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National Council of Churches Newsletter
NCC Newsletter

January 13, 2023

NCC Grieves Shooting by 6 Year Old, Calls for Stronger Gun Control
Wisdom is better than weapons of war...
(Ecclesiastes 9:18, NRSVue)

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va. on Friday, January 6, 2023, when a six-year-old student brought a gun to school and shot his teacher. Our hearts are with the students and parents, faculty and staff, first responders, and the entire community as we all grapple with this unconscionable reality of gun violence once again shattering the safety of our schools and jeopardizing the well-being of our children.

We are grateful that the teacher is on her way to recovery and applaud her heroic efforts to make sure all the children in her classroom were out of harm’s way before seeking medical attention for herself. We are thankful this incident was not much worse and that no lives were lost.

While we are relieved that this was not yet another mass shooting, we remain in prayer and profoundly concerned for the six-year-old child who not only had access to a dangerous firearm but felt it necessary to use the weapon to inflict harm on his teacher, terrify classmates and cause fear and panic throughout the school and community. We pray that steps are being taken to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

The crisis of gun violence in classrooms and communities is a symptom of the culture of violence that permeates American society. It is our collective responsibility, especially as people of faith, to resist, dismantle and counter this culture of violence and advocate for peace.

As we approach the day when we commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must renew our commitment to building the Beloved Community where peace supplants war and love supersedes hate.

Certainly, Dr. King’s words resonate for us today: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

We must confront this crisis with transformative policy and radical love in action to build a society of peace and non-violence. We urge our member denominations and local congregations to increase their efforts to promote nonviolence in their communities, and advocate for sensible gun reform legislation at the local, state and national levels.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed in 2022, enhances background checks for 18-21 years old, and provides funding for school safety and youth mental health programs among other provisions. However, it does not go far enough to keep our schools and communities safe, and more comprehensive, sensible gun reform legislation is needed.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President of the NCC, said, “This incident is devastating and brings home the fact that more has to be done in our churches, communities and legislatively to make sure our children are protected. We also must hold the gun industry accountable for perpetuating a culture of violence that chooses profits over people.”

Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. 2010 Reaffirmed 2018

Policy Statement on Firearms Control Adopted by the General Board 1967
Illinois Faith Leaders Push Legislature to Enact Assault Weapons Ban
An interfaith group of religious leaders gathered on January 4 at Good Hope Free Will Baptist Church in Chicago to highlight their solidarity in supporting an immediate ban on assault weapons. The group signed a letter to Illinois legislators who were at the time considering a bill that would ban assault weapons and limit ammunition magazines to ten rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols. 

At the press conference, Pastor Cornelius Parks of the Good Hope Free Will Baptist Church, Reverend Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church, Reverend Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Church, Reverend Janette Wilson of Rainbow PUSH, Rabbi Ike Serotta of Lakeside Congregation of Reform Judaism, Pastor John Edgerton of the First United Church of Oak Park, Bishop Simon Gordon of the Triedstone Church of Chicago, Imam Abdullah Madhyun of Masjid Al Ihsan, and Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church all spoke about the urgency of passing the Protect Illinois Communities Act to save lives.

“High capacity magazines have no use but as weapons of war—they make our streets a battleground and have no place in our state,” stated Pastor John Edgerton, the president of the Community of Congregations, a local interfaith organization, and Pastor of First United Church of Oak Park.

Illinois Governer JB Pritzker signed the legislation into law on Tuesday January 9. The new law was spurred by a mass shooting this past summer at a Highland Park, Ill. July 4 parade that killed 7 and wounded 36 as well as a mass shooting in Chicago that killed 2 and injured 7 where a modified handgun allowed the shooter to fire 21 rounds in quick succession.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins Next Week
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins next week on January 18 and runs through January 25. The theme for this year's week is "Do good; seek justice." This simple call is from Isaiah 1:17 (NRSVue).

In order to prepare for the annual celebration, ecumenical partners in a particular region are invited to produce a basic liturgical text on a biblical theme. Then an international editorial team of WCC and Roman Catholic representatives refines this text to ensure that it can be prayed throughout the world, and to link it with the search for the visible unity of the church. This year, the materials were developed by a group of Christians from Minnesota including the Minnesota Council of Churches. In 2021, a WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace visited with faith leaders in Minnesota to learn about efforts for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis as well as the lives of native communities in the state.

The reflections explore how learning to do right requires the decision to engage in self-reflection.

"As we pray for Christian unity, this year’s theme invites us to reflect beyond the confessional divisions that exist among Christians,” said Rev. Dr Mikie Roberts, WCC programme executive for Spiritual Life. “We are being challenged to allow the cries for social justice to also inform our praying together for Christian unity.”

With roots going back over 100 years, the dedicated octave of prayers has been jointly commissioned and prepared since 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, by the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC.

You can learn more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and download materials to use from the WCC at

NCC Joins Faith Leaders at White House Religious Freedom Event
To celebrate National Religious Freedom Day, a special Naturalization Ceremony was held at the White House for the first time today, Friday, Jan. 13th. Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Chief Operating Officer, represented the National Council of Churches USA at the event. The Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff offered the welcome for the event and, Melissa Rogers, who serves as the Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, was the keynote speaker.

National Religious Freedom Day is observed to promote religious acceptance and the fact that everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs and practices in the U.S.

“There are no second-class faiths in America,” Rogers said in her address regarding the importance of religious freedom.

Fifteen people were administered the “Oath of Allegiance” in a moving ceremony, becoming American citizens after many years of effort, persistence and even struggle for some. Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO of Bread for the World, a collaborative partner with NCC, was given the “Outstanding Americans By Choice” Award.

President Biden later issued a proclamation for Religious Freedom Day which is Monday January 16. 

Want to learn more about the NRSVue? Check out this helpful and comprehensive review by Dr. David DeSilva, of Ashland Theological Seminary!
Faith Leaders and Civil Society Partners Call on Biden to Close Guantanamo
On Wednesday January 11, faith leaders organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and other anti-torture activists gathered outside the White House to call on President Biden to close the detention center at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. Some of the protesters dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and donned black hoods seen on many of the detainees in pictures over the years.

Shortly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush opened the detention center to hold so-called "enemy combatants" indefinitely without charges. There have been numerous documented cases as well of torture techniques such as water boarding being used on detainees. In his campaign, President Biden pledged that he would close the detention center. Protesters sought to remind him of this pledge and highlight the ongoing immoral practice.

NRCAT helped organize faith leaders to join a letter to President Biden calling on him to close Guantanamo. Signatories to the letter included NCC, Alliance of Baptists, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church. Individuals are also invited to send a message to the President amplifying the message that torture is immoral and Guantanamo should be closed. You can take action at
Dismantling Colonial Dominance in Western Christianity event more info at

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