B'nai B'rith Saddened by Resignation of U.S. Ecumenical Leader Who Set Important Course in Christian-Jewish Ties
B'nai B'rith International is saddened by the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon as general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), an ecumenical body encompassing Christian denominations with a combined membership of 45 million Americans. Since his election in 2007, Kinnamon has been distinguished by his consistent efforts to overcome challenges in relations between faith communities, particularly Christians and Jews.
Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, cited health reasons for his decision to step down. On Nov. 9, the NCC governing board accepted his decision.
"Reverend Kinnamon has set a bold example of sincerity and thoughtfulness in his engagement with the Jewish community," said B'nai B'rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels. "Without minimizing any differences between our communities, he sought to reach out, in word and deed alike, finding significant avenues for cooperation and commonality. He has our appreciation, and, at this time, our prayerful thoughts."
As part of B'nai B'rith's commemoration at the United Nations of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010, Kinnamon participated in a panel discussion on interreligious reactions to the Holocaust.
Speaking at that event of his journey through Israel with a fellow student whose mother survived the Holocaust, Kinnamon said that "Christians, including leaders of the Church, have often been timid, fearfully refusing to name evil for what it is. Surely, we who live in a post-Holocaust universe must resist this tendency. But it is the intersection of these things that defines what may be our greatest challenge in this era: to be both open to legitimate diversity and firmly opposed to diversities that are demonic."
Kinnamon added: "Anti-Semitism has been on the increase in Europe over the past decade. It won't do simply to chalk this up to frustrations over the continuing conflict in the Middle East, because whatever Christian concerns may be concerning particular Israeli policies, Christians must speak out loudly and stand firmly against anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it is experienced."
Less than two years earlier, in September 2008, as some religious groups featured Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an event in New York, Kinnamon offered a statement at a rally protesting the policies of the Iranian leader.
"President Ahmadinejad's hateful language, denying the Holocaust and apparently calling for Israel to be 'wiped off the map,' must be persistently and forcefully denounced by all who value peace," Kinnamon said. "Anti-Semitic efforts to rewrite evil events-not new in history or unknown even in the United States-endanger the Jewish people, disgrace faith communities who perpetuate them or choose to remain silent in their presence, and degrade the value of human life everywhere...If President Ahmadinejad has so little regard for the verifiable facts of history and the legitimacy of a state created by U.N. decision, it is
hard to believe he means it when he insists that Iran's nuclear program is only intended for peaceful purposes. And as he continues that program in defiance of Security Council resolutions, he also shows his contempt for the community of nations."
At the NCC's national meeting this week, Kathryn Mary Lohre, director of ecumenical and interreligious relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was installed as the council's new president, while A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the United States, was named president-elect. B'nai B'rith extends to them its best wishes on their new appointments and looks forward to working with them in an effort to deepen interreligious engagement.