Subject: NCC Newsletter – April 28, 2023

April 28, 2023

King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ Still Relevant

April 12, 1963—the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., right, are taken by a policeman as they led a line of demonstrators into the business section of Birmingham, Alabama. (AP Photo)

Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice held a virtual event on Wednesday, April 26, to mark 60 years since King penned the letter on April 16, 1963, after being jailed for his organization of a nonviolent demonstration in Birmingham on Good Friday that year. The letter was released publicly the next month and was included in his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait.


The Rev. Jim Wallis, the center’s director, noted how King wrote that the greatest “stumbling block” for freedom-seeking Black Americans was — rather than a Ku Klux Klan member — the “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”


Bishop Vashti McKenzie shared how King’s letter guided her family’s prayers for her older brother’s safety as he traveled that year by bus to the South to aid the movement. “It was a fearful time, a fearful time when something had to be done,” she said. “The African diaspora is calling you to do it. And King gives us a road map on how to begin that process of change.”


The Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, called the letter part of the “extracanonical material” his family thought necessary to read beyond the Bible. “What’s so important about it today is you still have people who have ecclesiastical positions but have no moral authority and who are trying to claim moral authority,” said Moss. “He was talking to the Christian nationalists of his day and setting them straight and saying, ‘You have no moral authority.’”


Faith leaders at the Georgetown event and in interviews commented on King’s stated concerns in his letter, which included that the church could “be dismissed as an irrelevant social club” and that he has daily met “young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

Full article available here.

NCC Reiterates Opposition to Debt Ceiling Legislation

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling. The Limits, Savings, Growth Act of 2023 (H.R. 2811), introduced by House Republicans, passed in a 217-215 vote, largely along party lines. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the legislation would place a spending cap on discretionary funding over a 10-year period and reduce the budget deficit by $4.8 million. Cuts to discretionary funding under H.R. 2811 include billions of dollars in federal student loan debt relief, veterans’ healthcare, rural assistance programs, and tax incentives for clean energy and energy efficiency.

The bill also imposes stricter work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries. The amended bill moves the effective dates for these provisions up by one year, making the work requirements enforceable in 2024 and 2025. NCC reiterates strong opposition to the Limits, Savings, Growth Act of 2023, which places politics over people, leaving the most vulnerable in our nation without access to basic human needs, including clean air, economic opportunity, and food security.

Senate Fails to Advance Equal Rights Amendment

This week, the Senate failed to advance S.J. Res. 4, a joint resolution that removes the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment imposed on the states in 1972. Congress extended the deadline in 1982. Since then, several states have ratified or rescinded their ratifications of the amendment.

In a Statement of Administrative Policy, President Joe Biden issued the Administration’s strong support for S.J. Res. 4. “Gender equality is not only a moral issue: the full participation of women and girls across all aspects of our society is essential to our economic prosperity, our security, and the health of our democracy,” he said. NCC views S.J. Res. 4 as a fundamental step toward gender equality in our nation. We continue to support efforts that recognize the "Imago Dei" in every human being, regardless of gender.

Faith Community Advocates Gathered to
Show Farm Bill Support

On Tuesday, April 25, members of the faith-based DC advocacy community gathered with congressional staff and senators at a reception to promote the importance of bipartisan support for the Farm Bill. Typically reauthorized every five years, the Farm Bill includes aid for agricultural related programs across the country. The largest portion of the bill, however, funds food programs. This includes the Food for Peace program of the US Agency for International Development as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Speakers at the receptions included Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, an NCC Member Communion, as well as Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, and Senator Mike Braun of Indiana. All speakers emphasized the critical importance of the food programs that are funded by the Farm Bill and the desire to strengthen these programs. Others in attendance included Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, and Rev. Dr. Nathan Hosler, all members of the NCC Governing Board, as well as NCC staff member Keith Swartzendruber.


One of the particular aspects of SNAP that NCC is working on with several other partners is the ban on SNAP benefits for persons convicted of a federal drug felony. NCC is working with others to repeal this ban so people returning from prison have the necessary support available to them to successfully reintegrate into their communities.


