Subject: NCC Weekly News: We Remain United

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From Jim: We Remain United
(Ed. note: At this week's meeting of the NCC Governing Board, Jim gave the following address to the 58 persons convened in the Board's first-ever convening via videoconference:)

Christ is risen!

Today we are living through the COVID-19 crisis, the most devastating health catastrophe of our lifetimes and one that is deeply impacting our churches. Nevertheless, we have celebrated Easter in the midst of this. Together, we celebrate the victory of life over death even as we yearn for a return to normal life.

The NCC staff has been working from home, as have many of you. We have been holding weekly staff meetings and, like many of you, our lives are marked by seemingly constant zoom meetings and conference calls. The work of our convening tables--faith & order, interreligious dialogues, justice & advocacy, and Christian education—proceeds insofar as possible as does the progress of the Uniform Lesson Series and the update of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

We have been publishing daily prayers and scripture readings as a way of encouraging us all, and I ask that you send us your prayers and reflections in this initiative.

Today, in the midst of this extraordinary period, marked by tremendous suffering and death, we will consider a proposed Council statement (published here) in which we express our collective thanks to first responders, address the injustices that mark the impact of the virus, and consider how this crisis, like all crises, presents an opportunity for new beginnings.

Throughout these weeks we have been in contact with churches throughout the world. We have worked closely with the World Council of Churches and regional ecumenical organizations and have issued an unprecedented joint statement. Similarly, perhaps for the first time, the NCC, Churches Uniting in Christ, and Christian Churches Together joined in presenting options to church members on how they could responsibly commemorate Holy Week. We are now preparing webinars leading up to Pentecost.

The Cuban Council of Churches asked us to join together with them once again to appeal to the US government to relax restrictions in order to permit medical supplies to flow to the island.

We have joined our voices with others to speak on behalf of immigrants and refugees and in favor of generous assistance to those living in poverty.

While many have said the virus knows no boundaries, the fact is that it has had a grossly disproportionate impact on communities of color with African Americans and Hispanics suffering far more than white communities.

I am grateful the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reached out to us and will join us at 2:00 pm to enlist our aid in addressing the disparate rates of sickness and death in while churches everywhere are concerned about the impact of the virus on members and on finances, CDC and many others see us as crucial allies in effort to address disparate rates of sickness and death.

Earlier, I referred to the progress being made by the Society of Biblical Literature in the update of the New Revised Standard Version. I am grateful to our publishing arm, Friendship Press, in overseeing this effort. Presently, 82% of the Old Testament has been completed and 45% of the New Testament is finished. I thank you member communions for assisting in identifying those who are reviewing the work of the scholars. The NRSV Updated Edition will roll off the presses in 2022.

Yesterday, Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, a longtime member of this Governing Board and a past president of the NCC, underwent surgery in Manhasset, NY to have his left leg below the knee amputated. Fr. Leonid has been battling health problems for a number of years. Fr. Leonid is recovering now and asks for your prayers and spiritual support. I hope he will be able to fully rejoin us in the near future.

I pray in the midst of all this suffering, in the pain our churches are feeling, we will remain united. We must respond to the coronavirus with solidarity. There are still difficult days ahead but together our witness is needed and our voice is strong.

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
Now is a Time to Imagine a Bold New Future

A statement by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches

“Be still, and know that I am God!
   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.

-Psalm 46:10-11 NRSV

The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, meeting during the Easter season 2020, sends greetings to all with the eternal message, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!”

These joyful words are a balm, especially, during these difficult days when the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping over the country, and indeed the entire world, causing illness, death, and the disruption of lives and livelihoods. At the time of our meeting, April 28, 3,090,844 people worldwide have tested positive for the virus, and 213,273 have died.

In the United States alone, there are 1,003,844 cases, and 57,962 deaths have been reported. Fortunately, some areas in the country and around the world are experiencing a decrease in the daily numbers of confirmed, new cases of infection. It remains uncertain whether these positive trends will continue or if a new wave of the virus will emerge. Thus we acknowledge that uncertainty and fear remain. In the midst of such tribulation, we claim that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NRSV).

