Subject: NCC Newsletter – February 10, 2023


February 10, 2023

NCC Offers Prayers for Turkey and Syria, Encourages Donations to Help Those Affected

His Eminence Mor Boutros Kassis, the new Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo looks at the damaged dome of the church bell tower following the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey on Monday, Feb. 6. (Courtesy Photo)

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Psalm 46:1-3 NRSVue


The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is mourning the loss of thousands of lives in Turkey and Syria following the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region in the early hours of Monday, Feb. 6. The death toll from the quake reportedly has surpassed 22,000 people and is still rising, with tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and thousands of buildings toppled.

NCC is urging congregations in the U.S. to join the global community in praying for and supporting those impacted, as aftershocks, inclement weather conditions, civil war in Syria, and a refugee crisis on the border between the two countries have made efforts to rescue those who may be trapped in the rubble risky and extremely difficult. Disaster and humanitarian relief organizations around the world are responding to the crisis and providing assistance to those who have been left desolate, without food, shelter, or personal belongings. Many are also grieving the loss of loved ones or are searching for those who are missing.

Compounding our sadness, we have learned that the earthquake, which was one of the strongest in 100 years, caused the collapse of a historic 19th-century Syriac Orthodox Church, and severe damage to a Greek Orthodox Church, both in Aleppo, Syria. The churches are related to NCC member communions, and of particular note within the ecumenical community, these were the home churches of Archbishop Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Bolous Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, the clerics who were kidnapped by ISIS terrorists in 2013 and never found.

Rev. Deacon George A. Kiraz, who serves as the Syriac Orthodox Ecumenical Representative to the NCC and Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, described the harrowing conditions on the ground. “The Syriac Orthodox cathedral of Adıyaman, 150 kilometers northeast of the epicenter, collapsed entirely, burying some individuals. People fear staying at night in their homes, which are now damaged, and spend the cold nights in the streets,” he said. 

“Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this horrific disaster. The humanitarian toll is heavy in both countries and calls for our immediate response,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC’s Interim President and General Secretary. “It is in moments like these that our faith teaches us to pray for one another and to do our part to be the hands and feet of God in the world by supporting those in need.”

To support those in need, visit our website at for links to organizations that are accepting donations.

Additional reading on the ecumenical response to the earthquake:

Middle East Council of Churches and WCC calls on the international community for emergency aid, urges lifting sanctions on Syria

PCUSA Stated Clerk calls for a lift of sanctions on Syria

His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Arrives to Aleppo to Visit the Victims of the Earthquake

Middle East Council of Churches Statement

More news from Middle East Council of Churches related to earthquake

Black History Is Church History

“But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children — Deuteronomy 4:9, NRSVue


Throughout Black History Month, the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) will post historic photos on its social media channels using the hashtag, #BlackHistoryIsChurchHistory. The NCC celebrates the significance of knowing and understanding Black history as part of knowing and understanding our Christian faith tradition. Deuteronomy 4:9 reminded us to tell our stories to our children and our children’s children because they point to God’s faithfulness.


Certainly, the history of people of African descent in America is a testament to our God being a deliverer, a provider, a healer, a way-maker, and one who hears our cries and answers our prayers. Black history is what testimony is all about! The stories of how we “got over,” as the spiritual says, go far beyond the pilgrimage of formerly enslaved people and their descendants. These are also stories of how communities across the country and around the world have experienced the transforming power of God moving in and through them.


Black history is church history!


NCC’s history and engagement are rich in matters of racial justice, breaking barriers, anti-racism advocacy, and offering a public witness in word and deed to the dignity and worth of all people because we are created in the image of God.


From the work of the Federal Council of Churches, NCC’s predecessor, to supporting the National Black Economic Development Conference where the Black Manifesto on reparations was presented, to NCC’s Partners in Ecumenism (PIE) program, which sought racial reconciliation, to NCC’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement led by then-Council staffer Rev. Andrew Young, to NCC’s participation in the March on Washington and crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the 2018 launch of the A.C.T. Now! to End Racism campaign, Black history and the church’s history are connected—sometimes in ways that are encouraging, at other times in ways that are instructive.


The photos we post will spark our remembrance of where and how God has met us in the history of the NCC, in the church, and in the lives of God’s people. Our prayer is that this pictorial celebration communicates our vigorous commitment to doing the hard work necessary to end racism and division once and for all.




