Subject: NCC Newsletter: How Do We Go Forward?

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How Do We Go Forward?

NCC Newsletter
January 30, 2021
Our Present Crisis
As I look forward to the 2021 Christian Unity Gathering of the National Council of Churches (October 11-12 ), I assume it will be held virtually, although I am hopeful that by then many millions of people will have been vaccinated and we will be contemplating a resumption of normal life.

Perhaps our national political atmosphere will be a bit calmer if for no other reason that the current president is unlikely to be sending out angry and cruel tweets every day and will refrain from constantly attacking people and, even, his own government.

Perhaps more people will have access to healthcare and progress will be made toward a livable wage and efforts to address climate change will be visible.

Perhaps progress toward resolving several international disputes will be underway (church leaders in Cuba and Korea are working with us on peacemaking efforts between the United States and their countries). Perhaps, arms limitation treaties will be strengthened or extended or renegotiated.

Perhaps, even, efforts to address systemic racism will begin to bear fruit by this fall.

Each time I fear our present crisis is intractable, I am thankful to God that people seek out the National Council of Churches for assistance and advice. Can we help mobilize churches to make available their buildings to administer the vaccine? Might we be willing to foster congregational conversations on racism? Might we join efforts to address reparations?

Whenever and wherever possible, we, as followers of Christ, join the great movements for liberation, peace, and justice and concrete, specific projects to advance ecumenical and interfaith understanding.

Lately, I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. He encourages members of that young church to practice self-control and act with unity of purpose. His words help to ground me in these challenging times.

Grace and Peace,

How Does a Nation Heal?
This San Diego Union-Tribune article discusses how we can heal as a nation - by having conversations and making an effort to be in community with each other. Jim Winkler, NCC President & General Secretary, was interviewed, "There can be no healing without accountability. As people of faith, the process is called repentance. The process of truth-telling and acknowledgement and intention to change.” 
Gratitude for the Life of Rev. Dr. Paul A. Crow, Jr. 
With tremendous sadness, we report the death of the Rev. Dr. Paul A. Crow, Jr. on January 23, 2021. Dr. Crow was a distinguished leader in the worldwide Ecumenical movement and a long-time member of the NCC Governing Board serving on the General Board/Assembly and Executive Committee from 1974- 1998. He was also the chairperson of the Panel on the Nature of Ecumenical Commitment chat redefined the nature of the NCCC. 

For thirty years he also served in various aspects of the World Council of Churches: as a member of the Faith and Order Commission, the Central Committee, and Moderator of the Ecumenical Institute Bossey.

On their website, the Disciples share that, "Among the church leaders of this century, Paul Crow has given broad, distinguished, and passionate leadership in the Ecumenical Movement. The unity of Christ’s Church has been his 'polar star,' as it is for his tradition. Because of his leadership, the Disciples have been unusually visible and have exercised an influence in the worldwide Ecumenical Movement far beyond their comparatively small number of believers."

We give thanks for the many contributions Dr. Crow made toward Christian unity in this world. May his work and passion live on through all of us.
Lenten and Easter Resources
Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) has published resources to help congregations understand and observe this year’s Lenten and Easter seasons. You will find an introduction video by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Bible studies by leading theologians such as Dr. Rhonda Blevins (ICCC), Bishop Othal H. Lakey (CME), and Dr. Vernon Meyer (UCC). There are also sermons you may use for your online worship services offered by Bishop Ann Henning-Byfield (AME) and Rev. Andrew Foster Connors (PCUSA). Bishop Jefferson-Snorton, who is also the Ecumenical Officer for the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, encourages all local congregations in the United States to use any, or all, of these resources.

COVID-19 Vaccinations 
The Role of Churches 
With surveys showing resistance to vaccinations among people of color, many churches are seeking advice on how to share information about the vaccines in an effort to save lives. This article,  "Churches in predominantly Black communities can play a key role in vaccinating against COVID-19," offers advice from churches that are leading the way to share information. Find out how they are succeeding. 
A Statement on COVID-19 Vaccinations from the CME College of Bishops
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage throughout the United States, the news of vaccinations to prevent the COVID-19 disease has been met with mixed responses. Scientists, government, and many others are excited that the vaccine was developed in record time. Others, particularly black and brown people, recall medical experiments and medical exploitation in years past, and are less enthusiastic about taking a vaccination.

