May 24, 2011
The National Council of Churches will be using grant money from atheist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute to power its political agenda on Capitol Hill.
Even while sinking financially, the National Council of Churches – a group with the ostensible mandate to engender unity between disparate Christian denominations – continued its leftward track last week as its governing board met in New York City to discuss its advocacy initiatives for the coming fiscal year. The NCC has been forced to pare down its staff roster and budget for years in order to account for declining revenues from member denominations and foundations, and has had a history of making up these deficits by soliciting grants from politically charged, liberal institutions (to download IRD’s exposé of the NCC’s financing, click here).
Several left-leaning resolutions, including those aiming to promote relaxed immigration policies, were passed and other positions, such as its largely pacifist stance on the use of American military force and opposition to federal austerity measures, were affirmed. The grant from Soros’ Institute would be used specifically for its advocacy efforts to restructure the U.S. criminal justice system through the National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S. 306).
Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the NCC, reiterated the Council’s opposition to U.S. conducted anti-terrorist operations.
Kinnamon lauded the World Council of Churches’ Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), an initiative that was by and large very critical of U.S. military intervention in most of its forms over the past decade, particularly its anti-terrorist activities. Several representatives from the NCC were present for the WCC’s International Ecumenical Peace Convocation which began in Jamaica last week. The convocation aims to be a capstone to the WCC’s campaign to “eliminate global violence” – an initiative that has heavy-handedly scrutinized the U.S.’s military role in the world while largely skirting that of terrorist organizations and oppressive dictatorships.
“I hope that this convocation will remind us that peace is the message of all of our communions, not just the Friends, Brethren, and Mennonites,” said Kinnamon.
“There are various dimensions to our agenda that play in this” convocation, Kinnamon continued, citing causes the NCC has promoted such as the complete disarmament of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, scaling up of gun controls in the U.S., and the push to end U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The NCC will be presenting its study paper released last year, Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism), which treats the Christian historical teaching of just war with skepticism and “seeks to make selective conscientious objection a priority for education and advocacy during the next five years.”
Attached to the paper is a study guide written by several NCC-affiliated members from Church of the Brethren, Mennonite and Quaker traditions.
“US military spending is more than 40% of the world’s total – equal to the next sixteen countries combined,” reads the study paper. “What future do we see for the cozy relationship between American Christians and the American imperial project?” The paper goes on to criticize the War on Terror as a “conflict with no clear beginning, without demarcated boundaries, against multiple (often invisible) adversaries… In this war, we soon encounter the limits of violence.”
Kinnamon noted that this was not the first time the Council has advocated conscientious objection. “I was told this of course would be a real stretch,” he said, “only to learn that the governing board of the National Council first endorsed selective conscientious objection in 1967, in the middle of the War in Vietnam.”
“We have struggled with this issue over the years, let’s struggle with it again,” Kinnamon said.
Specific resolutions spelling out the NCC’s “conscientious objector” stance on military service will be set before the Council during its September governing board meeting that will reflect conversations held at the Jamaican convocation, said Kinnamon. “We are likely to hear repeated assertions out of the anniversary of 9/11 of our need for security. What can we say about it?” he said.
Although historically critical the U.S. War on Terror, the NCC did release a statement following bin Laden’s death, calling it a “significant moment” in history but insisting the church should not “celebrate the loss of life under any circumstances.” While noting that “ultimate justice for this man’s soul – or any soul – is in the hands of God,” the statement did not explicitly address the state’s historical role in administering God’s justice.
The Council similarly never released a statement condemning or supporting Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the conflict in Libya.
Links to George Soros
The Justice and Advocacy Commission (JAC), the NCC’s lobby office in Washington, was busily at work on the Hill this year. According to the JAC’s report, the Commission pushed heavily for ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), wrote letters to the president condemning Israeli settlements in Palestine, and helped pass a resolution calling for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The NCC’s Faith and Action Criminal Justice Working Group was awarded a grant from leftist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute to advocate on behalf of a bill that would seek to restructure the current U.S. criminal justice system. The money would specifically be used to cover all expenses, including air travel, for faith activists to promote the legislation on Capitol Hill on June 15th and 16th this year.
The working group also advocated for tighter control laws to cut down on domestic gun violence.
“Tackling that problem is going to be a priority for the National Council of Churches,” said NaKeisha Sylver, advocacy officer and staff member of the NCC’s Racial Justice Working Group. According to the JAC’s report before the board, the NCC has organized two national conference calls pushing for more stringent gun laws since adopting a gun control resolution last May.
“Circle of Protection” Promoted
Michael Livingston, former NCC president and current director of the NCC’s Poverty Initiative, heartily endorsed the religious left’s push to maintain government spending levels, naming the NCC as a cosigner of the “Circle of Protection” campaign driven by evangelical left pundit Jim Wallis and other religious activists in Washington.
Livingston fretted about congressional measures to bring down the deficit, complaining that the discussion has been focusing on budgetary austerity measures “that will unleash across-the-board cuts on government’s affecting the most vulnerable among us.”
“What the religious advocacy commission in Washington DC is trying to do is to change the nature of that discussion, so that we’re not talking exclusively about what in the domestic and international arena can be cut,” said Livingston,” but rather ways of generating revenue so that, honestly, not one single dollar of cuts to these programs really needs to be made.”
John McCullough, CEO of Church World Service, likewise called the proposed cuts “entirely too much, too deep for a nation that commits less than one percent for humanitarian assistance and poverty-focused foreign aid.”
Immigration Summit Planned
The Council passed a motion that would reconstitute its immigration task force, which will be charged with setting up a summit to gather advocates for relaxed U.S. immigration controls. The original group, created in 2008, was a joint task force of the NCC and Church World Service established to “disseminate theological and educational materials to congregations, support churches in serving immigrants, and [to] encourage churches to advocate with government for improved immigration policies,” which has usually translated into measures for general amnesty.
The task force counts immigration activist and United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño among its members and has thus far operated without internal funding from the NCC.
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