Subject: NCC Newsletter: CUG Speakers, Mission Prayer, and Haitian Refugee Treatment

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CUG Speakers, Mission Prayer, and Haitian Refugee Treatment
NCC Newsletter
October 1, 2021
Our 2021 Christian Unity Gathering is Almost Here!  
I assumed office as president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches on January 1, 2014 and discovered we had our first Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) scheduled for May 18-20. Planning had commenced but a lot of work remained to be done. The planning committee and the staff moved into high gear and a terrific event took place on time.
Each year since, our Christian Unity Gathering has taken place and in my view they have been better and better. The CUG has been an occasion where our convening tables come together, seminary students join us, and the NCC governing board meets. Now, our 8th CUG will be held virtually on October 11-12. I invite you to register and to join us

Our 2021 theme is “In New Wineskins: From Pandemics to Possibilities to Promises” and our scripture is taken from Luke 5:37-39 which reads, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good’” (NRSV).
I dream of new ways of being, new ways of doing church, new ways of people coming together. The global pandemic, climate change, systemic racism, and other crises are provoking new ways of thinking that have the possibility of ushering in a new day of justice and peace if we will seize the moment.

We will open with bible study on the afternoon of October 11 which will feature two outstanding theologians, Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Dr. Cynthia Rigby of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The NCC is committed to eradicating racism so we are excited our opening keynote will be delivered by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility” and “Nice Racism”.

To close out the evening of our first day, we will focus on the need for a racial reckoning in America and what a Christian Response looks like. Richard Hughes, the author of “Myths America Lives By” will open and our incoming NCC chair, Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, will moderate a panel discussion.

Day Two will open with devotions led by Rev. Dr. Souci Grimsley, Founder and President of Tuburan Integrative Wellness Ministries. Our second keynote will then be delivered by Dr. Christine Hong, Associate Professor of Educational Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Our CUG always includes awards and this year we will present them to Dr. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion, Harvard University and Director of The Pluralism Project; to Sister Simone Campbell, former Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-chair, National African American Clergy Network, Founder/President Skinner Leadership Institute.

Rounding out the afternoon, we will have panels on Christian Nationalism and an International Briefing on Covid. Finally, we will close with worship.

I hope you will join us for the entire CUG, but I recognize you may wish to pick and choose among those things that grab your attention. Of course, I’m not sure how you can do so when we have nothing but excellent speakers and resource people to lead the way. Please join us!

Grace and peace,

Announcing Our CUG Speakers
NCC's annual Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) will be held virtually on October 11 - 12, 2021 with the theme, "In New Wineskins: From Pandemics to Possibilities to Promises," based on the scripture in Luke 5:37-39. The event is free to attend.

This year’s CUG will explore how church life has changed and what our hope is for the church as the global community struggles to emerge from its pandemics and economic crises while at the same time continuing to grapple with the racial reckoning that is happening in our nation and the world. Can we discard the old wineskins? What will it take to go beyond conversations on racism to fully incorporating equity and racial justice in our churches? Where are new models of racial reckoning/reconciliation?

Together, we will examine how to move forward as we negotiate those who are lamenting the old and those embracing the new as well as the spaces where both are happening at the same time. Will you join us to go beyond how we “always do it” and get to a place of possibilities? We invite you to join us virtually to explore what churches must do to honor old wineskins while embracing new ones and God’s promises for a new path forward.


All times in Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

Monday, October 11

10:00 am – Noon Issue Meetups
  • Student Loan Forgiveness for Clergy -- Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Minister for Economic Justice, United Church of Christ, National Ministries
  • Voting Rights -- Sister Quincy Howard, NETWORK Lobby and Faithful Democracy
  • Reparation -- Rev. Mark Thompson, Host of the SiriusXM show "Make it Plain"
  • Child Tax Credit -- Amelia Kegan, Legislative Director for Domestic Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm - Opening Session/Panel Bible Study
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Rigby, W. C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Associate Professor of Homiletics and Hebrew Bible, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

3:00 pm - 4:15 pm - Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm with Dr. Robin DiAngelo, Affiliate Associate Professor of Education, University of Washington. Dr. DiAngelo's presentation will not be recorded. This is a live event.

4:15 pm - 5:15 pm - Small Group Discussions

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Faith Summit – Racial Reckoning in America: A Christian Response
A panel with questions from the audience. Have denominational and other faith leaders discuss what they have been doing to negotiate the racial reckoning in the country. Where are new models of racial reckoning/reconciliation?
Dr. Richard Hughes, Scholar in Residence, Lipscomb University
Dr. Jonathan Tran, Associate Professor of Theology and George W. Baines Chair of Religion, Baylor University
Elona Street-Stewart, Co-Moderator, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, Conference of National Black Churches
Minister Candace Simpson, Associate Minister, Concord Baptist Church of Christ
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop, 5th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Tuesday, October 12

11:00 am - 11:30 am - Morning Devotion/Opening Prayer
Rev. Dr. Souci Grimsley, Founder and President, Tuburan Integrative Wellness Ministries

