Subject: NCC Newsletter: Our Priorities in 2021

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Our Priorities in 2021

NCC Newsletter
December 18, 2020
My Prayer for Christmas
Merry Christmas! In the midst of everything, I give thanks for Christmas and the birth of Christ. I pray that each one of you will find joy on Christmas day and throughout this season. When my back is aching and my arthritis is acting up, as it is now, I know it’s time to take a few days off and I do look forward to a time of respite. 

I am writing this column on a day that involves two important zoom meetings and a beautiful service that took place at Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, where we replaced the Black Lives Matter banner recently burned by the so-called Proud Boys.

The Black Lives Matter banners at Asbury UMC and at Metropolitan AME, and Luther Place Memorial Church were all destroyed by white supremacists in recent days. Each of these churches are part of the National Council of Churches. 

I told the gathering outside the church this morning that the 38 member communions and their 100,000 local congregations and 30 million members that comprise the NCC stand in solidarity with them. We are committed to eradicating racism. 

The Black Lives Matter banner has recently disappeared from the front yard of my own local church in Alexandria, Virginia. None of our other banners have disappeared, so this leads us to suspect it was deliberately taken.

I remain convinced that the teaching of the scriptures and the inexorable tide of history and our own God-inspired work will lead us to a day free of racism. That is my prayer during this Christmas season.  

Grace and Peace,

Statement on the Racist Threats to U.S. Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is deeply troubled by the increase in racist rhetoric, threats, and actions leveled against churches, especially Black churches, leading up to and now in the aftermath of the 2020 election results. Some prominent elected officials have stoked these upticks in hatred and division with racist innuendo and their refusal to accept election results pointing to mostly Black cities as areas where “illegal” votes were cast, none of which is true. These false claims have led to threats against churches that are a part of the NCC family, including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta; and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury United Methodist Church, Luther Place Memorial Church, and National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. We unequivocally denounce and forcefully condemn these threats, harassment and racist actions that led to people being stabbed during protests in the District last weekend.

After receiving hate mail and phone calls as well as an increase in malicious comments and harassment on their social media platforms, Ebenezer Baptist Church made an announcement that “Individuals holding hate in their hearts for our Church are coming into our digital spaces and leaving disparaging and often blatantly racist comments, many of which, unfortunately, are directed at our Church’s Senior Pastor.” Since 2005, the Reverend Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock has served as the Senior Pastor. He is currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate and was a member of the NCC’s Justice and Advocacy Commission and was the chair of the Social Justice Commission for the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

NCC agrees with Ebenezer Baptist Church when they state, “The tactics are destined to divide, distract, and exhaust us … and hate will not prevail.”

No church should be receiving racist threats and no church should have to increase the presence of security personnel, but it is particularly painful knowing Ebenezer Baptist Church’s past. Until he was assassinated in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor of Ebenezer with his father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., and his funeral was held in the church. In 1974 Alberta Christine Williams King, Rev. King Jr.'s mother and the wife of Rev. King Sr., was shot as she played the organ during Sunday services at Ebenezer and died from the shooting at the age of 70. Although the shooting was not racially motivated, the trauma from the incident nevertheless impacted the church and surrounding community.

During weekend protests in the District by those supporting President Trump, including the Proud Boys, a recognized white supremacist hate group, churches were vandalized, and Black Lives Matter signs destroyed and burned on the property of several churches. A “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of Asbury United Methodist Church, a predominantly Black congregation, was burned reminiscent of cross burnings of years past. However, the acts of terror did not stop there. Signs in support of Black lives in front of the historic Metropolitan AME Church, National City Christian Church, and Luther Place Memorial Church were also destroyed. 

“This is unacceptable behavior and it must end,” stated Jim Winkler, NCC President and General Counsel, “As the special Jan. 5th election for the U.S. Senate races in Georgia approach and the false narratives about illegal votes and a stolen election continue, more demonstrations are planned by these groups and the threats, racial vitriol, and acts of violence continue. They must stop. Our faith demands that we speak out against these horrific acts and urge all people of faith and good will to do the same.”

NCC will participate in and stand with Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. on Friday, December 17, 2020 at 10 a.m. ET as they bless and re-hang a new Black Lives Matter sign in front of the church and hold a Prayer Service.

NCC firmly believes that American society needs to be transformed and is committed to eradicating White supremacy as it has been laid bare in these converging crises of global pandemic, economic downturn, racial reckoning, and surge of White nationalism.

We call upon all the churches associated with the NCC to express solidarity with Ebenezer Baptist Church, Asbury United Methodist Church, Metropolitan AME Church, National City Christian Church, and Luther Place Memorial Church, and lift the congregations in prayer.

