Subject: NCC Newsletter: Women's Pilgrimage, 150th CUS Meeting, and Reparatory Justice 101

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Women's Pilgrimage, 150th CUS Meeting, and Reparatory Justice 101
NCC Newsletter
March 4, 2022
Women's Pilgrim Visit Next Week on International Women's Day  
Please join us for the second Women’s Pilgrim Team Visit focused on women of faith in North America from noon to 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, International Women’s Day. The theme for the event is, “Stony the Road: Women’s Voices of Faith, Courage, Resistance & Resilience” and uses Numbers 27:1-7 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 as scripture references. The Women’s PTV will examine the issues that women face in the U.S., Canada and Mexico as they travel a stony road lifting up voices of faith, courage, resistance and resilience.
North American Women's Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace
This week’s Women’s Pilgrim Team Visit held on Monday, February 28, 2022 focused on women of faith in North America with the theme, “Stony the Road: Women’s Voices of Faith, Courage, Resistance & Resilience” using Numbers 27:1-7 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 as scripture references. 

The main speaker, Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister for Global Engagement and Operations and Co-Executive for Global Ministry of the United Church of Christ, began by explaining that the participants were people of the church gathered, not just about the challenges for women, but to call the church into action to go beyond “the silence of the chosen, the silence of the ordained.” She described the gathering as an invitation to call on the church to pay attention to matters of justice - starting with where we live and calling for the church’s accountability so we can bring awareness and change to the world around us.

Discussing what it means to talk about race, gender and seeds of oppression in this age, she explained that racism is a pandemic living among us and has been for many years and that it is rampant and supported by the church and by politics even in the highest seats of government where ongoing arguments about the rights of women’s bodies are dominated by White men and the emphasis is not on the many who live in deep poverty (individual household income falling below 50% of the poverty line with a person living on $6,244 per year per person). She also discussed the fact that the United States has many women who continue to live on the margins and with them are their children and the list of challenges continues to grow as women are left behind with 38.1% of people living in poverty and of that 24.1 million are women. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk for women because its unprecedented unemployment has disproportionately affected women and systemic poverty in communities of color are tied to these indicators.

Outlining the history of Black women’s healthcare, Dr. Thompson explained that it centers on the fact that many don’t have the resources to afford healthcare or quality health insurance so they do not have the ability to access a doctor or go to a hospital, particularly for gynecological needs. She explained that it is hard to have conversations about healthcare without talking about the history of oppression and the slave trade, later noting that the extreme rate of poverty did not start yesterday because someone did not go to school or did not have money for a house as these are generational cycles of poverty.

Dr. Thompson spoke about the domestic violence and rape that are also very present in communities of color. There is a shroud of violence that has been perpetuated in our homes while there is a lack of narrative in the church when the leadership in our homes is not questioned, said Dr. Thompson. 

"If there is silence, then people are not going to talk about it and if they are not going to talk about it, then they are not going to attend to it," said Dr. Thompson. "So that becomes cyclical, and becomes evidenced then in other things because, as we know particularly during these days of pandemic there has been a significant increase in domestic violence and particularly violence against women." 

Noting there is also silence around the disappearance of Native American women and the murder of transgender women, Dr. Thompson said she wanted to "put some things on the table for us to be mindful of and for us to probably look a little deeper into and wrestle with in terms of what it means for us in the church to be a part of systems that uphold violence and lack of care for community."

Noting that the church is present in the halls and streets of Washington DC making sure our voices are heard and impact legislation, Dr. Thompson observed "at the same time we are silent about the ways in which some of this is actually perpetuating in our communities." This led to the realization that churches need a “me too” moment of its own as she said, "Every once in a while we see glimpses of people who have left in silence. People who have been abusive in communities, they leave and there is silence. There is nothing that is being said. Women who are impregnated by pastors and there's silence. Where are we in calling for reform in our churches around what we see and around abuse that we know is present?" She concluded, “We can no longer afford to be silent.”

When asked how the church can have a “me too” moment, Dr. Thompson said that it needs to be a grassroots movement with education and awareness. Women are silenced on these issues because they must talk through men who continue to be the gatekeepers so there is no recourse. She put forth the need to dismantle the patriarchal constructs in the church because it supports this kind of behavior. However, when women are in positions of positive leadership they must be open and create space making a biblical reference to Esther who was in a place that allowed her to save her people.

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., NCC Associate General Secretary, Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, then noted that there are legal issues and silence around non-disclosure agreements that are obligated because not signing will ruin the church or ruin the pastor, so that women are faced with either not speaking and protecting the perpetrator or speaking and being punished.

Dr. Alexander also spoke about the advocacy work in DC where there is the “need to compromise” but compromising comes on the backs of those who have already suffered - those who are dispensable, or who are not at the table, or who are not the loudest. This means advocacy depends on the generosity of the strongest and only a few organizations lobby for such a large percentage of the population that includes the poor, children, and women who are all tossed aside.

The World Council of Churches has also published an article on part one of the Women's Pilgrimage, North America Women’s Pilgrim Team Visit: “If one among us is not well, we are all not well.”
The 150th Annual Meeting of CUS
Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Edwards
Next week the Committee for the Uniform Lessons Series (CUS) will hold its 150th annual meeting on the campus of Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. The meeting, directed by Rev. Dr. Tammy Wiens, NCC Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation, with support from Keith Swartzendruber, NCC Senior Administrative Assistant, draws participants from its twenty-four partnering denominations and publishing houses ( Every March, delegates come together to collaborate on the development of lesson outlines by selecting, organizing, designing, and creating a plan for study of the whole Bible.

