Subject: NCC Weekly News: We're Still Going Strong!

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From Jim: We're Still Going Strong!
Even as one of the adult children of an NCC staff member has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, our work as a Council continues. We are praying for the rapid recovery of our colleague’s child and all those infected by the virus around the world. 

While our offices are closed at this time and staff travel has been halted, we continue to work on a wide variety of matters and remain in contact with churches across the country and around the world. Our staff is in touch with one another every day and is holding regular zoom meetings. We have published a partial list of cancellations of church-related gatherings as well as guidelines, protocols, statements, and resources offered by our churches.

During this time of National Emergency due to the COVID-19 virus, the NCC has temporarily revised our permissions policy so that churches that livestream or broadcast their church sermons may use the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard Versions of the Bible without any special permission requirements.

The NCC has been working for years to end the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are addressing this reality. As a member of The Justice Roundtable, a coalition of more than 100 organizations, we strongly urge Congress to act on the comprehensive list of “Recommendations for Protecting Incarcerated Youth and Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic” as it considers various legislative responses to this global crisis. 

The NCC will begin posting daily prayers and reflections during this time of the novel coronavirus and I ask you to submit a contribution. You may send it to me at my email address. You may choose a scripture passage if you wish to accompany your reflection. Please keep your submission to no more than 300 words. I know that your thoughts and prayers will mean a great deal to people all over the world. 

Ecumenical Advocacy Days is now officially canceled. The NCC governing board meeting will take place as scheduled via Zoom on April 28.

The next session of our Jewish-Christian dialogue has been postponed until later this year. The Hindu-Christian & Buddhist-Christian dialogue sessions have been canceled but participants are planning regular check-in calls. The Faith & Order Convening Table of the NCC has canceled an upcoming workshop but plans a Zoom meeting. Fortunately, the Committee on the Uniform Series, which produces the International Sunday School Lessons, met before the recent wave of cancellations.

Work is proceeding as planned on the update of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible under the leadership of Friendship Press and the Society of Biblical Literature. Planning continues for our October 12-14 Christian Unity Gathering during which we will celebrate the 70th birthday of the National Council of Churches.

Please stay in touch with us! We are practicing social distancing but not spiritual distancing. We need the warmth of contact with you whether by phone or email. We will hold you in our thoughts and prayers in the days ahead. 

The National Council of Churches is a manifestation of the ecumenical movement which itself is an expression of the intensely held desire for Christian unity. Today, we also engage in interreligious dialogue as a demonstration of our desire for solidarity and striving for understanding. The world is a small place, and it is imperative we remain connected to one another and not shrink into former practices of isolation and suspicion. 

The days ahead will be difficult, but when the crisis passes we will have a service of thanksgiving and remembrance. God is with us!   

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
In the Time of COVID-19, Mass Incarceration Endangers Lives

The global COVID-19 pandemic brings with it a moral imperative to pay special attention to incarcerated persons. With over 2.3 million people in jails and prisons in the United States and hundreds of thousands in detention centers, these communities, including the staff working in these facilities, are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 virus. People in prison are in close proximity, living in compromised sanitary conditions, and have limited access to resources to meet CDC recommended hygiene routines. The impact on already vulnerable communities, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, is exacerbated by these living conditions.

All life is sacred. However, those who are incarcerated and detained are at a higher risk of death, unable to escape the virus incubator in which they are housed, and therefore need greater attention. This problem is at all levels of the criminal penal system, from local jails to state prisons, to federal correctional institutions and detention centers. For the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, this is not only immoral and inhumane, but it is also potentially a deadly scenario. Our nation should not allow this to happen.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Our Churches

Churches across the country and around the world are scrambling to adequately and effectively respond to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, which has now caused the death of more than 100 people in the U.S. (as of this writing) with more than 5,800 people infected. Schools are closed. Many businesses and offices have instituted telework or have also closed. College students have been sent home for the semester. Graduations have been canceled. Church doors have been closed and services have moved online. As the hymn says, “In times like these you need a Savior. In times like these you need an anchor…”

In this moment of national and global crisis, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is encouraged and inspired by the strength and resilience being shown by its 38 member communions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Late last week, institutions, businesses, and houses of worship were confronted by the urgent need to fundamentally alter their work in order to meet the challenge of containing this pandemic. Our churches have responded with love, grace, creativity and attentiveness to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of congregants.

The Role of Faith-based and Community Leaders

Faith-based and community leaders continue to be valuable sources of comfort and support for their members and communities during times of distress, including the growing presence of COVID-19 in different parts of the country. As such, these leaders have the unique ability to address potential concerns, fears, and anxieties regarding COVID-19. Additionally, by reiterating simple hygienic precautions and practices, these leaders can broadly promote helpful information, managing fear and stigma, and restoring a sense of calm into the lives of those in their care.

Such leaders are also poised ― through their acts of service and community relationships ― to reach vulnerable populations with essential information and assistance. These acts of service are an essential part of the safety net for the vulnerable in their communities.

Creative Thinking for Crisis Times By CME Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick

In response to coronavirus challenges, the President and the CDC are asking people to not assemble in groups larger than 10. Many of us, in response, are working diligently to ramp up our streaming services, but also, many of us are simply cancelling services. My question to you is: how creative are you willing to be?

In a church room in Alabama in 1987, two pastors – one white, one black – sat with leaders of their respective congregations, trying to negotiate a purchase. A contract was before them that had been negotiated by the white pastor and the previous black pastor. I was the new black pastor, having succeeded a leader who had died, and I was fighting for the interpretation of the contract which had been passed to the congregation by the previous pastor. The room was tense with racial and testosterone undertones; there were about 5 leaders from both congregations, and a white attorney hired by our side. Two names should be called: S. William Harris, our chair of the trustee board, and G. William Noble, our white attorney (and now judge).