At the same time NCC asks every American to condemn these acts of aggression and racial vitriol, and work to transform our society’s policies to bring justice to all.

We express our hope that anti-racism campaigns will rise above these expressions of hatred and that denials of the root causes of White nationalism will be forever cast aside and a new transformed society, where the pain felt by the oppressed and the oppressors, is eradicated. Especially now, during the season of Advent, we know that light penetrates the darkness and love will prevail against the hate of racism.

NCC Policy Priorities for 2021
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has served as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ for 70 years. NCC is a diverse covenant community of 38 member denominations with more than 35 million individuals in 100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, historic African-American, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Living Peace traditions. We have a common commitment to advocate and represent God’s love and promise of unity in our public square.

While the NCC, as churches, is the leading ecumenical organization involved in broad theological study, religious education and spiritual formation, national interfaith dialogue and collaboration, and biblical translation (with the New Revised Standard Version, which has long been considered the most widely used version of the Bible in academic theology), in terms of the crucial responsibility of faith-driven advocacy, NCC has identified several broad categories as our priorities, including: ending racism through our A.C.T. Now! to End Racism initiative, ending mass incarceration, and interreligious relations with a focus on peace. These priorities have meant that we have worked with denominational and interfaith partners as well as secular organizations on issues such as universal, affordable and accessible healthcare; abating hunger and poverty; addressing global climate change and environmental racism; providing affordable housing; creating good jobs and having a living wage; and, enacting policies that benefit those most in need. With the novel coronavirus global pandemic ravishing our nation as well as our global ecumenical and interfaith partners, particularly devastating communities of color, we also have been diligently working to advocate for relief and safety during this historic health and economic crisis.

With these priority areas in mind, we urge the new Biden-Harris Administration to consider the following policy priorities:

  • While we are waiting for another COVID relief package to be passed by Congress, we know that what is passed will not be enough to get our nation through the additional surge that is certain to happen throughout the winter months and the economic fallout that will follow. We urge the new administration to work with Congress and to use the tools at its disposal to ensure that people are safe and have their basic needs met as we fight this global pandemic. Federal programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) should be expanded during this crisis and unemployment benefits extended. We also urge the administration to extend the moratorium on housing evictions and the student loan forbearance beyond January 2021.
  • We urge the new administration to develop a national strategy to keep people safe during this pandemic as well as a just and equitable way for the vaccine to be disseminated and administered to the most vulnerable communities. NCC is willing to partner, to the extent possible, with the new administration on these efforts. We will initiate a public education campaign in January to inform about the safety and importance of being vaccinated and the role churches can take in protecting their congregations.
  • The global pandemic and racial reckoning that occurred this summer after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as well as many others, has shined a light on the need for America to address systemic racism. To do so, we call on the new administration to address the widening wealth gap, economic equity, and health and educational disparities. We further urge the administration to support legislation like HR40, which would explore reparations as a matter of equity and dismantling systemic racism.
  • We call on the new administration to use all available resources to reunite children who were callously separated from their families at the border within the first 100 days as a matter of urgency. These children and their families have been traumatized and separated for too long. Immediate action is also needed to reverse the previous administration’s damaging policies at the border. We further urge the new administration to immediately increase the cap on the number of refugees allowed to enter our country annually.
  • We urge the new administration to end the federal death penalty and to protect incarcerated individuals and staff from COVID-19 according to the Justice Collaborative’s Decarceral Guidelines highlighted in the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition’s transition priorities. We urge that mechanism be used to immediately reduce the incarcerated population by immediately releasing elderly and medically vulnerable people, anyone within 18 months of their release date and transferring those in pretrial detention to home confinement as well as mandating proper mask usage and COVID-19 testing for guards and incarcerated individuals.
  • We also urge a review of law enforcement to focus on community safety, transformative justice and restoration that can help build security in communities of color. We further call on the administration to support legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and Breonna’s Law, which would end no-knock warrants. NCC’s Joint Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace Convening Table is working on a policy statement that we hope will push Congress to act on this issue.
  • In keeping with our A.C.T. (Awaken. Confront. Transform) Now! to End Racism initiative and our commitment to advocate for justice, we urge the Biden-Harris administration to re-establish antiracism and diversity training at the federal level as well as for there to be an antiracist/racial equity lens in their transition teams and new administration.
  • The 2020 election had a record turnout of voters but we also know that voter suppression tactics continue to be a huge problem. This year’s election also so the resurgence of voter intimidation efforts. We call on the new administration to support legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has also deepened and exacerbated the digital divide. With so many schools moving to online only classes or a hybrid, many students without access to the internet are falling behind and magnifying the disparities for low-wealth communities, particularly those of color. We urge the new administration to take this head on and use the tools available through the FCC and the Department of Education to expand internet access to these communities.
  • Since 1968, the National Council of Churches has called for an end to the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed on Cuba. We were grateful for the positive steps taken by the Obama-Biden administration toward Cuba and look forward to a resumption of those efforts.
  • NCC is deeply concerned about the crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world and the Armenian Orthodox Church is an important part of the ecumenical movement. We are deeply concerned that justice for Armenia be realized in the aftermath of the recent war with Azerbaijan.
  • The Christian community in Israel/Palestine continues to suffer as a result of the ongoing occupation. As Palestinian Christians continue to emigrate, we face the real prospect that the survival of the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land may soon be in danger. By ensuring the U.S. government stands firmly in support of peace and justice for all in the region, your administration can help ensure the Christian community, along with all in the Holy Land, can flourish.
  • To prevent the situation from deteriorating, we ask President-elect Biden to publicly condemn the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, demonstrate restraint, actively seek the de-escalation of tensions, and support the expeditious return by both sides to the terms of the JCPOA. More threats, sanctions and use of military force will only further destabilize the region and result in the loss of precious human life on all sides.

