Subject: NCC Newsletter October 15, 2022

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NCC Newsletter
October 15, 2022

2022 CUG Explores the Challenge of Change
The 2022 Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) brought to its participants an array of presenters and topics that were as diverse as its theme: “The Challenge of Change: Serving a Never Changing Christ in An Ever-Changing World, inspired by Isaiah 43:19 (NRSVue): “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
The annual meeting kicked off on Sunday, October 9, with evening vespers. Rev. Julian DeSazier (left) set the tone for the three-day event with a sermon titled, “Look Back, Move Forward” (Isaiah 43:19), citing the African Sankofa bird, which looks back while moving forward and urged listeners in calling back what God has already done for us.

“The world before COVID is gone,” he admonished, referencing the prophet Isaiah’s warning, “Stop remembering the things of old."

Throughout the virtual event, musical interludes from various NCC communions were aired, reflecting the diversity of religious traditions among communions that comprise the organization.

Following welcome by Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board Chair and an opening message by Rev. Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, the Monday sessions began with a session led by Dr. Tod Bolsinger, on “Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.”

Dr. Thema Bryant led an informative session on Trauma and Grief, which was followed by the personal experiences of the international group of panelists sharing information about traumatic incidents in their communities.

The day’s agenda ended with “Issue Meetups,” where participants were encouraged to join small group topic-oriented sessions, including World Council of Churches Briefing/Update, Seminarians, and Reparations.
The full-day of sessions on Tuesday included “Peace, War, and World Hunger,” featuring Ambassador Daniel Speckhard and New York Times editor Serge Schmemann; Refugees & Hospitality: A Global Humanitarian Crisis, which included a panel discussion on immigration issues; a panel discussion of the “Future of Faith Formation; and a final panel on “ACT NOW!: Uprooting Racism, White Supremacy, and Christian Nationalism.”
In the CUG closing message, Rev. Dr. Joel Gregory cautioned churches about God’s capacity to open doors in a world of change. He also cautioned against churches focusing on the past and having “spiritual memorial services,” focusing only on the things God did in the past; but rather, look forward in faith to what God can and will do in the future.”

The virtual format of the 2022 CUG was regarded by many as a positive means to allow for inclusivity among panelists and participants alike. Those who missed the opportunity to participate live in this year’s CUG can view segments from the gathering on the NCC YouTube channel.

Many NCC member communions provided music via video to enhance this CUG experience.
Rev. Dr. Thema Bryant and Dr. Joel Gregory
CUG Addresses War, Peace, and Humanitarian Crises, and the Churches’ Response
The National Council of Churches’ 2022 Christian Unity Gathering, October 9 – 11, brought together participants from the NCC’s member communions, as well as other partners and people of faith, to address the theme of “The Challenge of Change: Serving a Never-Ending Christ in an Ever-Changing World.” 

Topics under this theme included: The Challenge for Public Theology Today, The Future of Faith Formation; Uprooting Racism, White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism, Voter Empowerment in the Face of Threats to Democracy; Preaching and Congregational Life After the Pandemic, Healing from Grief and Loss After Personal Trauma and Community Violence; War and Its Global Impacts (i.e., food insecurity and forced migration), and humanitarian responses to them.

In the introduction to the “Peace, War and World Hunger” session, Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary, shared various types of critical crises facing the world community, noting: “For months, since the Russian invasion, our newspapers’ front pages and television screens have been filled with stories and images from the eastern territories of Ukraine. While the war in Ukraine should, rightly, occupy our hearts and minds—perhaps especially now that the Russian threat of nuclear war looms larger—we must also be attentive to other conflicts in other regions of the world that are no less destructive, an attentiveness that many have noticed is lacking in terms of news coverage and everyday conversation.”

Helping to bring attention to these challenges—both to dissect what is going on and to highlight the calling of the Church to help bring comfort, stability, and ultimately peace to the world around us, was Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard (photo inset), in a conversation moderated by Mr. Serge Schmemann.
Mr. Speckhard is the President and CEO of Corus International, a large faith-based humanitarian aid organization that includes the humanitarian work of several of the NCC’s member communions, and he is a former US Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO with a portfolio that included political relations with the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean.
Mr. Schmemann is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and member of the editorial board of The New York Times, and a former editorial page editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris, with reporting experience in Johannesburg, Moscow, Bonn, Jerusalem, and the United Nations, and with expertise from writing on the intersection of the Orthodox Church with the political realities both in history and in today’s world.