You can send a message to Congress to tell them to lift the ban using this link. Congress has begun hearings just recently on the Farm Bill and will continue to work to develop it over the coming months.

Join the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action—May 3

The African American Policy Forum is sponsoring a National Day of Action on May 3, 2023, to defend the truth and to protect the freedom to learn. Rallies will be held in New York City, Washington, D.C.


The Freedom to Learn Day of Action is a kick-off event designed to mobilize a sustainable, grassroots network in defense of truthful, inclusive education by: Leveraging Advanced Placement (AP) exam period to protest the College Board’s decision to water down its AP African American Studies curriculum; Demonstrating that Black authors, ideas, and frameworks are in demand by students nationwide looking to understand contemporary Black movements and AAPF's current political moment; Showcasing that a growing coalition of civil rights leaders, students, educators, and parents are energized by attacks on the freedom to learn and are strong in number, standing ready to advocate for truth and inclusive ideas as the national discourse turns toward the 2024 presidential cycle.


The Freedom to Learn Network includes the African American Policy Forum, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Legal Defense Fund, Leadership Coalition of Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, National Action Network, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, National Council of Negro Women, the National Urban League, the “Divine Nine” Black fraternities and sororities, Movement for Black Lives, Dream Defenders, National Black Justice Coalition, Black Voters Matter, GLSEN, Zinn Education Project, Moms Rising, Red, Wine & Blue, American Federation of Teachers, and National Education Association and others.

F2L rallies will be held in cities and states across the country as a part of their Day of Action designed to mobilize a sustainable, grassroots network in defense of truthful inclusive education. 

F2L New York City Rally

Join F2L in NYC on May 3 for a pre-rally registration at 2 p.m., followed by a rally in front of the College Board’s NYC offices. 

  • 2:00 p – Meet at Irish Hunger Memorial Park

  • 2:45p – Walk Over to College Board Headquarters

  • 3:00p – College Board Offices

  • 3:45p – End

NYC Rally Registration Link:

F2L New York City "Artivism" Reception

The Freedom to Learn (F2L) Artivism Reception is a gathering and call to action in defense of Black studies. The event illuminates the ties between art, activism, and social action – and calls for an intersectional approach to our fight against anti-CRT and anti-woke laws that are censoring education around the country. The event will welcome advocates, thought leaders, and performers to the stage to offer poems, song, dance, and a reading of banned books or works expunged from the AP African American Studies Curriculum.

  • 4:30 PM – Doors Open, Banned Book Installation

  • 5:45 PM – Program Begins

  • 6:45 PM – Program Ends, Banned Book Installation Re-opens

NYC Reception Registration Link:

F2L Washington, DC Rally

  • 2:00 PM – Meet at Irish Hunger Memorial Park

  • 2:45PM – Walk Over to College Board Headquarters

  • 3:00 PM – College Board Offices

  • 3:45 PM – End

DC Rally Registration Link: 


For assistance with buses to DC or NYC, email


Additional Information:

To join the rally in NYC, register at and convene at Irish Hunger Memorial at Rockefeller Park at 2p ET on May 3.


List of banned books that AAPF gave away during their Books Unbanned tour.


To learn more about the Freedom to Learn May 3 National Day of Action, visit

National Jewish-Christian Dialogue Meets in New York; Continues Consideration of Reparations

Photo: Members of the National Jewish-Christian Dialogue at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine (at Ground Zero) in New York City.

The National Jewish-Christian Dialogue, co-sponsored by the National Council of Churches and the National Council of Synagogues, met April 19–20 in New York City. The dialogue continued its in-depth discussion of reparations and national healing, following previous remote sessions on the broad topic of reparations and specific efforts to consider reparations by the cities of Evanston, IL, and Providence, RI.


On the first day, the dialogue group met at Jewish Theological Seminary. Following a special presentation by Dr. David Kraemer, JTS professor and librarian, on selected historical treasures from the seminary’s extensive rare book collection, and then both Jewish and Christian text studies, by Rabbi David Sandmel, Anti-Defamation League, and Rev. Dr. Paul Tche, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the group heard presentations and had extensive conversation on reparations.