Updated December 18, 2020 - Link to the 2021 Priorities on our website
Letter of Celebratory Honor from the National Council of Churches 
on the 150th Anniversary of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Dear Family in Christ,

On behalf of the National Council of Churches, we write to send our sincerest appreciation and utmost honor to you for your 150 years of faithful service and prophetic witness to the Body of Christ. Your forward momentum in taking care of God’s business through ministries of salvation, education and liberation are a blessing to the Kingdom, on Earth as it is in Heaven. May you be abundantly blessed for it.

You were a founding member first of the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, and then the National Council of Churches in 1950. We recall with fondness the memory of Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. who served with distinction as the president of the National Council of Churches from 2004-2005. We are proud to have Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton now serving as the Vice-Chair of the Council. We are grateful for her collaborative work and witness, and how under her leadership and strong vision the Council is seeking to ACT NOW to End Racism. We are deeply appreciative of the leadership of Senior Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick III, who stands in a long and esteemed tradition of leaders from the CME Church who represent the best of Christian love and service.

Because the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, born in faithfulness to God and out of resistance to American oppression, has consistently been at the front ranks of ecumenism and church unity, we write to declare deep love and appreciation for you as partners in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. We give God thanks for your steadfast commitments to love, justice, hope, and peace in the world and in our nation. May it please our God, in partnership with the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ, to bless you into future generations with strong leaders like those who have arisen in your past. And may the way of God’s beloved community be known throughout the ages because of who you have been, who you are, and who you will be in God’s perfectly timed future.

In all love and Christian fellowship, we are, as always, partners with you in the proclamation of the gospel and the ushering in of God’s Shalom and Justice in Jesus’ name.


Jim Winkler,  General Secretary of the National Council of Churches
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, Board Chair for the National Council of Churches and General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Staff Perpective: "Are You Really Pro-Life? Christianity in US Politics Today"
Tony Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations, has written a piece on how “pro-life” has come to be defined by many to mean the singular focus on ending abortion. "But," he writes, "it is my contention that this definition, now used by default by conservatives and liberals alike, is clichéd, and indeed, inaccurate. In fact, to be pro-life is to promote all life. According to my reading of Christianity, to be “pro-life” is to take seriously and expansively the words of Jesus: 'I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly' (John 10:10b, NRSV)."

As he thinks he is not the only Christian to think this way and is weary from the attempt to diminish his faith, he raises questions for consideration by those, especially fellow Christians, who would seek to limit the Christian understanding of abundant life.
Join Our 40 Days of Prayer to Transform
Even though we have begun this "Journey to Newness," you can still come along! From now through January 20th, members of the National Council of Churches and our communion partners will offer prayers for hope, unity, and healing. Please join for “40 Days of Prayer to Transform.” During this Advent/Christmas season and into the New Year we put our hope in the ability and desire of God, through Jesus Christ, to heal and transform hearts and minds. We look for the Holy Spirit to breathe God’s newness into individual lives, faith communities, the soul of our nation, indeed, the whole world. Sign up to receive a daily prayer email. The prayers will also be published on our website.