NCC Governing Board Convenes, Issues Bold Statements Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Church leaders gather to pray, discern, and strategize during this unprecedented time of challenge, change

The Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) met Tuesday, April 28, for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss critical issues facing the nation and indeed, the entire world. In another first, the Council met by videoconference. Matters surrounding the global pandemic dominated the agenda with the Board issuing a statement that envisioned a just and bold new future for the United States.

“I felt the Board pulled together and accomplished a great deal in a short time,” stated Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, Chair of the Governing Board. “We affirmed a statement on white supremacy, approved a statement to the Church about facing the challenge of a pandemic, deliberated about the future of our meeting protocols, made commitments to continue to have virtual meetings, dealt with reports about our finances, and about a dozen other matters.”

One in Spirit, One in Mind, One in Heart

Scriptures and Prayers shared among Interfaith Dialogue Partners and Friends in a Time of Trial

The National Council of Churches is blessed to have friends and colleagues from many religious traditions. These friendships are part of our lives at all levels of the organization, from denominational and congregational leadership to faculty and community partnerships. Among these relationships, the NCC is grateful to have the friendship of interfaith dialogue partners. The NCC has national dialogues with the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. In these dialogues, we learn about each other’s faiths, discuss issues that affect our communities, and strive to build the kinds of relationships where we can talk with, and even on behalf of, each other in moments of crisis or distress.

Today, as the entire country, and indeed the entire world, faces the coronavirus pandemic, we draw upon our shared convictions to help sustain each other, and our neighbors. We do so as friends in dialogue who, though we cannot meet in person during these days, still meet heart-to-heart, and in our thoughts and prayers. We may be standing alone, but we are nonetheless standing together.

Do you know someone who needs extra inspiration these days?

We all do!  That's why we've asked Christian leaders from across our 38 member communions to offer prayers, meditations, and devotionals for those of us who struggle with the challenges COVID-19 presents to our lives, our families, our health, and our finances.  

Please visit the link below and share our sign-up form with someone who will appreciate a little inspiration every day.  
Heads of Black Civil Rights & Religious Organizations Encourage Communities to Stay at Home

Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN), Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (CNBC), Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP, LDF), Marc Morial (NUL), Derrick Johnson (NAACP), Melanie Campbell (BWR), Kristen Clarke (Lawyers’ Committee) & the Heads of the Nation’s Largest Historically Black Religious Denominations Encourage Communities to Stay at Home

A group of national Black faith and civil rights leaders along with the heads of the largest historically Black religious denominations are encouraging communities to stay at home in states where stay at home orders are being lifted until there is evidence that it is safe.

We, the undersigned, have joined together to state our unequivocal and firm opposition to the premature effort of governors to willfully re-open their states. The actions of these governors, which demonstrate reckless disregard for the health and life of Black residents, compel us to speak out and take action to protect ourselves. As faith leaders and civil rights leaders, we work every day on behalf of the needs of our families and communities. We regard this pandemic as a grave threat to the health and life of our people, and as a threat to the integrity and vitality of the communities we are privileged to serve.

UCC officer and her family battle COVID-19 as they mourn her father’s death

The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson couldn’t find joy on Easter Sunday. The United Church of Christ associate general minister, mourning the death of her father and recovering from, most likely, COVID-19, said she got stuck on Good Friday, struggling with death and grief.

“The empty tomb made me think about my own mortality. It was hard to move from there,” she said.

But the national executive overseeing Wider Church Ministries said she drew strength from the outpouring of support she’s received from the wider Church and the pastoral presence of her colleague the Rev. John Dorhauer. The two have been in contact every day since the national staff was deployed, to work from home, on March 20.

Thompson lost her father to viral pneumonia caused by COVID-19 on March 21. She shared the details of four incredibly difficult weeks with Dorhauer in an Easter Sunday Facebook post, “Conversations with John.”

She learned her father was ill the afternoon of March 20. After talking to Dorhauer, Thompson decided to drive to New York to be with him. Her sister took him to the ER, where he passed away early the next morning. Thompson arrived at the hospital to pray over his body, offering last rites.

“Grieving in these days is hard. I have this sadness that lingers and is perhaps a part of the pain in my chest that will not leave. My father went very quickly. He died alone in the ER. No one expected him to die and we were not prepared for the aftermath and dealing with our own mortality in the midst,” Thompson said. “There is much that we do not know.”