At an uptight moment, the white pastor, using the tactic of “divide to conquer,” turned his attention away from me and said to the trustee chair, “Mr. Harris, do you agree with Rev. Reddick?” Mr. Harris, about 75-80 years old, answered like only a very wise old black man would answer: “I agree with Mr. Noble.” I couldn’t believe it! You almost have to be a pre-1970 Southerner to really appreciate his tactic, for he pivoted the effort to divide two black men by spinning the disagreements into the arena of the two white men. Nothing else was said.

Interview with Rep. Jim Clyburn

John Thomas, III, the editor of The Christian Recorder, scored a two-for-one deal when he interviewed Congressional Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina at the General Board in Birmingham, Alabama. Clyburn—the third most powerful democrat in the American government—not only shared his shrewd political insights but he also talked at length about the legacy of the AME Church.

Clyburn is a 14-term Democratic congressman; and after the 2018 elections where Democrats took control of the House, he reclaimed the Majority Whip position. When he came to Congress in 1993 to represent South Carolina’s sixth congressional district, Congressman Clyburn was elected co-president of his freshman class and quickly rose through leadership ranks. He was subsequently elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, vice-chair, and later chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

With world turning virtual during COVID-19 crisis, it's easy to pray

People pray daily for an end to the coronavirus-COVID-19 that is gripping the world, turning human interaction into a virtual affair and upending lives everywhere during a struggle against a silent enemy about which little is known.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples have shut their doors in every corner of the planet following the spread of COVID-19. The virus strain was first identified in Wuhan, in China in December 2019.

Praying is something that does not need social contact as global Christian groups, including the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and the World Evangelical Alliance, have noted.

As in all struggles, COVID-19 brings out the good and the bad in humanity, with health workers engaging in great sacrifices and others rushing to help as some show prejudices against people from accused of being the bearers of the disease or those who are vulnerable.

COVID-19: Faith Groups Call for End to Medical Prejudice Against Immigrants

Now is a time to come together–U.S. born citizens, immigrants, and refugees–and recognize that we are all part of one race, the human race. We are stronger together, and we will get through this challenging time together.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is concerned about all members of our human family, in the United States and abroad, and the medical prejudice that rations aid to some members of society while others are left to get ill and die. We believe that immigration detention centers should be emptied and individuals allowed to return home to their families, to avoid being trapped in epicenters of disease.

IIC also condemns reports that the Trump administration plans to shut the border to asylum-seekers, citing risks from coronavirus. Turning people seeking refuge back to danger is not the answer. This decision will wrongfully endanger more lives. It is more important than ever to parole asylum seekers into the United States, end immigrant detention, and restore U.S. leadership in protecting the most vulnerable.

Coronavirus Church Resource Center

These Coronavirus church resources are a collection of tools for you and your church to use as you respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope is that these resources help you to worship, serve, care for each other, and find peace, hope, and rest in Christ during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Note: We will do our best to update these resources as the situation changes, but you should look to your local health authorities for the most up-to-date and authoritative advice on what is safe to do in your area.

WCC takes steps to prevent spread of COVID-19

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID19 (coronavirus), including canceling or postponing certain meetings, limiting travels, closing the Visitors Programme through April, and offering online communication in lieu of person-to-person gatherings.

In a letter to staff, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit commended their important work, commitment and competence. “We also do the work with some risks,” he wrote. “Now we are in a situation where we together have to handle the risk related to COVID 19.”

The WCC will do what is relevant and necessary to avoid spreading the virus to others who can become seriously ill, Tveit stated. “We have to do it to protect those in our constituency who live in contexts with health systems that would struggle to handle such an outbreak,” he said. “We also have to avoid that our work is blocked by absences and quarantine measures, here or elsewhere.”

Poverty Amidst Pandemic: A Moral Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into an unprecedented national emergency. This emergency, however, results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis - that of poverty and inequality and of a society that ignores the needs of 140 million people who are poor or a $400 emergency away from being poor.

These millions of people are in dire need of critical attention immediately. We call on you to fulfill your moral and Constitutional responsibilities: expand the COVID-19 emergency provisions to care for us all and enact our Moral Agenda immediately.

Why is this important?

We cannot return to normal. Addressing the depth of the crises that have been revealed in this pandemic means enacting universal health care, expanding social welfare programs, ensuring access to water and sanitation, cash assistance to poor and low income families, good jobs, living wages and an annual income and protecting our democracy. It means ensuring that our abundant national resources are used for the general welfare, instead of war, walls, and the wealthy.

We also call on you to immediately enact the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to fully address the COVID-19 outbreak and the underlying crises of poverty and inequality that made so many vulnerable right now. Read them here:

Ecumenical Opportunities:

Bread for the World is seeking a Senior Domestic Policy Analyst.  Click here to learn more.

The Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), a Washington DC based non-profit Pan-African organization has an immediate opening for a talented Communications and Development Coordinator.  To learn more, please send a thoughtful cover letter and resume to with subject line: Communications and Development Coordinator.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) seeks a National Organizer & Faith Network Manager. This position will execute strategies and develop tactics to mobilize AU members, supporters, faith leaders, communities of faith, and faith-based organizations to move them up the ladder of engagement to become leaders and help meet our organizational goals.  Click here to learn more.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State seeks a Vice President of Strategic Communications. This position, which reports to the President and CEO and is part of senior leadership, will develop and lead the organization’s overall communications strategy to advance AU’s mission and visibility. Click here to learn more.

Do you have a job posting you'd like listed in this section?  Please email Rev. Steven D. Martin with details.
Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, 
the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions 
and more than 40 million Christians in a common expression of God's love and promise of unity. 
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