Subject: NCC Weekly News: Better Lives for Farm Workers

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From Jim: Better Lives for Farmworkers
Last week, the NCC Executive Committee traveled to Imokalee, Florida to meet with the Coalition of Imokalee Workers (CIW) on the eve of their Workers' Voice Tour to raise awareness of the plight of those who pick most of the nation's tomatoes.

As they travel in several caravans this month, they will stay in and be hosted by local churches. A major focus on this year's tour will be to apply pressure to Wendy's, a fast food chain with more than 6,000 restaurants.

Wendy's continues to refuse to join the Fair Food Program and even to talk with the Coalition. Wendy's CEO, Emil Brolick, was president of Taco Bell when that company signed an agreement with CIW which came as a result of a boycott endorsed by the National Council of Churches.

The NCC has long stood by farmworkers in their struggle for justice. More than 40 years ago, the NCC joined the boycott of iceberg lettuce and table grapes as a means of supporting Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers and, more recently, the NCC supported the National Farm Worker Ministry and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in the long effort to secure better pay and working conditions for farmworkers in North Carolina.

Today the Fair Food Program, which now includes McDonald's, Subway, Wal-Mart, Burger King, Trader Joe's, and other major corporations, has made a discernible, positive difference in the lives of Florida farmworkers.

Among other things, women in the fields are no longer subject to sexual harassment, wages have increased, and pregnant women are no longer exposed to poisonous chemicals. Still, life remains hard for farmworkers. Wages remain abysmal, the work is backbreaking, and exploitation is rife. Just a couple of blocks from CIW's offices is a home where farmworkers were once kept chained as slaves in a rental truck.

The Coalition of Imokalee Workers is not a union; rather it is a human rights movement aimed at supporting farmworkers as they attempt to gain better pay and working conditions. Our executive committee attended one of the fabled evening meetings at CIW’s offices where more than 100 workers heard about the Worker's Voice Tour, shared hopes and dreams, and participated in skits aimed at provoking discussion about the realities they face.

It is important, now, for member communions of the NCC to call for Wendy’s—and Publix supermarkets, as well—to join the Fair Food Program and to express solidarity with CIW. Beyond that, we need to be more aware of food justice issues. Food is, after all, quite cheap in the United States and a reason for that is because farmerworkers are underpaid. The rest of us benefit from that reality of exploitation.

Scripture is clear on our responsibility to care for the sojourner, the vulnerable, the poor, and the powerless.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
Workers embark on Workers’ Voice Tour with wind in their sails thanks to National Council of Churches’ open letter to Wendy’s, Brolick, and Peltz!

Workers in Immokalee woke up this morning with one thing on their mind: The long-awaited launch of the 2016 Workers’ Voice Tour! Packing piles of protest art, dozens of duffel bags stuffed with rarely used cold-weather clothes, and enough supplies for a hundred people on the road for ten days, workers and their allies climbed aboard the bus and its satellite vans as the caravan for farm labor justice hit the road today at 10:00 am, destination: New York City.

And thanks to the National Council of Churches, they are not heading out alone! Far from it, in fact, as the NCC — representing “38 member denominations, comprised of more than 30 million Christians in over 100,000 local churches” — penned a powerfully worded open letter to Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick, and the Chairman of Wendy’s Board of Directors, Nelson Peltz, and released the letter timed to coincide with the workers’ departure today from Immokalee.
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A Banner Year for Challenging White Privilege

The predominantly white Good Samaritan Church in St. Petersburg, Florida is getting pushback for having posted a message about white privilege on a sign out front.

The sign reads:


Among the objectors was one man who complained: “I don’t think there is such thing as … white privilege.”

This type of reaction did not take the church by surprise. They chose to display this message despite experiencing similar feedback when, over MLK Jr. weekend, they had posted:


Is Good Samaritan Church wasting their time? Not at all. Their idea of a public display about white privilege has enormous potential to awaken white people to their privilege not just in St. Petersburg, but if adopted by houses of worship across the country, nationwide. Here is why.

Episcopalians urged to take ‘gospel high ground’ after primates’ action

Presiding Bishop: ‘The Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican Communion’

The Episcopal Church is still part of the Anglican Communion, despite actions taken by the primates in January, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry said Feb. 26, adding he hopes the church “will be able to bear witness” to the entire communion.

Curry’s comments came during his opening remarks to the Executive Council at the beginning of its Feb. 26-28 meeting at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center here.

