Subject: NCC Newsletter – February 24, 2023


February 24, 2023

This Lenten Season, Let's Commit to Do, Love, Walk

Each week during the Lenten season, the National Council of Churches will highlight focal areas for prayer, contemplation, and service based on Micah 6:8 (NRSVue):  

He has told you, O mortal, what is good,

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice and to love kindness

    and to walk humbly with your God?


Focal topics include poverty, reparations, democracy, community advocacy, and more. Follow the topics on all of our social media accounts and share your story using the hashtags #DoLoveWalk and #Micah6v8.

NCC Participates in Interfaith Prayer Service for Turkey and Syria Earthquake Victims

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President/General Secretary NCC; Governing Board Member His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), and World Council of Churches North American President Angelique Walker-Smith at the Interfaith Prayer Service.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America led an interfaith prayer service for Turkey and Syria at Georgetown University recently, in the wake of a series of tragic earthquakes that have decimated the region.

The death toll resulting from the quake has risen to unfathomable numbers, with more than 47,000 people dead, according to published news reports, with untold numbers of people injured, missing, and homeless. More than one million people are estimated to be living in temporary shelters or tents. In response, the World Health Organization reportedly has launched the largest rescue operation in its 75-year history.

Faith leaders from Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin) faith joined in prayer for those who lost their lives or were injured, displaced, and devastated by what is likely one of the worst natural disasters to impact the two countries. 

Interim President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie gave greetings on behalf of the ecumenical organization and offered a message of compassion. NCC’s Governing Board member, His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), gave a fervent prayer. 

His Excellency Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, Turkish Embassy, Washington, D.C., makes remarks while His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), look on during the Interfaith Prayer Service. 

His Excellency Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., gave a very personal message of encouragement, naming several the diverse churches, temples, and mosques that were damaged or destroyed.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros opened the service in prayer, sharing that his family members living in the area were tragically impacted. He noted in the program that, “In initiating the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Earthquake Relief Fund, the focus of our Archdiocese is to help both the immediate needs and the longer-term implications of the devastation from the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Our Archdiocese will partner with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to identify trusted organizations for aid distribution.”

Also lifting their voices in prayer were Rabbi Richard Marker, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, His Excellency Bishop Denis J. Madden, Archdiocese of Baltimore, His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, His Grace Bishop John, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and Iman Nurullah Celebi and Dr. Bilal Kuspinar from the Diyanet Center of America.

Others bringing encouraging messages were Mr. Jason Isaacson, American Jewish Committee, and Mr. Dean Triantafilou, International Orthodox Christian Charities.

NCC Supports President's Day Event for Reparations at White House

On President's Day, February 20, NCC joined with other activists outside the White House to call on President Biden to issue an executive order to establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans. The event celebrated the witness of Rev. Robert Turner of The Empowerment Temple in Baltimore who has been walking from the church he pastors to the White House, approximately 40 miles.

The commission, modeled on legislation sponsored for decades by Rep. John Conyers and now by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, is an important first step to begin to address inequity based on race in the US. Keith Swartzendruber offered words of encouragement on behalf of NCC. He described the effort as "not just about writing a check, but a full accounting of the debts owed and the needed deep structural, systemic, and spiritual change that leads to economic, psychological, and social repair needed individually and collectively for us to transform our world."

NCC continues to lead the participation of faith leaders in the broader campaign for reparations through its Journey to Jubilee campaign.

February 25 is Reparations Awareness Day, Join NCC on the Journey to Jubilee

The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) has named February 25 as Reparations Awareness Day. As Black History Month comes to a close, the National Council of Churches (NCC) continues to collect signatures from faith leaders for its first action in the Journey to Jubilee campaign, a sign-on letter to President Biden. In the letter, faith leaders ask President Biden to issue an Executive Order to establish a commission to study reparations. This commission would explore the harms caused by slavery, oppression, and discrimination that have persisted for centuries.

NCC invites faith leaders to add their signatures to the letter as well. You can view and sign the letter, as well as view numerous resources on reparations on NCC's website.

President Biden Issues Executive Order on Racial Equity

Over the President’s Day weekend, President Biden signed a new Executive Order, Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The Order follows Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which, “emphasized the enormous human costs of systemic racism and persistent poverty, and provided a powerful and unprecedented mandate for all federal agencies to launch a whole-of-government approach to equity.” The new Executive Order reaffirms the Administration’s commitment to building and sustaining equity in America.  Click here to read the full text of the executive order.

Black Health Summit Hosted by Department of Health and Human Services

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held its first Black Health Summit, “HHS Black Health Summit: Black Health Matters.” The Summit featured three panels, which discussed addressing mental health in Black communities and systemic barriers to improving health, and Black maternal health. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra welcomed attendees, thanked them for partnering with the Administration to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities, and reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to providing an equitable health care system in America.

Panelists included Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement at the White House, Assistant Secretary Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Rev. Dr. Que English, HHS Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-13), a champion for Black maternal health and sponsor of the “Momnibus” legislative package, which includes 12 bills to eliminate maternal mortality and promote birth equity. Each panel underscored the importance of government partnering with the faith community to provide quality, equitable, and affordable health care to all Americans. The event concluded with a grants workshop. Click here to view the event’s recording.

Public Health Emergency Ending May 11

On January 30, the Biden Administration announced that COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) will end on May 11. Over the past few weeks, the Administration held a series of meetings with stakeholders—including elected officials, business, faith, and community leaders—to prepare the nation for the transition. Upon the end of the PHE, people will continue to have access to COVID-19 tests, vaccinations, and some treatments; access to telehealth services under Medicare and Medicare will remain in place; and people will continue to have access to certain medications for opioid use disorder treatment.

Noted changes that will take effect on May 11, 2023, include the end of free over the counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests for most Americans. The federal government will not require private companies to cover COVID-19 testing without cost sharing. While Medicaid beneficiaries will continue have free access to OTCs until September 30, 2024, Medicare beneficiaries will not have access to free OTCs unless order by a medical provider.

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.



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 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

CUS Invites Ecumenical Partners to Worship
March 16 in Louisville

The Committee on the Uniform Lessons Series (CUS) will hold its annual meeting March 15-17 in Louisville, KY. It is a time-honored tradition to invite denominational partners to join CUS for a worship service in which we commission new officers and bless the completion of this year’s Guide to Lessons and Home Daily Bible Readings. CUS materials support Christian education for thousands of children, youth, and adults across and beyond the United States. Bishop Vashti McKenzie, NCCs interim President and General Secretary, will bring the message at this year’s event which will take place in the chapel of the Presbyterian Center, 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, KY. We joyfully welcome all in the Louisville area to join us in-person, but your virtual participation is also available. Please register to attend:

Responding to Earthquake in Syria and Turkey

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 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region in the early hours of Monday, February 6. To date, more than 41,000 people have died. NCC is urging congregations in the U.S. to join the global community in praying for and supporting those impacted. You can view many opportunities to give on NCC's website.

Have you heard the news? Friendship Press has a new website! Visit to browse the new store, including a full range of NRSVue bibles via our new partnership with! Purchasing NRSVue bibles from our website helps to fund our ongoing work!

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