11:30 am - 12:30 pm - Keynote Address by Dr. Christine Hong and Q&A
Dr. Christine Hong, Associate Professor of Educational Ministry, Columbia Theological Seminary

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm - Panel on Christian Nationalism
Amanda Tyler, Esq., Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith, Founder and Director, Crazy Faith Ministries
Rev. Dr. Obery Hendricks, Visiting Research Scholar at Columbia University and author of “Christians Against Christianity”
Dr. Philip Gorski, Chair, Sociology, Yale University
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Program Director for Racial Justice, Minnesota Council of Churches
Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University
Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Professor, Iliff School of Theology and author of “Decolonizing Christianity”

3:45 pm - 5:15 pm - International Briefing on the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith (Moderator) Senior Associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement, Bread for the World
Dr. Frances S. Collins, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Pauline Muchina, Chair, Advocacy Network for Africa, COVID-19 Working Group and Public, Education, Advocacy Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee
Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico, President and Executive Secretary, Cuban Council of Churches
Rev. James Bhagwan, General Secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm - Closing Worship

For 2021, we will be using an online event service called Whova. After you register, you can sign in on the website using your laptop or computer, or you can download the app for your phone or tablet. 

The Spiritual Practice of Mission Prayer
The Spiritual Practice of Mission Prayer to Sustain Our Spirit-led Work for Justice with Susan Naylor is presented by the Christian Education, Faith Formation, and Leadership Development (CEFFLD) Convening Table of the National Council of Churches.

What are the spiritual practices that strengthen you for the long haul in your work for justice? In this monthly series, the CEFFLD Convening Table of the NCC shares personal stories of practices that have nourished them for the long haul of justice ministries. Faithful action in our communities, regions, countries, and the world, is sustainable when we are spiritually fed by the same Spirit that prompts us to bring Christ's love and justice to bear in our world. Each monthly segment shares a testimony of how a specific practice has been helpful for the faith formation or leadership development of an individual or congregation. The series will share resources (e.g., books, website, articles, videos) that give readers/viewers a chance to learn more about the practice and to use these tools to move forward in faithful efforts toward justice. This month is Mission Prayer.

Mission Prayer
God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new
and become a blessing of your love and peace.

Susan Naylor prays the Mission Prayer each day and even has it printed on her business cards. She is an executive minister for Community of Christ, serving as a Worship and Leadership Formation Minister and World Conference director. She was recently appointed the World Church Secretary and First Presidency’s Office director beginning January 2022. In addition, she is an ordained minister serving in the office of high priest having worked for Community of Christ for more than thirty years in diverse roles: the Northeast Field, Operations for International Headquarters, Public Relations/Communications, Legal and Planned Giving Services, Administrative Services/Ministerial Personnel, and First Presidency’s Office. She also serves on the SPECTACULAR Steering Team assisting with special projects and organizational development and is active with the Chesapeake Bay mission center, serving as a Washington D.C. congregational co-pastor, family camp director, and Seeker’s Ministry team member. In the past, she worked for the National Council of Churches in Washington D.C. She received a bachelor of arts with majors in business education and administrative services and seminary graduate work from Graceland University, Lamoni, Iowa.

We hope this series will show connections across faith traditions that have some similarities in practices, helping to build stronger bridges of understanding around commitments to shaping spiritual lives and communities to be agents of peace and justice in the world. 
NCC Signs on Interfaith Immigration Coalition Faith Letter
In response to the Haitian deportations and expulsions and the inhumane treatment of Haitians at the southern border, this week NCC joined 177 faith organizations and 1,947 faith leaders and people of faith from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Haiti to send a letter to the Biden Administration urging them to stop deportation flights to Haiti, hold CBP officers accountable for their abuses, end Title 42 expulsions, and pursue all administrative actions to provide humanitarian protections for Haitians.

The letter states, “Haitian asylum-seekers are not only pursuing what is their legal right. They are also challenging us all to live in full alignment with our religious and spiritual values, which implore us to welcome the stranger and not to turn our back on those in need. Late last month President Biden stated that, “human rights must be at the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.” Yet the expulsion of Haitian immigrants from the U.S. southern border illustrates just the opposite. We must back up bold statements with actions.

The deportation flights must end. The use of Title 42 to justify those expulsions must end. The U.S. must renew TPS designation for Haiti to more expansively ensure the safety of those who need it. We honor the determination, dignity, and resilience of Haitians in the camps under the Del Rio bridge who have journeyed to the U.S. border believing in the promise of safety and opportunity. As people of faith we hear the cry of the forsaken and vulnerable. We answer back, and urge you to join us.”

J. Herbert Nelson on the Treatment of Haitians Coming to US
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), called for the US to "critically analyze our foreign policy" stating, "Often our attempts at nation-building are loaded with personal agenda, which allow for U.S. imperialistic power in the hemisphere. Throughout history, the United States has backed Haitian political leaders who have made it easier to foster U.S. interests instead of listening to Haitian civil society. In fact, the UndocuBlack Network reminds us that “without invitation and without justification, Western countries have brutally pillaged resources, stolen land, enslaved generations, and continuously interfered with the politics and governance of Black countries for centuries.” We must come to terms with how we have fed the root causes of the real crisis, which continues to unfold in Haiti." 

