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CUG 2021: In New Wineskins: From Pandemics to Possibilities to Promises

NCC’s annual Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) was held virtually on October 11 – 12, 2021 with the theme, “In New Wineskins: From Pandemics to Possibilities to Promises,” based on the scripture in Luke 5:37-39

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

This year’s CUG will explore how church life has changed and what our hope is for the church as the global community struggles to emerge from its pandemics and economic crises while at the same time continuing to grapple with the racial reckoning that is happening in our nation and the world. Can we discard the old wineskins? What will it take to go beyond conversations on racism to fully incorporating equity and racial justice in our churches? Where are new models of racial reckoning/reconciliation?

Together, we will examine how to move forward as we negotiate those who are lamenting the old and those embracing the new as well as the spaces where both are happening at the same time. Will you join us to go beyond how we “always do it” and get to a place of possibilities? We invite you to join us virtually to explore what churches must do to honor old wineskins while embracing new ones and God’s promises for a new path forward.


Outstanding Leadership Awards Ceremony

J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership – Dr. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society , Harvard University

President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership – Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, CEO and co-founder, Skinner Leadership Institute

Gwynne Guibord Award for Excellence in Interreligious Leadership – Sister Simone Campbell

Award and Recipient Information

CUG Recorded Sessions

Opening Session Panel / Bible Study
Based on the scripture in Luke 5:37-39: And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Rigby (Speaker) W. C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman (Speaker) Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Associate Professor of Homiletics and Hebrew Bible, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

Faith Summit – Racial Reckoning in America: A Christian Response
A panel with questions from the audience. Denominational and other faith leaders discuss what they have been doing to negotiate the racial reckoning in the country. Where are new models of racial reckoning/reconciliation?
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop, 5th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Moderator
Dr. Richard Hughes, Scholar in Residence, Lipscomb University, author of Myths America Lives By: White Supremacy and the Stories that Give Us Meaning – Opening Speaker
Karen Gonzalez, immigrant advocate at World Relief (previously at Lutheran Immigration Services), author of The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belong
Dr. Jonathan Tran, Associate Professor of Theology and George W. Baines Chair of Religion, Baylor University
Elona Street-Stewart, Co-Moderator, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, Conference of National Black Churches
Minister Candace Simpson, Associate Minister, Concord Baptist Church of Christ

Keynote Address by Dr. Christine Hong and Q&A
Dr. Christine Hong, Associate Professor of Educational Ministry, Columbia Theological Seminary

Morning Devotion on October 12th with Rev. Dr. Souci Grimsley
Rev. Dr. Souci Grimsley, Founder and President of Tuburan Integrative Wellness Ministries spoke on mental health and self-care. She brings her pastoral counseling ministry to members of Chesterfield Baptist Church and the community it serves. Her integrative approach incorporates spiritual and emotional support in a compassionate and caring setting.

Panel on Christian Nationalism
Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Professor, Iliff School of Theology and author of “Decolonizing Christianity”
Dr. Philip Gorski, Chair, Sociology, Yale University
Rev. Dr. Obery Hendricks, Visiting Research Scholar at Columbia University and author of “Christians Against Christianity”
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Program Director for Racial Justice, Minnesota Council of Churches
Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith, Founder and Director, Crazy Faith Ministries
Amanda Tyler, Esq., Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty

International Briefing on the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith (Moderator) Senior Associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement, Bread for the World
Dr. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Pauline Muchina, Chair, Advocacy Network for Africa, COVID-19 Working Group and Public, Education, Advocacy Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee
Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico, President and Executive Secretary, Cuban Council of Churches
Rev. James Bhagwan, General Secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches

Closing Worship Service Participants (in order of appearance):
Dr. Melanie R. Hill, Violinist
Jim Winkler, President & General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Western Jurisdiction, San Francisco Episcopal Area, United Methodist Church
Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister& President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Dr. Kirsten S. Oh, Professor of Practical Theology, School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University
Raffi Balian, Co-Convenor, Faith and Order Convening Table; Member, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of America
Christian Brooks, Representative for Domestic Issues, Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
Christie Duncan-Tessmer, General Secretary, Religious Society of Friends, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Rev. Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Issues, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ, National Ministries; Chair, NCC Governing Board
Most Rev. Francis “Frank” Krebs, Presiding Bishop, Ecumenical Catholic Communion
The Rt. Rev. W. Darin Moore, Presiding Prelate of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ); Past Chair, NCC Governing Board
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, 5th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Vice-Chair, NCC Governing Board

Thank you to our CUG Sponsors:

Unity Level $500

Fellowship Level $300

The Christian Unity Gathering was free to attend. We welcome contributions to cover the event expenses and always appreciate your financial support for NCC’s work. Thank you!

Last Year’s Event:

Link to the 2020 Christian Unity Gathering Information: Christian Unity Gathering 2020 Sessions, Award Ceremony, and Worship Service