The first presentation was given by students and their mentor, Ms. Monika Moyrer, the executive director of Action Reconciliation–Service for Peace, which provides opportunities for post-high school German students to build on their country’s efforts to bring healing to the world through service projects in various countries, including the US. The discussion revolved around the intersection of guilt and responsibility when it comes to accounting for the past, in this case the Holocaust, and making the world a better place. The next presentation was given by one of the world’s experts on German reparations to the Jewish community, Dr. Ismar Schorsch, the former JTS chancellor. In his sweeping remarks, he spoke about the historical negotiations that led to the individual and structural reparations that resulted after the Holocaust, and that continue even to this day. Of particular note was his articulation of the acknowledgment of the crime of genocide that was necessary to pave the way toward reparations. He also noted that, in the end, reparations do not restore anything; however, they do provide a measure of justice. Following this, Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, JTS chancellor, greeted the group and led a discussion on current political realities in Israel and Palestine.


The next day, the group met at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for a private tour of the memorial plaza, where the guide told a moving account of 9/11 and about how the memorial serves as a place of remembrance for victims’ families, the New York community, the nation, and the world. The group then moved to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, which was built adjacent to, and now overlooks, the Memorial Plaza. The church not only replaces the only house of worship destroyed in the 9/11 attack and continues to serve a worshipping community; it was also built to serve as a place of national healing for all who would come to remember, and to pray. Of special significance to the group was the artistic incorporation of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the sacrifice of the first responders, and the restoration of the city, in the iconographic depiction of the comfort, protection, and resurrection of Christ.


Also appreciated was the chanting of the Easter hymn by Mr. Dimitrios Katsiklis, the master chanter at the church as well as the pastoral assistant who presented to the group. Finally, the group met at Trinity Church Wall Street, the Episcopal church that had a significant pastoral role in the days following the 9/11 attack. In that space, the group was able to remotely view the John Paul II Lecture on Interreligious Understanding, hosted by the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at JTS with the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome, which featured dialogue participants Rabbi Burt Visotzky (JTS) and Ms. Kathryn Lohre (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), as well as Rabbi Esther Lederman (Union for Reform Judaism) and Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi (Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers), on the subject, “How to Confront Anti-Religious Bigotry.” Following on the themes raised in this panel presentation, the day concluded with a discussion of the intersection of tragedy and trauma, reparations and justice, and understanding and healing.

Hundreds of Faithful Advocates Descend Virtually on DC

This week hundreds of Christian advocates came together virtually for the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days. This year’s theme was “Swords into Ploughshares,” reflecting on the prophet Micah’s vision of peace. NCC Interim General Secretary/President Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie had the honor of preaching at the opening worship, setting the tone for the gathering. In her sermon, Bishop McKenzie called on those present to move beyond scarcity to mobilize abundance to serve those in need. She reminded attendees what they were called to by asking, “Do we send the people away, or do we do something about what the people need?”


Following worship, attendees worked to do something about what the people need. Advocacy efforts focused on reducing spending on war and protecting important social safety net programs in the Farm Bill such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Food for Peace. The faithful advocates learned more about the issues that were at the forefront of the gathering as well as myriad other issues and needs throughout the world. Workshops addressed peacebuilding in Africa, climate action, peace in the Middle East, reparations, welcoming refugees, and a host of other important areas in need of compassionate action.


On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of advocates then met with their elected officials to advocate for a reduction to the defense budget and protection for important food programs in the Farm Bill. Coming amid Congressional action on the debt ceiling, the intervention of these advocates was particularly timely to ensure that lawmakers recognize the stakes when proposing drastic cuts to important social safety net programs.


NCC and its partner, Church World Service, are the primary sponsors of EAD. They are joined by more than 40 additional cosponsors, including many of NCC’s Member Communions as well as other Christian organizations.

Church Officials Call for End to
Needless Bombardment in Sudan

Children dance during Catholic Mass in Gidel, a village in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The area is controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, and frequently attacked by the military of Sudan. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/Life on Earth

Since April 15, fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has gripped the country, triggering fears of a humanitarian crisis. At least 459 people have died and more than 4,000 have been injured in the fighting so far, WHO officials said on Tuesday. The majority of victims are civilians in the fighting.