We invite you to share your stories in response to the NCC’s social media posts. Tell your story of how Black history and Church history are interrelated in your life or in the life of your church by sharing your words or with personal photos. Tag us using #BlackHistoryIsChurchHistory and feel free to repost and share the photos with your networks.


*Thank you to Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, the World Council of Churches’ President for North America and NCC Governing Board member representing the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., for sharing some of NCC’s historic Black History moments


NCC Supports Vision Outlined in SOTU Speech, Working for More

The National Council of Churches is encouraged by many aspects of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech from President Biden, who provided a glimpse into what the next two years may look like in Washington. The President also used the annual message to detail a laundry list of accomplishments from the past two years.


Within that list, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has perhaps had the most wide-ranging impact. The IRA included incentives for green energy development, out-of-pocket and insulin cost caps for Medicare recipients, and tax increases for the wealthiest individuals and corporations to address income inequality.


NCC applauds the president’s commitment to protecting Social Security and Medicare and supporting people caring for loved ones at home as well as investing in mental health care for youth and veterans.


President Biden also addressed the ongoing epidemic of police violence in the U.S. and acknowledged the sad reality of “the talk” that Black parents must have to advise their children on what to do if they are pulled over or approached by the police. He called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would increase accountability, transparency, and trust with law enforcement. As it became apparent that Congress may not come to an agreement on a police reform bill, last year the President issued an executive order in May 2022 banning choke holds, limiting “no-knock” entry warrants, and establishing a federal police misconduct database.


President Biden as well acknowledged the lasting harmful impacts of the ideology and lies that drove the January 6 attack on the Capitol and continue to be a clear and present danger to democracy today. Significantly, he highlighted the importance of protecting the right to vote:


In America, we must protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right. We honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people. We must uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy.”


While these and other accomplishments have made a positive impact, there remains much more work to do. The Executive Order on policing represents a good start and sets a good example but did nothing to address the actions of officers employed by the approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies not under federal jurisdiction. More must be done to hold police accountable. NCC continues to support Congressional action to eliminate qualified immunity, eliminate the 1033 program that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain equipment from the military, and to reduce the overcriminalization of communities of color.


Additionally, while there has been progress on reducing income inequality, these gains must be codified. Since its enactment in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, the Child Tax Credit expansion has reduced child poverty by 46 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This year the expanded credit will no longer be available, threatening to put millions of children back into poverty.


Most importantly, the US must remain steadfast in its work toward eliminating racism, a contributing factor undergirding many of society’s ills such as poverty and violence. Efforts to address these problems without examining the effects of racism, while well meaning, will not achieve their full potential.


NCC remains committed to ACT to End Racism and to speaking prophetically and lifting the prophetic voices that have been marginalized for too long.

Bishop McKenzie Delivers Keynote at National Prayer Breakfast

On Thursday, February 2, 2023, Interim President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie served as one of two keynote speakers for the National Prayer Breakfast held at the Capitol. In attendance were President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and many other members of Congress.

Drawing from the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), Bishop McKenzie challenged attendees to consider the possibility that the text was not focused on who is our neighbor, but rather, on how to be a good neighbor. Bishop McKenzie challenged those in attendance to look for opportunities to embrace the love, mercy, and compassion Jesus demonstrates throughout Scripture, and to look toward the humanity of others. “Could it be that he saw the man’s humanity? When he saw the man’s humanity, he saw his own. Maybe we need to see our own humanity and see the humanity of others,” she said.

Immediately following the event, the President and several members of Congress expressed their appreciation to Bishop McKenzie for offering a new perspective on the familiar passage.

The breakfast was broadcast live on C-SPAN. Click here to watch Bishop McKenzie's presentation on their website.

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Did you know that prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care have been woven into the fabric of African American society for centuries?

In this webinar, Barbara Peacock (soul care director and author of Soul Care in African American Practice by InterVarsity Press) and Nicole Massey Martin (Christianity Today's Chief Impact Officer) explore how these disciplines were interwoven into the lives of leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Howard Thurman.

This webinar is an invitation to contemplate a journey that will lead you deeper into your relationship with God. Click here to sign up today!

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