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Ecumenical and Interfaith News – February 2011

Submitted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (DOC) and the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Diane Kenney Honored at Week of Prayer Service
    The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated annually from January 18 to January 25.   It was originally an initiative undertaken a century ago by the Roman Catholic Graymoor Friars, and eventually was adopted, and expanded in meaning, by the Protestant ecumenical movement.  A worship service is held during this week every year in the greater Los Angeles area, organized by the Southern California Ecumenical Council (SCEC).    This year’s service was held at the Claremont Presbyterian Church, with the participation of eight denominations, including the Roman Catholics and the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Clergy of the latter body, distinctive in their pointed headgear and gorgeous chanting, presided over the blessing of bread, representing the incarnation of Christ, and water, representing his epiphany and baptism, at the end of the service.  The sermon was preached by Bishop Dean Nelson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Music was provided by the combined choirs of Presbyterian, Methodist, and UCC churches in Claremont.  The offering was received by members of the Disciples of Christ serving as ushers, including Rev. Larry Hixon, treasurer of the Council, Rev. Mildred Butler, and Mr. Vance Martin.

    Each year at this service, one person is honored who has contributed exceptionally to the ecumenical cause.   The award was presented by Rev. Gene Boutilier, for whom it is named.  Boutilier, a UCC minister, was for many years the director and guiding spirit of the Ecumenical Council.  This year’s honoree was Rev. Diane Kenney, for many years on the staff of United Ministries at the University of Southern California.  Ms. Kenney, a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has been a pioneer in outreach to the vastly diverse USC student body, authoring a number of creative programs and initiatives to attract students to Christian religious life in the broadest sense.   Rev. Diane called on us to make more room in our local church and regional budgets for ministry to university students who are in crucial formative years of their life.

NCC General Secretary, in Wake of Tucson shootings, Calls for Effective Gun Control
    Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and a minister of the Disciples of Christ, has called on individual NCC governing board members, communion heads and other church leaders to let their political officials know that they oppose the easy availability of firearms.  Kinnamon urged denominations participating actively in the NCC to undertake a letter-writing campaign on this issue, saying an emphatic NO “to laws that allow assault weapons and handguns with oversize magazines to be readily available on our city streets.  Kinnamon noted that the NCC Governing Board adopted a resolution against gun violence last May. But for the NCC to be politically effective, he said, its congregations at the grass roots need to express themselves by contacting their representatives, and by doing education of their own members and their communities on this issue.  American Christians need to realize themselves and help others realize that the United States is by far the most violent country in the world when it comes to crimes committed by firearms in the hands of its citizens.  The full text of the NCC resolution can be downloaded at http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/gunviolence.pdf.

How One Religion Influences Another: Hinduism and Christianity
    The Los Angeles Vedanta Society in Hollywood was the scene on December 5 of a lecture by Dr. Philip Goldberg, author of the recently published and acclaimed book, “American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.”   Beginning with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s reading of Indian religious texts in the mid-nineteenth century, continuing with the appearance of Swami Vivekananda at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, and the coming of influential gurus such as Yogananda to America, and finally with the emergence of the Beatles and the tremendous interest of the Sixties generation in Hindu and Buddhist spirituality, Dr. Phil’s book, wittily and engagingly written and based on years of research with more than three hundred interviews, demonstrates how Eastern ideas of divinity and the soul, including concepts such as karma, and the Eastern practices of meditation, breath control, mantra and yoga, have impacted American Christian culture, often without Americans even being aware of this influence from outside the Christian sphere.   The book’s foreword is written by Huston Smith, who probably has done more than anyone else to interpret the other great religions of the world to America.  This is one very clear example of how we have entered an age in which the religions are interpenetrating one another in a way which promises a deeper, healthier, more creative spiritual life for the entire human race.

Racism is Still a Problem, Even Within the Churches
     Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), the successor body to the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), met in January in ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to make another trying at dealing with issues of racial justice.  CUIC was founded in 2002 with a priority to combat racism, but two of its primarily black denominations, the AME and AME Zion churches, withdrew because they felt the issue was not being faced squarely.  The Ft. Lauderdale meeting was hoping to go deeper and more effectively into the issue and to attract these two bodies to become involved again.   

Members of the Joint Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committe:
Rev. Jeffrey Utter, Interim Pastor, First Christian Church of Garden Grove; Rev. Loletta Barrett; Ms. Elsa Siefert, Altadena Community Church; Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay; Franklin and Mary Stuart, First Christian Church, Riverside, CA

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