“At this point in time, we’re part of the Anglican Communion and my prayer is that we will always be a house of prayer for all people and that we will be able to bear witness to what Jesus taught us about that in the Anglican Communion,” the presiding bishop said. “And that we’ll do so with love and charity, and we will show the same love and charity and honor that we do for all of our people – gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender – that same love and honor and respect to our brothers and sisters who are part of the communion.”
Session to Explore Theology Behind Fight Against Racism at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Christians gathering at the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be lifting their voices in support of those who are oppressed and marginalized because of racism and classism. We only have to be familiar with the headlines of the past two years to know that these two ills are realities in our society, and on the hearts and minds of candidates and voters alike as we head toward the November election. But what is the theological basis for our message when it comes to fairness and justice? This workshop will analyze the Christian foundations of faith when it comes to affirming the political and economic rights of all, so that when we speak truth to power, we can know why our voice can be more than a whisper in the cacophony of voices seeking to influence policy.

This session will take place on Friday April 15 beginning at 1pm in the Wilson-Harrison Room. The panel will include:
  • Dr. Doug Foster – Professor of Church History, Abilene Christian University
  • Rev. Joyce Shin – Associate Pastor for Congregational Life, 4th Presbyterian Church Chicago, IL
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth James – Pastor, Memorial AME Zion Church Rochester, NY
  • Moderator – Dr. Greg Carey – Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

Water is powerful in the web of life: humanity does not own it, says noted theologian

When Fernando Enns thinks of water in a German context, he is reminded of thousands and thousands of refugees who have come to the country fleeing the conflict in Syria.

“Welcoming these refugees, you realize the power that water has exerted in their journey to the shores where we should offer a welcome,” says Professor Enns, director of Peace Church Theology at the University of Hamburg.

The power water has for these people fleeing conflict and dangers offers its own perils, as find the refugees who transit through Greece on their way north.

Water’s might is epitomized in the tragic image of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in 2015 trying to make it from Turkey to Greece, says Enns.

He continues, “The refugees are taking the only course available to them to escape from the travail of conflict and hopelessness, to a place with the chance of a better life.”

Blood on our hands: Stop the raids
By Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Over the last several months, discussions around immigration policies have devolved to extremist sound bytes, with political candidates creating a new wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric to further their own agendas. Sadly, these hateful words have manifested themselves in how the United States treats immigrants. The actions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are endangering the lives of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing violence, persecution, and devastating poverty in Central America.

As the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, a denomination with 5,000 churches and nearly one million members, I am deeply troubled by these callous policies that are literally costing people their lives. President Obama has already deported two and a half million people. Why, in his final year in office, would he want to send families and children back into harm’s way, to some of the most dangerous countries in the world?
Ulysses Burley recognized for ELCA work in minority health care

Dr. Ulysses Burley, program associate for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) strategy on HIV and AIDS, has been selected as one of the National Minority Quality Forum’s 40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health. This is the first year the award is being presented.

The National Minority Quality Forum aims to eliminate disparities in health care in minority communities. The forum provides assistance to health care providers, administrators, policy makers and community and faith-based organizations in delivering appropriate health care to minority communities.

“This is special for me considering my difficult and prayerful decision to depart from clinical medicine full-time and reimagine public health in this faith-based context of a more holistic approach that focuses on spirituality, relationships, community and the social determinants of health in my work with the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS,” said Burley. “This award is a victory for the tireless and sometimes unseen work for health equity that happens outside of hospitals and laboratories, and inside the homes, churches, and communities of those in greatest need.”

Job Opportunities:

Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst, Episcopal Church: This person will represent Episcopal Church policies to government leaders, devise and execute legislative and communication strategy, propose and monitor federal legislation, write public-policy statements and letters, determine and write public-policy alerts for the Episcopal Public Policy Network, train Episcopalians in public-policy advocacy, and build coalitions to support policy priorities. Click here for more information.

Director of Marketing and Communications, Wesley Theological Seminary:  The Director of Marketing and Communications is responsible for advancing, through strategy and content production, the mission and goals of Wesley Theological Seminary. Click here for more information.

Program Director, Environment and Energy Policy, ELCA: The primary purpose of this position is to guide and carry out the church’s public witness on issues related to the environment and energy in the U.S. and globally, and to agriculture, food production and rural development in the U.S. As framed by ELCA social policy, this position coordinates and relates the ELCA’s public voice, members, programs and ministries to national policy priorities. This position informs, equips and encourages ELCA members, congregations and synods to engage in advocacy as a faith practice focused on stewardship of creation, creation justice, energy use and engagement with people living in poverty and struggling with hunger.  Click here for more information.
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