"We owe so much to the people of Haiti. They are a symbol of freedom in this part of the world. They came to our assistance during the Revolutionary War. However, we have been shameful partners," he wrote. "During Haitians’ call and fight for independence as enslaved people, we remained silent. As they helped other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fight for their own independence, we remained silent. As they influenced and encouraged the freedom of enslaved peoples in the United States, we villainized them."
COVID-19 Pandemic Response:
Advanced Child Tax Credit
The Advanced Child Tax Credit (CTC) provides historic relief for most working families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic through the American Rescue Plan as it provides families with $3600 per child under six years old and $3000 per child between the ages of six and 17. Churches are asked to join government leaders, national outreach partners, and community organizations across the country in raising awareness of the Child Tax Credit in the days and weeks ahead.

There are two goals:
1. To spread the word about the Child Tax Credit and how important it is for families.
2. To reach and enroll non-filer families so that all children can benefit from the CTC.

This past week, NCC co-sponsored a presentation along with the White House, the Department of the Treasury, Catholic Charities USA, the Islamic Society of North America, and Bread for the World for a training on the new Child Tax Credit e-filing tool. We encourage you to 
share the resources and attachments provided here to help spread the word both personally and through your church and social service organizations. In addition, any support you can provide through calls, text messages, social media, and announcements to promote awareness and sign-ups is welcomed.
  • The Code for America CTC Non-filer Sign-up Tool (website – English and Spanish). This is where people sign up to for the Child Tax Credit.
  • The Code for America CTC Non-filer Sign-up Tool Help Guide (PDF - English). This guide is meant for navigators and assisters. It outlines what's going on at each step, so that they know how to respond to common questions and can understand what will happen if people go down a rare corner of the flow. Navigators can also access a navigator resource website (in English and Spanish).
  • The Code for America GetCTC demo (Video – English and Spanish). This video is a quick tour of how to use GetCTC, the simplified tax filing portal.
Help Your Neighbor Get Internet
The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry has embarked on a week-long effort to ensure that low-income families and individuals are taking advantage of a new program offering them a $50 discount per month for home internet ($75 on tribal lands). The new program, called the Emergency Broadband Benefit was passed by Congress as part of COVID-19 relief efforts, began offering subsidies in May 2021. The UCC ministry notes that millions of eligible people are leaving this money on the table and they note that the faith community can be a critical player to meet this need as our communities are experts on one-on-one outreach. The ministry has a downloadable flyer that churches can post in the community.
From our Partners:
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Visit the US
The Orthodox Observer News reports that "His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America will welcome His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States for an official visit which will begin on October 23, 2021 and continue through November 3, 2021. The visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, was postponed due to the worldwide pandemic. This is the third official visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States.

In addition to His All-Holiness, the official delegation will include His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Metropolitan Iosif of Proikonissos, His Eminence Metropolitan Ioustinos of Nea Krini and Kalamaria, Director of the Private Patriarchal Office V. Rev. Grand Ecclesiarch Aetios, Rev. Deacon-in-Line Kallinikos Chasapis, Director of the First Patriarchal Office Prof. Dr. Konstantinos Delikostantis, businessman Mr. Panagiotis Xenokostas, businessman Mr. Panteleimon (Laki) Vingas, journalist Mr. Hakan Çelik, Mr. Panagiotis Grafiadelis, and Mr. Temistokli Karanikola.

The official visit will begin in Washington, DC and is expected to include meetings, luncheons, and official dinners with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou, and Turkish Ambassador to the United States Hasan Murat Mercan. Events scheduled in Washington, DC include a Pan-Orthodox Patriarchal Chorostasia at Saint Sophia Cathedral; followed by the inaugural induction of the Senators for Orthodoxy and Hellenism; a Luncheon with the Hierarchs; a Dinner Tribute by the Order of AHEPA; the Blessing of the Permanent Exhibition of Orthodox Christian Cultural Heritage at the Museum of the Bible, and an Ecumenical Reception on Capitol Hill by the National Council of Churches."

The complete itinerary is described by the Orthodox Observer News and includes visits to West Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New York. 
Reimagining the Confederate Windows
Last week, the Washington National Cathedral announced that it will replace its former stained-glass windows featuring Confederate iconography which were removed in 2017, with racial-justice themed windows created by world-renowned artist Kerry James Marshall. His paintings depicting Black life in America have been sold, viewed, and showcased across the world for decades and this will be his first time working with stained-glass as a medium. His new windows will reflect the Cathedral’s stated desire for new windows that “capture both darkness and light, both the pain of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow, as well as the quiet and exemplary dignity of the African American struggle for justice and equality and the indelible and progressive impact it has had on American society.” 

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