WCC US Conference letter to President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
20 January 2009
Dear Mr President,
We greet you as your sisters and brothers in Christ, especially because you have been a part of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, representing over 560 million Christians in nearly 350 churches, denominations, and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world. You are constantly in our prayers.
We want you to know of the excitement about your inauguration as the 44th President of the United States felt by us and so many around the world, who are encouraged by your commitment to rekindle hope and your vision for this country and our world. We are especially inspired by how you have engaged our youth, moving them to action and signaling the real possibility that another world is possible, and that they can be among those from whom ideas and leadership are sought over the course of your administration.
We also share the soberness of the present time as you take office. The challenges are enormous and formidable. They are found in every sector of this society and, indeed, across the entire spectrum of the human family worldwide. So many people in this world of abundance struggle with poverty; we are called by God to address the needs of the poor. So many places of this world are broken by violence and war; we are called by Christ to be peacemakers.
Ours is not to point fingers at your new administration and say "Fix it." Rather, ours is to roll up our sleeves and partner with you to help bring about the changes that are so desperately needed for the United States and the world to more closely reflect God's vision for humankind and all of creation. Ours is to call us all into account when we do not follow that vision.
It is a vision described by the prophet Micah, and it reflects our deep hope for this country and for all the countries of the world:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken" (Micah 4:3-4).
The prophet's words lift up the kind of peace that goes beyond the cessation of war to that of true shalom. They describe the kind of peace that is built on a foundation of trust and security. Micah's vision implies a world in which creation is thriving and everyone has enough. It implies a world of justice, where we treat one another as the beloved children of God.
Much is required of you and us if we are to begin to turn things around. We must take responsibility for and work together to:
Repair the breach of trust between individuals and entire nations, and replenish goodwill with our neighbors near and far;
Re-collect us back together, not as red and blue states, but as the United States of America;
Rekindle and lift up the common good over self-interest and greed;
Restore the sense of human dignity of each person regardless of race or class;
Recognize our own complicity in building a predatory economy on the backs of those most vulnerable, and reconstruct an economy with an emphasis not just on the middle class, but on the poor;
Renew a concrete, measurable commitment to human rights;
Rebuild an education system that attends to the needs of all of society;
Replenish God's good creation in whatever ways possible;
Recommit ourselves to the right of every person to have access to health care.
For its member churches, the World Council of Churches is a unique space: one in which we can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. We hope to share a similar space with you and your administration and welcome the opportunity to work together for this common vision of the prophet Micah.
May you hold onto those things that have tended your soul up to this point. May you always find Sabbath time for yourself and your family. May you draw deeply on the faith that has brought you safe thus far. May you be lifted up when you are down, and may you listen carefully for the still small voice of the God who loves you unconditionally.
We close with a pastoral prayer by Martin Luther King, Jr, whose words in 1956 are most fitting as we step into this new day:
O God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe. We come to thee today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We are mindful, O God, that man [sic] cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God. Bound by our chains of sins and finiteness, we know we need a Savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature. Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God's children, Black, White, Red, Brown, Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.
In Christ's Service,
The Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson
Moderator, United States Conference for the World Council of Churches
& Members of the Board, United States Conference for the World Council of Churches
Members of the Board, Heads of Churches1 & Associate Members
United States Conference for the World Council of Churches
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop John F. White, Sr
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Rev. Dr Staccato Powell
American Baptist Churches USA
Rev. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary (+)
Rev. Dr Cheryl H. Wade
Ms Anne Glynn Mackoul
The Very Rev. Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian
Rev. Dr Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President (+)
Rev. Dr Robert K. Welsh
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Senior Bishop Ronald McKinley Cunningham
Dr Evelyn Parker
Mr Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary (+)
Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop (+)
Bishop C. Christopher Epting
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop (+)
Rev. Donald McCoid
Ms Kathryn Lohre
Friends General Conference
Dr Thomas Paxson
National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith
Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk (+)
Rev. Robina Winbush
Ms Vanesa Davila-Luciano
Rev. Dr Tyrone Pitts
Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President (+)
Rev. Dr Larry D. Pickens
Mr Jay Williams
Rev. Motoe Yamada
Other US Conference Member Communions & Associate Members
Church Women United
Ms Gail Mengel, National President
General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns
Dr Stephen Sidorak, General Secretary
Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director
Rev. David L. Wickmann, Conference President
The Right Rev. Dr Wayne Burkette, Conference President
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Rev. Dr Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary
1 In addition to the members of the Board of the United States Conference for the World Council of Churches, some Heads of Churches (+) of member communions and other member/associate members have also requested that their names be added to this letter, as noted below.