The majority of the people in Sudan are suffering and yearning for peace, according to Roman Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mula of Juba Archdiocese in South Sudan.


A concern for churches is also emerging following reports that a rocket had struck the Roman Catholic cathedral in the diocese of El Obeid. The blast—which also hit a priest’s house—destroyed the front gate of the cathedral and shattered glass. Armed men also targeted the Anglican Cathedral in Khartoum on April 17 and used guns to break into cars, reported Sudanese Anglican church officials.


“South Sudan is already facing a severe food emergency…If this conflict in Sudan doesn’t stop soon, and refugees start crossing the border in large numbers, then this will exacerbate an existing humanitarian crisis,” said James Wani, Christian Aid’s South Sudan Country director.

Amid amplified calls for peace in Sudan, a glimmer of hope has spread in the northeastern African country, after fighting forces announced a 72-hour ceasefire.

Read the full story here.

Rabbi Ron Kronish to Speak on Peacebuilding and Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine

Friends and colleagues are invited to an opportunity to meet with and hear Rabbi Ron Kronish, one of Israel’s most renowned, influential, and respected interfaith advocates, on “Peacebuilding and Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine: Obstacles and Challenges for the Future,” May 3, 2023, from 10 – 11:15 a.m. at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 2027 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036.


Based on his new book, Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the Midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Ron’s talk could not be more timely.  At a moment in Israel’s history marked by tensions among Israeli Jews, between Israel Arabs and Jews, between Palestinians and Israelis, his picture of realistic opportunities for peacemaking based on the real work of courageous peacemakers is vitally needed.  

For those who have not had the opportunity to meet or hear him, Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish is an independent scholar, writer, blogger, lecturer, teacher, and mentor. From 1991–2015, he served as the Founder and Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), Israel’s premier interreligious institution during those years. 

He is the editor of Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel: Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015) and author of The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, A View from Jerusalem, (Hamilton Books 2017). 

A Library Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Ron currently teaches courses about Interreligious Dialogue and Peacebuilding at the Schechter Institutes for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, in the Department for Adult Education and for the Drew University Theological School.  

His regular blog for The Times of Israel offers a distinct voice and often attracts attention and comment from key players in Israel. 

His book will be available for sale (discounted) and he will be glad to sign copies. 

Please RSVP here and contact Sandra TooGood at or call (202) 387-2800) with any questions.  

Spring Governing Board Meeting

Schedule of Events


Monday, May 15, 2023

9:00a–11:00a Christian Education and Faith Formation

Convening Table (Members Only)

10:00a–11:15a Health and Wellness Task Force Meeting (Members Only)

11:00a–12:45a Sponsored Luncheon for  Governing Board & Health and Wellness Taskforce (Members Only)

1:00a–5:00p Governing Board Business Session (Members Only)

5:30p–6:45p Dinner (Members Only)

7:00p–Anniversary Launch Worship Service (Open to the Public)


Tuesday, May 16, 2023 

8:00a–12:00p Governing Board Business Session (Members Only) 

12:30p  Box Lunch (Members Only)

1:00p–3:00p Policy Roundtable (Members Only)

Click here for more information.

You are invited to an action-oriented online seminar for children’s and future generations’ survival, in light of the latest facts shared by the world’s leading scientists on Tuesday, May 9, from 2-4 pm CET.

This event is designed to advance and inspire actions of faith-based actors and partners—halting the ongoing increase of CO2 emissions by stopping the financing of new fossil fuel projects.

The event will offer insights since the launch of the appeal in 2022 Climate-Responsible Finance: A Moral Imperative towards Children, and the Faith & Science appeal in 2021, which included the commitment “to move away from investments in fossil fuels and toward investments in renewable energy(...).”

Leaders and decision makers, child rights specialists, young people, finance specialists, faith-based actors, and secular partners are encouraged to participate.

Co-Organizers: World Council of ChurchesUNEPJoint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local CommunitiesLaudato Si Movement.

Please find the webinar agenda here.

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