Speckhard reminded those gathered that there are currently 27 countries experiencing armed conflict today, with the most affected being the marginalized poor, especially women and children. Particularly distressing, he noted the fact that, of the multiple impacts of war, one million children die each year from “wasting,” in other words from death caused by impaired physical and mental development.
When asked by Schmemann what can be done to increase the churches’ awareness of this and other related concerns, and thereby provide meaningful assistance, he stated that, in addition to advocacy for constructive policies in the halls of government, given the very real ability of churches to create change, church communities and faith-based organizations can work across boundaries with corporations, media, and other networks, all of which employ good people who can help make a difference in their own, and in other, contexts around the world. He also suggested that churches can focus aid on practical solutions, like providing, in addition to food shipments in the near-term, farming equipment for the long-term.
Further, Schmemann recommended offering capacity-building opportunities in ravaged societies. All of these reflect his own personal, and his organization’s institutional, motivation to do a “world of good.”
CUG Considers the Past, Present, and Future of Faith Formation
During the NCCs Christian Unity Gathering, the Committee on the Uniform Series (CUS) sponsored a session on “The Future of Faith Formation,” both to commemorate the contribution of its lessons series to millions of Sunday school classrooms across 15 decades of ecumenical partnership, but also to offer an honest assessment of the church’s present formational challenges.

Rev. Garland Pierce, CUS Chair and Executive Director of the Department of Christian Education of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the session singing “Happy Birthday” to CUS and giving tribute to the ecumenical spirit that infuses the cooperation of a diverse committee of pastors, editors, and publishers who share a love for Scripture as the primer for all facets of Christian discipleship.

In the spirit of looking back, the Rev. Dr. Christine Hong (photo inset), Associate Professor of Educational Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary, began her keynote address by inviting participants to type the names of their beloved ancestors in the faith using the chat feature of the virtual meeting space. Even in celebrating the blessings of the past, however, Dr. Hong also confronted the wrongs of the past and named the harm the church has done in erasing the stories of women, children, immigrants, refugees, and those from minoritized communities.

We remain malformed in the faith until we open ourselves to hear the truth and open new channels for bringing to light stories previously concealed. The future of faith formation depends on our vigorous commitment to listen to each other’s stories without insisting that all stories be told in the same way. Our collective transformation comes when everyone commits to knowing their own story and claims a personal role in an interdependent community of faith.

A diverse and skilled panel of practitioners responded to Dr. Hong’s address and brought their collective wisdom to bear on the question of how the church can convince children, youth, and adults that it has a role to play in nourishing the spiritual hunger of today’s world.

Voices on the panel included the Rev. Dr. Carmichael Crutchfield, General Secretary for the Department of Christian Education and Formation in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and is Professor of Christian Education, Spiritual Formation, and Youth Ministry, at Memphis Theological Seminary; Rev. Dr. Dominique Robinson, Professor of Preaching, at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (Zion); the Very Rev. Dr. Anton Vrame, Director of Holy Cross Orthodox Press and Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Education at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology; and Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle, Senior Editor for Spanish language resources for the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, PC(USA). To select CUG sessions, check out the NCC’s YouTube channel!

CUS Member, Dr. Mozella Mitchell, Receives NCC President’s Award
The NCC President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership is given each year to reward, promote, and encourage faithful, risk-taking leadership among faith leaders. This year’s recipient is the Rev. Dr. Mozella Gordon Mitchell (pictured with Dr. Tammy Weins). For over 50 years, Dr. Mitchell has pursued a fulfilling vocation as a scholar, as a pastor, and as a writer and editor. 

It is especially fitting that we recognize Dr. Mitchell for the President’s Award in 2022 as the Committee on the Uniform Lessons Series (CUS) celebrates its 150th anniversary. Dr. Mitchell, like many of our colleagues on the Lessons Committee, has dedicated her life to religious education and to ecumenical partnership. Dr. Mitchell is one of the longest standing active members of the CUS, having begun as a delegate of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1986.

During her tenure, Dr. Mitchell has served on every sub-committee of CUS, but most notably served a four-year term as CUS chair from 2016-2020. In receiving this award, Dr. Mitchell is in a sense, standing in to receive the award for the many, many CUS committee members who have shared together across multiple decades in this unparalleled ecumenical partnership.

The extent of Dr. Mitchell’s impact on the church extends beyond the hundreds of Sunday school students who have received instruction from materials she has written and edited. She also influenced, mentored, and taught hundreds of young college students during her 33-year tenure as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. Holding vast expertise in her field, Dr. Mitchell is a leading voice for African American religious history, African and Afro-Caribbean religions, comparative mysticism, ecumenism, and women in religion.