This Week's Faith & Fire Conversation
Don't miss this week's Conversation! “Where Are We Going: Beloved Community through Bethlehem (Pt. 1)” was held on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 7p.m. ET. Panelists were Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of United Theological Seminary at Columbia University; and Rev. Dr. Stacey Cole Wilson, Executive Minister of Justice and Service for the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

The next Conversation will be held on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Details and registration will be available in the new year.
Last Session
Are you ready to stand up for justice? The United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches have joined forces to offer faith-based organizing training to the wider church and beyond.

You can register for the series or pay a $25 fee for each session separately. This week's session on Trauma Care & Healing Space includes: resources for communities, 
using your resources and space generously, adjusting expectations, building resilience and celebrating strength, and new rituals for community building and healing. 

This preparation will give you the confidence, words, and background to know how to make a difference. If you register for the series ($90 for individuals or $190 for congregations/groups), you gain access to all the trainings.
Bishop Eaton’s Christmas Message
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has shared a thought-provoking Christmas message centering on one young woman she met when she went to Honduras to observe the work of AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) that is the ELCA’s strategy to help youth who have been forced to flee their home countries because of violence, abuse, extortion by gangs and extreme poverty. 
Here is What Hope Looks Like!
Good news from the Diocese of Kansas of The Episcopal Church! The Rev. Diane Kruger, an emergency department nurse in Wichita, Kansas, and deacon at Trinity Episcopal Church in nearby El Dorado, was among the first 100 people in the state of Kansas to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 on the first day. 

She said this is the key to lives getting back to something more normal – sharing holidays, being together in church and spending time with family and friends. As her husband is undergoing chemotherapy, she also has a new way to protect him. 
As we witness the escalating death tolls each day, we pray that we will all join Rev. Kruger and be able to stop this pandemic by being vaccinated as soon as we can.
From Our Partners
Churches Uniting in Christ Releases Resources for Watchnight 2020

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Chair of the Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ and Vice Chair of the NCC Governing Board, announces the release of new, ecumenical resources for the use of local congregations for this year’s Watchnight services.

Watchnight services are traditional services in historically Black churches that gather members in unity to welcome in the new year. Part of their history comes from the congregating of slaves on December 31, 1862 as they waited together for the Emancipation Proclamation to become law the next morning. 

Resources to teach congregations about this history can be found on the Churches Uniting in Christ website.
Bishop Joel Martinez: "The church is not yet a ‘great multitude"
In a piece for the UM News, retired Bishop Joel Martinez of the Nebraska and San Antonio Episcopal Areas, writes that he has chosen "three examples of the institutionalized racism and discrimination that was evident in the practices of the church during my childhood, my youth and during my ministry as a pastor. There were occasions when I was subjected to personal comments and actions that reflected discriminatory, demeaning and racist attitudes toward me as a Mexican American."

He states that "it is more important to share about the continuing and entrenched racism that pervades the organizations and institutions of the church when it comes to including, welcoming and serving persons without regard to color, language and heritage."

Insightful Interview about the SBC seminary presidents and Critical Race Theory
In an article in Baptist News Global, Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., who served four decades as pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif., expresses his views on the six Southern Baptist Convention presidents who recently issued a declaration against Critical Race Theory. 

He is quoted as saying, “They are more afraid of Critical Race Theory than the ugly racism that has our democracy about to be crucified with lies. They are complicit with evil. They don’t speak out against conspiracy theories. But they will make a big hullabaloo about Critical Race Theory.” 

"Despite the protestations of the six SBC seminary presidents, systemic racism is real and dangerous in America today, Smith said. “Systemic racism is racism that’s ingrained into the culture."

In this interview, he shares stories of the racism he has experienced in his life and describes the stained-glass windows of his church that depict “Black images of women and men liberation leaders in the blood-soaked struggle against demonic racism.” He concludes, “I am 89 years old. And I’m too old to bow down to President Mohler and his cohorts. I talk the way I talk because I want to die free.”

Job Listing

Director for Racial Justice - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seeks a Director for Racial Justice to provide leadership and vision to promote effective strategies to achieve racial equity and inclusion within and across the ELCA, and to eliminate institutional and structural racism and its intersections with other forms of oppression, including sexism, heterosexism, classism and ableism. The director will support the commitments of the Presiding Bishop to anti-racism, and work collaboratively with various program areas to help meet the churchwide organization’s priorities and the desired institutional outcomes. The Director is responsible for increasing the effectiveness of racial justice work in the Churchwide organization, while using an evaluative approach to develop, replicate and implement promising practices across all three expressions of the ELCA. Find out more:
If you have not yet made a gift to NCC this year, I ask you to please consider making a contribution to enable us to work together in our shared mission. Your financial support helps us build a more just and equitable community that chooses grace over greed, love over hate, and faith over fear.

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