For people of faith, including CMEs, the decision to take or not take the vaccine must be an informed decision. You should not let misinformation and/or a misunderstanding of the facts, lead to a decision that is not right for you.

Your College of Bishops are advocates for the COVID-19 vaccination. However, the decision to receive or not receive is a PERSONAL HEALTH DECISION.

Some have asked, what does the Bible say about vaccinations? Well, the truth is the Bible says "nothing" specific about vaccinations. In the historical context in which the Bible was written, science and biology had not advanced to the point where that concept and many other health issues were understood.
However, the Bible does offer us insight into the principles upon which we should make decisions. The principle of love is one such spiritual value that should guide us. We are reminded over and over throughout the biblical word to love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Taking the vaccination just be a way of showing love for your family, friends and neighbors. If you don't get the virus, you can't spread the virus. Love of neighbor is a obligation of our Christian faith, not an option.
Second, vaccinations are not a new thing - they have been around for years since scientists came to better understand viruses and how they operate. Most of us have taken vaccinations since we began elementary school. Measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, chicken pox and influenza vaccinations have slowed the devastating spread of those diseases, and most of us have taken those vaccinations. The anti-vaccine movement is a recent manifestation whose scientific data has yet to disprove the effectiveness of vaccinations.

Finally, some are fearful of the side effects of the vaccination. Black and brown people are disproportionately affected and are dying from COVID-19. The long-term effects of survivors are just beginning to be understood. A vaccination is the only long-term preventive measure we have against this disease. All medications have side effects that affect each person differently. No one refuses life-saving medication because of the small minority who have experienced side effects from that same medication.
The decision to receive or not receive is a PERSONAL HEALTH DECISION. Please get the facts, get the information you need, do not rely on what you hear word of mouth or from unreliable sources. Discuss your particular health condition with your doctor, think of the impact a COVID-19 disease will have on you, your family and your lifestyle. Don't procrastinate, the time is now to make this crucial decision that can determine the course of the rest of your life.


From Our Partners:
World Council of Churches Prayer for Christian Unity
Watch the World Council of Churches (WCC) "Global Ecumenical Prayer for Christian Unity from January 25, 2021, the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme for 2021 is “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.” 
Maryland Reparations Fund Grows
At the 2020 Christian Unity Gathering, during our session on Reparations: Looking Back, Looking Forward , Bishop Eugene Sutton of The Episcopal Church spoke about the new $1 million "seed fund" that was established last September in the Diocese of Maryland. This week, Religion News Service reports that a historic Episcopal church in Baltimore, Memorial Episcopal Church, has committed to setting aside $100,000 to reparations, and pledged to contribute an additional $400,000 for reparations and justice work over the next five years.

Documentary on the Famine in Yemen
Friends Committee on National Legislation has teamed up with Spin Film for a special screening of HUNGER WARD—a powerful, new documentary that provides an unflinching look at the human-caused famine in Yemen where it is possible they will lose all of their children to starvation because of the war. Against the backdrop of a forgotten war, HUNGER WARD follows health care workers Dr. Aida Asladeeq and nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they work to save the lives of children in two feeding centers. You can attend a free screening and panel discussion on Thursday, February 4, 2021, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST. Watch the trailer:
Watch Last Week's Webinar on Christian Nationalism
The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) held a webinar on January 27, 2021, Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Responding to Christian Nationalism, with The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church; The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Dr. Andrew L. Whitehead, Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis; and moderator Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC. 

You can also join thousands of Christians to take a stand against this threat to the faith and our country, by signing this letter.

Find additional resources for starting conversations in your church or community here.

Faith & Fire Conversations
Our Faith & Fire Conversations were scheduled weekly through January 19th. Since the series has been immensely popular, future episodes are being considered. Watch this space for announcements on these courageous conversations! You can watch all the episodes on NCC's YouTube channel or listen to each as a podcast on NCC's podcast station.

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