In the church and in the academy, Dr. Mitchell forged a path with her trailblazing spirit as an African American, as a woman, and as matriarch in the faith. She currently leads the Love of Christ African Methodist Episcopal Zion Tabernacle, which she founded in 1993. Based out of Brandon, FL, the church not only holds weekly services and prayer, but also offers a women’s support ministry and provides gifts to children of prisoners during the Christmas season.

She is an accomplished writer on women in the ecumenical movement, as well as the life and work of Dr. Howard Thurman. Her most recent publication is a memoir, Yea, Lord, Moving with the Spirit: Fifty Years a Minister and a Scholar to the Glory of God, published by Xlibris Press in 2020. 

IMF/World Bank/G20 Annual Meeting Press Conference and Prayer Vigil
The National Council of Churches applauds the work of the Jubilee USA Network and its religious and development partners to comment on the meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, G7, and G20 regarding the global economy. They are highlighting the impact of “the pandemic, Ukraine war, inflation, developing country debt, food security and climate crisis” on communities around the world. The Jubilee USA Network is doing this by holding a series of interfaith events Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15.

The goal is to raise awareness of the “consequential decisions affecting billions of people and our planet” during these meetings of world leaders and organizations. The events, held in Washington, D.C. near the IMF, will occur over the next two days, include a press conference, vigil, prayer service, and teach-in. You can find more information about the events by clicking this link.  

Prayer Vigil for Brittney Griner
On Tuesday, August 16, the NCC joined Faith for Black Lives and held the “Justice for Brittney Griner Prayer Vigil,” a virtual, interfaith prayer vigil for Brittney Griner. The group prayed for Brittney Griner, her family, her teammates, and all persons who face unjust sentencing. 

Another prayer vigil to support Griner will take place Monday, October 24 through Thursday, October 28. This second vigil is being hosted by the Global Prayer Network and 400 Years Celebration, Inc. 

Be sure to review the accompanying flier for more information.

NCC Governing Board Convenes
The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches held its semi-annual meeting on Wednesday, October 15 to discuss the business of the NCC and obtain updates and information from staff and various organizational entities.

Interim President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti McKenzie gave updates on her activities since coming on board, including travel on behalf of the organization, and staffing additions, primarily contract workers who are helping in various capacities until full-time hires can be accomplished. Contract staffers are assisting in the work of civic engagement, advocacy, editorial, graphic design, and social media.

Bishop McKenzie has traveled extensively in recent months doing the work of NCC, including a World Council of Churches meeting in Germany, and visits to Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, N.Y. after recent mass shootings.

During her brief tenure, she also has worked with staff to invigorate several aspects of NCC’s focal programs—voter education and advocacy, racism and environmental justice, and eradicating poverty. Recently, NCC was engaged with the Congressional Black Caucus during its annual meeting.
Governing Board Chair Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton and other board members commended Bishop McKenzie for her hard work to enhance the work of NCC and her success in simultaneously managing internal and external operations.

The board was also formally introduced to Friendship Press Interim CEO and Publisher Will A. Burkamp, formerly of Frontier Press. Burkamp was commended for his knowledge of the publishing business and his prudence in managing the operations of Friendship Press. In his report, Burkamp highlighted primary areas in which Friendship Press will be engaged on behalf of NCC: continuing the launch and marketing campaigns for the new NRSVue Bible translation, book publishing through print-on-demand, and restructuring the publishing project approval process.

An extensive report from NCC’s accounting agency indicated the organization is in stable financial condition despite recent downturns in investments due to market conditions.

Prior to the half-day meeting’s close, other matters pertinent to the work of NCC were discussed, including the Committee on Uniform Series, progress on updating the organization’s by-laws, and celebrating the NCC’s seventieth anniversary in 2023.

NAE Issues Helping Families Flourish Resolution
The Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting on Oct. 6 that recognizes the centrality of the family to God’s vision for human beings and human society. The resolution calls on church, school, business, and government leaders to take steps appropriate to their distinct callings to facilitate the vital work of mothers, fathers, and guardians.

The Helping Families Flourish resolution contains direct responses to care for the needs of vulnerable families, including the child tax credit, foster care support and paid family leave. It also underscores the rights and responsibilities of parents to guide their children’s education and development, including in the sensitive areas of sexuality and gender identity. The resolution also highlights the need to expedite issuance of family reunification visas so that immigrant families separated from their spouses, parents or siblings and facing extended waiting periods are more quickly reunited.