Join Religions for Peace USA on May 7 for the
National Interfaith Prayer Service for Healing & Hope
When Profits Outrank People:
The Economy Gamble … at the Cost of Lives

By Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Recently the Congress passed, and now the President has signed, another $2 trillion special measure to support more of the country’s depressed areas of need because of the shut-down economy and the depressed areas that are a result of hunkering in and sheltering in from COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic.

$2 trillion is written this way: $2,000,000,000,000.

Yet, the story told by Emily Baumgaertner and James Rainey in an April 2 Los Angeles Times article said that in 2019 the Trump Administration ended a U.S. AID (U.S. Agency for International Development) program called PREDICT, which trained and supported scientists in 60 foreign laboratories whose mission was to detect viruses that could spread from animals to humans and cause a global pandemic. They ended that program to save $200 million.

$200 million is written this way: $200,000,000.

In a CNN interview, Susan Rice, who was national security advisor in the Obama Administration, told how, during the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration, the new Administration was given the warning that a global pandemic was overdue, and the outgoing team of officials transferred to the new Administration’s officials a 69-page “playbook” of what to do in the case of a terrorist attack or a pandemic. Yet, the Trump Administration continues to say that the Obama Administration left nothing.

Alliance of Baptists Board of Directors Statement on COVID-19

The ancient story and season of Easter are teaching us in this modern moment of pandemic. We are living in a time of apocalypse, an unveiling of the predictable patterns and perils of empire. Empires take and possess, co-opt and kill. Religion – as Jesus learned – does not protect us from the predations of empire and or plagues that come among us. Only love, lived out as resistance to empire and solidarity with our siblings, can save us from meaninglessness in life or death.

The question is, as always, how then shall we live?

We say to ourselves and the world that the Alliance of Baptists commits to:

● Raise prophetic voices for liberation and justice
● Act to dismantle systems of abusive power
● Work to eradicate poverty in all forms

US church leaders, WCC dismayed and urge reversal of Trump’s suspension of WHO funding

The National Council of Churches (USA) is urging President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to suspend funding from the World Health Organization.

“This is dangerous, immoral and wrong,” reads a statement from the council. “Even though international institutions such as the WHO are not perfect, suspension of funding … is irresponsible and ill-timed.”

Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said he is proud that the US is to date the largest WHO funder. “Whatever improvements that can be made in WHO are worthy of consideration but right now, as the entire world is fighting the coronavirus, it is not the time to suspend our funding,” he said. "That would be a disaster.”

Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, governing board chair of the National Council of Churches called upon Trump to take back his words and not cut funding. “We owe the world more than that – and our contributions to world health are a moral obligation we cannot walk away from,” said Dorhauer.

World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed deep dismay that blame with regard to the coronavirus response is being shifted to WHO—the best instrument currently available for a coordinated and coherent global response to this common crisis.

Prayer Walking During a Pandemic

What is prayer walking?

Prayer walking is a type of intercessory prayer—praying on behalf of others—that is typically done outside of a home or church. Small groups, families, or individuals spend time in their neighborhoods or surrounding areas, praying either aloud or silently, for both the observed needs and as the Spirit leads as they walk or drive through an area. Prayer walking focuses on the transformation of a neighborhood, campus, or city. It helps people become more closely connected to their communities, see more opportunities for service, and be able to intentionally pray for those outside of the typical church walls.

Prayer walking and physical distancing

In this season of physical distancing, it is still possible to “prayer walk” from the comfort of your own home! Here are a few things to pray for in your local neighborhood, regardless of where you live:

The Podcast is Back!

We've revived the NCC weekly podcast to cover the breathtaking developments in church life across this COVID-19 landscape.  We are interviewing leaders from all levels: pastors, heads of communion, and regular folk from across the church.  

Subscribe to the NCC podcast anywhere you find your favorite podcasts, at iTunes, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio to name a few.
Ecumenical Opportunities:

The Pennsylvania Council of Churches is seeking a full-time Executive Director to lead the PCC in addressing the many issues and challenges facing the Christian community today and in the future.  The successful candidate will be a skilled and committed ecumenist combining broad scriptural/theological scholarship, passion for and demonstrated experience in ecumenism with strong leadership and relationship-building skills.  Complete information about the search can be found here.
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