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Prophetic Witness and People of Faith

The Leadership of the National Council of Churches, USA Visits Haigazian University

Dr Michael Kinnamon lectures on "Prophetic Witness and People of Faith"

Beirut, August 1, 2008- On July 30, 2008, Dr Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, USA, delivered a lecture entitled "Prophetic Witness and People of Faith" in the Haigazian University Auditorium.

The NCC delegation included its President Archbishop Dr. Vicken Aykazian, the General Secretary, Dr. Kinnamon, and Executive, Middle East and Europe Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Peter Makari.

The lecture, organized jointly by Haigazian University and the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, was attended by high ranking clergy, diplomats, and interest groups.

The program opened with the welcoming words of Haigazian University President, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, who briefed shortly about the NCC and its activities carried out in the United States, since its founding in 1950.

He said that the NCC "has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States, and it includes 45 million persons in more than 100 thousands local congregations in communities across the nation."

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian presented the two main objectives NCC wants to achieve in the world, namely, Peace and Justice. "The NCC is committed to that by judging people as human beings, irrespective of race, gender, and religion," Aykazian elaborated.

Dr. Kinnamon began his lecture by explaining the concept of Prophetic Witness in the Christian tradition as being "the testimony to one's faith in word and in deed."

Kinnamon added that "witness can be called prophetic when it brings to Bear the Gospel on current social injustice, thus giving hope of a different way of living in social community."

In this respect, Kinnamon talked about the role of the churches, which he considered "is not simply to focus on spiritual things, and eternal life only, but to be a credible sign and instrument of social transformation towards the day God's will is more fully done". Kinnamon highlighted the concept of the Social Gospel Movement, which formed the basics of the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. "Salvation is not simply an individual quest to be saved out of the world, but it's a communal effort in response to God, to build a better society on Earth," Kinnamon noted.

In his concluding remarks, Kinnamon presented a self-critique of the NCC itself, and stated the major reasons in which it has failed to be more prophetic. According to him, the prophetic witness of the mainline churches in the USA (i.e. the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, United Churches of Christ), has diminished because of the churches' loss of members, financial resources, and public influence. In addition, there was an evident gap between the leaders of the churches and local church members, leading to a lack of support to leaders' initiatives.

Kinnamon noted the issue of polarization in issues of social concern and the inability to deal constructively with conflict.

Finally, Kinnamon stated his judgment on the biggest problem according to him, and that is "the US mainline churches generally lack the biblically grounded vision of social life, and without such a vision the church will leave the status quo untouched," Kinnamon concluded.

At the end of the lecture, on behalf of the Arab Group for the Christian-Muslim Dialogue, Judge Abbas Halaby shared with the audience their document titled "Mutual Respect Among Religions", published by the Group.

Tokens of appreciation from the NCC were given by Dr. Kinnamon to each of Haigazian University and the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim Dialogue.

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