November the Unit Committee ceased to exist and the Board of Directors was seated; and approved new By-Laws and Standing Rules for the corporation.

In December CWSW will initiate a major series of meetings with partners and communions as we seek to understand how we can work more effectively together in the areas of humanitarian relief and development, public advocacy, and Christian witness and service unto all the world.

Throughout this time we have wrestled with the Spirit and with the NCCCUSA to find ways to express the meaning of our new relationship in ways both positive and hopeful. In all these things we claim a measure of success, and for that we give God the glory.

Consecutive to this, other important work has proceeded. I call your attention to the NCCCUSA Report on Public Policy, dated 11/4/00. There you will see an excellent summary of our collective efforts. Not to cite one as more important than another, but it is important that we note Congressional funding for debt relief. In response to this historic act, President Clinton wrote [11/6/00]:

"I have committed our nation during my service as President to wage an intensified battle against global poverty. I never accepted the idea that millions have to be left behind while the rest of us move ahead. The health of nations is not a zero sum game. By lifting the weakest, poorest among us, we lift all the rest of us, as well. I hope that this idea will be a priority in our foreign policy for a long time to come, no less important than promoting trade, investment and financial stability."

We have also witnessed the tragic escalation of violence in the Middle East. Immediately following the Executive Board Meeting in October I traveled to Lebanon for a meeting with partners of the Middle East Council of Churches. During that period I visited South Lebanon. There I witnessed some of the residual impact of the Israeli occupation. The evidence of families still suffering the trauma of death, imprisonment, and displacement; and of one-time bustling communities, now deplete of nearly 90% of their population base, continues to haunt me. In one village I sat with a cluster of community and religious leaders. In one poignant moment of sharing the Imam said that after more than twenty years of suffering they wondered if the world had forgotten them. I responded saying, "Our presence today is a clear indication that you have not been forgotten, and that you can be certain of our commitment to join you in the struggle to attain lasting peace." Less than twenty-four hours later peace in this village was shattered again by the exchange of artillery and the capture of three Israeli soldiers. I could not help but be impressed with how fragile even the possibility of civil society is within this region.

The NCCCUSA issued a letter responding to the crisis in the Middle East:

[Excerpt] "We urge all parties to cease immediately all acts of violence and provocation to violence. We urge that the international community, acting singly or together, assist the parties in de-escalating their conflict and in finding alternative ways to address their increasingly bitter grievances with each other. All must pull back from the brink of uncontrollable violent confrontation, where each life lost only fuels further violence and loss of life.

We are now preparing a response to a request from the Rev. Mark Brown, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, on behalf of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), the DC-based church coalition for advocacy on Middle East issues. He has called for a US -led delegation to visit Jerusalem in December. The delegation proposal has been shared principally with the CMEP membership, which includes those NCCCUSA member communions that have Washington, DC offices, several Catholic bodies (but not the USCC or NCCB officially), and other groups like the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee and the Unitarian Universalist Association. NCCCUSA participation would specifically provide the means for other families of churches in the NCCCUSA, such as the Orthodox, and independent African American communions to be represented.

I should note that the impetus for this is largely due to the efforts of H. George Anderson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Anderson addressed the situation well when he wrote:

"We are saddened by the deaths and injuries of so many people, both Palestinian and Israeli, in clashes prompted largely by the dispute over the future status of Jerusalem. We call on all sides to end the fighting. We urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to negotiate a lasting disengagement and cease-fire of armed forces and to use their authority to promote an end to the violence."

Bishop Anderson we owe you a debt of gratitude for the courage of faith to speak out when the human fabric is torn asunder, and for the challenge your communion has placed before us to act on the conviction of our faith.

Even while we remember our sisters and bothers in the Middle East, and the cause of unity, we have not forgotten the people of East Timor, Sierre Leone, the thousands still seeking to recover from Hurricane Mitch, the scourge of HIV/Aids, and the millions of refugees and internally displaced people around the world. All are part of our "Rainbow of Caring."

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