NAE President Walter Kim noted, “In church ministry and through public policy, we seek efforts that strengthen families. We believe this honors God and empowers children to become productive and emotionally healthy adults.”

Weekend of Prayer and Action Against Hunger
The World Council of Churches Weekend of Prayer and Action Against Hunger, October 14–16, is a vital opportunity to mobilize ourselves, our congregations, churches, and communities to overcome hunger in our different contexts, appreciating and contributing to the local church and church-related organizations in their good work. WCC invites participants to pray, do justice, and act to feed the hungry and serve the needy as we follow Jesus.

For additional information, please visit: Churches prepare for weekend of prayer and action against hunger | World Council of Churches (

Government-sponsored Conference Focuses on Food, Nutrition, and Health
Resources for Persons Impacted by Hurricane Ian
For resources you can use and share with communities affected by Hurricane Ian, please visit where you can:

(1) Apply for assistance
(2) Get state-specific resources for Florida and South Carolina
(3) Obtain post-storm safety tips
(4) Read about how to stop post-disaster rumors and scams
(5) Access disaster-related tools
(6) Learn about ways to volunteer and donate

EITC Added to GetCTC’s Simplified Filing Tool
From now until November 15, eligible GetCTC clients in the 50 states and D.C., will be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) using the tool. To claim the EITC, clients will have to provide W2 paperwork, which they do not have to provide to only claim the Child Tax Credit or missing third stimulus payment. The tool’s income limits remain the same: clients must earn less than $12,550 single or $25,100 married, and have less than $400 in self-employment income.

All clients directed to will be given the option to choose if they want to add W2s for this additional money. Clients who select this option will be asked a few additional EITC qualifying questions and guided through entering their W2s. By reporting information from their W2s, clients will also be able to claim their federal tax withholding. Any client who chooses not to add their W2s or is ineligible for the EITC (including filers in Puerto Rico) can use GetCTC exactly as they always have. For more information about EITC functionality in GetCTC, watch this updated recorded GetCTC demo.

This critical program through GetCTC gets more money to families who need it. But this functionality is also an experiment. We know it may be very hard for many of our clients to provide their W-2 documentation, and we will be tracking clients' experiences carefully to learn more about the barriers and to help us advocate for key next steps in filing reforms. Read more about this new functionality and what we hope to learn from its addition in our recent blog post.

Now is the time to do everything you can to send families to Updated outreach materials, available in 11 languages, can be found here. To get a refresher on CTC outreach best practices and to learn more about the new EITC feature on GetCTC, register for Thursday’s webinar at 2pm ET. This webinar will be offered in English and Spanish. Even if you can’t make tomorrow’s live webinar, we encourage you to register to receive the recording and resources.

Are You All In? Voter Empowerment: Check-up Sunday Every Sunday
“We were all made in God’s image and likeness. Voter suppression on the basis of skin color is a throwing away of Imago Dei.”

Jim Wallis, Chair in Faith and Justice and the founding Director of the
Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice

“The right to full participation of the person in political and civic life, including the opportunity: to vote by secret ballot…the right to vote is a basic human right.”

from the 1963 NCC Human Rights Policy Statement

During Voting Rights Month in September, the National Council of Churches issued a Call to Action to energize and empower voters to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections and in every election. 

The right to vote with unfettered access to the ballot box is one of America’s sacred trusts. It was a hard-fought right and is a present hard-fight right now in our country.

NCC Voter Empowerment initiative has partnered with our communions and others to provide a Voter Resource Guide and Voter Toolkit from Faiths United to Save Democracy that contains information for a church-based plan of action. On each Check-Up Sunday, people can use a QR code to check their voter status, verify ID requirements, poll locations, poll rules and regulations, voter registration deadlines, early voting and election dates and more. Included are ideas to stimulate conversations at church and at home.

Register your communion, church, or organization today to receive the Voter Empowerment Resource Guide. It’s free. Click here to register: Use the hashtags #Vote Ready, #NCC on your social media platforms. 

NCC Seeks Director of Communications
NCC is looking to add a new Director of Communications to its team. Based at its headquarters in Washington, DC, the Director of Communications is responsible for all of NCC's outward messaging including press statements, social media, website, multimedia, and this newsletter! You can read the full job description on NCC's website and if this sounds like an opportunity for you please send your cover letter and resume/cv to 

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