This year’s meeting (March 8-10) offers a blended program to include both online and in-person participation. The Reverend Garland F. Pierce is the current chair of CUS and will moderate the business of the annual meeting. Pierce is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and serves his denomination as the Executive Director of the Department of Christian Education. In addition to the business CUS must accomplish across two and half days of meeting, participants divide into age-level teams (children, youth, and adults) and invest considerable blocks of time to write learning objectives for the fifty-two lessons of the curriculum year.

Participants will be inspired and equipped for their writing tasks by the teaching of the Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Edwards, Associate Professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL (pictured at right). In four teaching segments Edwards will offer biblical context and set the tone for the 2026-2027 curriculum outlines. The lessons are drawn from Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, John, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, as well as the shorter NT letters contained in 1, 2 Peter; 1, 2, 3 John and Jude.

Worship is always an integral part of the CUS annual meeting and during the service Wednesday, March 9, Dr. Jody Hill, president of Memphis Theological Seminary, will be the guest preacher. This year’s service will be especially meaningful as CUS celebrates the sesquicentennial anniversary of its ecumenical partnership. The Rev. Dr. Carmichael Crutchfield (Christian Methodist Episcopal Church) and James Deaton (Managing Editor, Church of the Brethren), will share testimonies of their personal connection with CUS, as well as the impact of the International Sunday School Lessons in the history of their respective denominations. Other CUS members might very well add a spontaneous testimony of their own as many of them have labored together in this curriculum project over their entire career as Christian educators, pastors, professors, editors, and curriculum publishers. They express deep appreciation for one another and for the breadth of wisdom that comes in digging deep into God’s Word with colleagues across diverse Christian traditions.

Register for the Next Reparatory Justice Series Event
This webinar series provides education about the national and global reparatory justice movement in order to take faithful action to “repair the breach” as commanded in Isaiah 58:12.

NEXT SESSION: Reparatory Justice 101 (continued)
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
2:30 – 3:30 pm ET on Zoom

The video will be available on NCC’s YouTube channel following the live webinar.

This Week's Wordle
The NCC has joined the Wordle craze by including a faith-related Wordle in our newsletter each week. Click on the link to play. Instructions on how to play can be found by clicking the "i" for information. Please share this newsletter with your friends, family, and faith community members who may enjoy completing these special Wordles!
COVID-19 Pandemic Response:

Booster Shot Poster

Churches can print and display COVID-19 Vaccine Booster posters to encourage people to get booster shots. This resource from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and Russian. 

From our Partners:
Intercessory Prayer Service for Ukraine
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, together with His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, will gather for a Intercessory Prayer Service beginning at 10:00 AM ET on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The Service will take place at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr located at 160 West 82nd Street in New York, NY 10024. All are invited to attend. 

From the event announcement, "This past week, with sadness and heartbreak, the world has watched Russia launch an invasion into Ukraine. As we continue to pray for those whose lives are affected both directly and indirectly, the implications of this humanitarian tragedy are being felt throughout the community and around the world. If you can help, please contribute to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Ukraine Relief Fund."

Recent Responses to the War in Ukraine
Eastern Europe Crisis Response from Lutheran Disaster Response and the companion churches in Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, as well as such ecumenical partners as the Lutheran World Federation and Church World Service, in their humanitarian responses to the crisis. These partners are providing refugees with immediate support and supplies such as food, blankets, water and hygiene kits.

End the Black Maternal Health Crisis
The interfaith event “Faith United to End the Black Maternal Health Crisis.” will go live on March 9, 2022 at 3pm EST.

The NCC joins NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and these co-sponsors in addressing this important issue: American Muslim Health Professionals, United Church of Christ, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Disciples Center for Public Witness, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative, Church World Service, Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, The Episcopal Church, Sojourners, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholic Health Association, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Poligon Education Fund.
PC (USA) Hold Forum on Reparations
Last month a forum, hosted by the African American Intercultural Congregational Support Office that assists the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in addressing the needs of African American Congregations, addressed their 2022 theme “Resiliency to Recovery.”

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP); the Rev. Carlton Johnson, coordinator of Vital Congregations; and Christian Brooks, the representative for domestic issues at the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness, led attendees on a journey through the history of reparations that was followed by evidence of biblical support for reparations and a call to action for H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.
Looking Ahead to the WCC Assembly
Next week, March 9-10, 2022, an online pre-assembly will be held with the leadership of specialized ministries to provide an opportunity to express a common response to the most important issues of our time and to propose common action in advance of the World Council of Church's Assembly later this year. 

The Concept Note and Annotated Agenda for the meeting outlines the three areas of common concern that will be discussed by the leadership of the WCC and ACT Alliance: 
  • Overcoming racism, discrimination and xenophobia,
  • Promoting democracy in a time populism and broken public spaces, and
  • Responding to the impact of the climate crisis.
The pre-assembly intends to articulate a message of encouragement to the WCC 11th Assembly and indicate the support of specialized ministries in responding to the challenges or our time.

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